Big test looms for Deer Lakes softball
At this point in the WPIAL postseason, it's common to face a team with considerable accomplishments.
That's the situation facing the Deer Lakes softball team as the Lancers (16-1) prepare for Monday's Class AA quarterfinal against Mohawk (13-7) at North Hills field.
Mohawk has been to the playoffs six of the past seven seasons, advancing to the semifinals in 2008 before losing to South Park. This year, the Warriors were third in Section 5-AA behind top-rated Neshannock and Riverside.
“They play a pretty competitive schedule,” Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. “It helps to play these good teams, and they've become battle-tested.”
Mohawk is coming off a 5-2 victory against Burgettstown in the opening round. The Warriors trailed, 2-0, going into the sixth inning, when they tallied three unearned runs before adding two insurance tallies in the seventh. Rachel Miller had singles in each inning to pace the rally.
In its opener Wednesday, Deer Lakes jumped on Southmoreland by scoring three unearned runs with two outs in the first inning. The Lancers rolled to a 12-2 victory.
“We talk to the girls about recognizing these situations,” Taliani said. “It's a one-game season, and you have to capitalize. Then on defense, you can't give up extra outs.”
It was the ninth time this season that Deer Lakes scored in double figures.
“In three out of four practices, we do different types of hitting drills,” Taliani said. “We focus on batting and baserunning situations, then work solely on defense.”
Practice in warm weather could bring on drudgery, but that has not been the case for the Lancers.
“We practiced in the heat Friday, and we had our (junior-varsity players) with us practicing as baserunners against the varsity, and everybody kept their focus,” said Taliani, who's in his eighth season. “These girls are great to coach.”
Tomorrow's winner faces Neshannock in the semifinals, tentatively set for Wednesday.
George Guido is a freelance writer.