Deer Lakes softball turns attention toward 2014 season
TribLIVE Sports Videos
It was a simple, yet telling moment late Saturday afternoon.
A group hug — initiated by the sudden realization that the season finally was over — took place off to the side, under a tree on the Bedford High School campus.
After a 3-1 loss to Philipsburg-Osceola in the Class AA state quarterfinals, Deer Lakes softball's four senior captains and their coach huddled-up to soak in the final seconds before boarding the team bus one last time together.
“I'm gonna miss 'em,” coach Craig Taliani said, tears hidden behind his sunglasses. “They were four good ones.”
Deer Lakes won the WPIAL championship last season and lost just two seniors to graduation. Losing four this time will make it tougher on a team that finished second in the WPIAL and once again reached the PIAA quarterfinals before finishing 19-2.
“Next year, we want to keep it going and get back to states,” sophomore pitcher Tiffany Edwards said. “We'll need someone to step up for sure.”
Five starters will return, although the graduation of leadoff hitter and vocal leader Becca Babincak, catcher and offensive threat Hannah Blinn and steady-as-they-go players Leanne Crawford and Courtney Lubick will be felt.
“Next year's team is still going to be good,” Blinn said. “I think the younger girls learned a lot.”
Deer Lakes' encore season wasn't as fruitful, but it kept pace with last year. The Lancers averaged more than 11 runs per game and hit with authority. A resistant defense behind Edwards helped to push the team forward.
Some thought this year's group would be better than last year's 20-2 one, but that will have to remain a what-if debate.
It will give the 2014 Lancers goals.
“We're still going to be young,” Taliani said. “We'll only have one senior, and that'll be CiCi (Sierra Sarver).”
The power-hitting Sarver, a first baseman who is getting Division I and II college attention, will lead a team that also will return junior second baseman Katie Gozzard, the team's leading hitter in the playoffs, and Edwards, the crafty ace who showed she could overcome adversity in starts.
Gozzard, Edwards and Sarver hit 2-3-4 in the lineup.
Center fielder Maureen Hutchinson showed plenty of promise and will return as a sophomore. Versatile right fielder Rachel Tanilli also had a strong freshman year as the No. 9 hitter, and Sarah Blinn, who filled mainly a defense-only role at third, will be another key sophomore.
“We're going to have four open spots,” Taliani said. “Other girls are going to have to step up. We need girls to continue to put in the time for us to continue to be successful.”
The bar continues to be raised for local softball. Thanks to Deer Lakes, Valley and Burrell, this area is expected to compete for titles.
A-K Valley teams have won four of the past seven WPIAL titles in Class AA.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.