Hutchinson's heroics secure Deer Lakes' victory
SLIPPERY ROCK — After missing out what could have been the catch of the year — or at least the PIAA tournament — Deer Lakes junior center fielder Maureen Hutchinson came through with a hit in the eighth inning.
Hutchinson dropped a single into right-center field to score Stephanie Drapela with the winning run as the Lancers secured a spot in the state Class AA title game with a 4-3 victory over Cambridge Springs.
In the bottom of the sixth, Cambridge Spring's Amy King led off with a double. It looked like Deer Lakes pitcher Tiffany Edwards was going to pitch out of the Blue Devils' threat, striking out the next two batters.
Erica White, however, hit a fly ball behind the right side of the infield. Hutchinson, playing deep, covered a considerable amount of ground before stretching to catch the ball. But she rolled and the ball popped out for a single, scoring King to put Cambridge Springs in front 3-2.
Deer Lakes tied it in the seventh, setting the stage for Hutchinson's heroics.
“We always try to pick each other up,” Hutchinson said. “I just wanted to put the ball in play and good things happen. And it happened and we got a good thing out of it.”
“Sometimes, clutch hitting is better than great hitting,” Lancers coach Craig Taliani said. “We've had great hitting all year. Today, we needed to hit in the clutch situations and we did. For Maureen to come back and put the ball in play and get that hit, that was incredible. Maureen was so clutch.”
The previous delivery by Blue Devils pitcher Kayla Parkin was a wild pitch, and Maria Taliani was tagged out at the plate.
While that was going on, Drapela was making her way from first base to third.
“I was stealing second,” Drapela said. “I turned and looked and the ball was coming home, so I went to third, and I was safe there.”
The play was just one in a see-saw battle with a berth in the state title game at stake.
“You just have to keep focused, keep your head in the game,” Drapela said. “We wanted this game, and we got it.”
After Taliani was intentionally walked for the third time, Drapela bunted down the first base line, beating the ball to first. Taliani went to third when the ball got past first baseman Kristen Kargol.
“There's going to be adversity at this point of the season,” coach Taliani said. “Everybody's going to make plays. The team that can overcome adversity will walk away the winner.”
Friday will mark the first time a female Deer Lakes team will vie for a state title since 1985 when the girls basketball team brought home PIAA gold.
George Guido is a freelance writer.