CRESSON — Bald Eagle Area’s Maddy Perry hit a bases-loaded bloop single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to knock in the game’s only run, leading the Lady Eagles to a walk-off 1-0 win over Clearfield Tuesday afternoon at the Ray and Louise Walker Athletic Field Complex at Mount Aloysius College in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals.
Perry’s hit spoiled a masterful pitching performance by Lady Bison freshman Emma Hipps, who allowed just two hits, while striking out 13 batters. She also walked two, but both of those were intentional base on balls in the seventh.
“She pitched great all year, but she was above and beyond what she’s been doing all year today,” Clearfield head coach Derek Danver said. “Unfortunately we just couldn’t push a run across for her.”
Hipps had a perfect game going through 5 2/3 innings before Lady Eagle No. 9 hitter Madison Eckley reached on an infield error with two outs in the sixth. Eckley then stole second, but Hipps got McKenna Baney to foul out to third baseman Casey English to end BEA’s first threat of the game.
Hipps had complete command of the strike zone, throwing 54 of her first 55 pitches for strikes. She ended her 73-pitch performance with an amazing 68 strikes and just five balls.
“We played (Hipps) twice (in the regular season) and we lit her up for 26 runs, so coming into the game everyone’s feeling pretty good ... except me,” Bald Eagle Area head coach Don Lucas said. “I’ve been in this game so long that I just knew from game-to-game it just changes. She has just kept getting better and better and her confidence level has just expanded.
“She controlled the strike zone. We allowed her a little bit. She threw the ball inside on us and we didn’t control that. We got out of rhythm. So we talked about it in the fifth inning that we were going to start putting the ball on ground.”
BEA’s first two bunt attempts went right back to Hipps, who easily made the throw to first to record outs. The Lady Eagles’ third bunt attempt ended with Eckley reaching on the error.
But in the bottom of the seventh, Mara Hockenberry led off and bunted down the third-base line for a clean infield single to break up Hipps’ bid at a no-hitter.
Maralee Caldana followed with a sac bunt to move Hockenberry to second, but Hipps got cleanup hitter Madison Peters to pop out to second baseman Kylee Hertlein in shallow right field for the second out.
Danver elected to intentionally walk Megan King to give Clearfield force outs and second and third, but Lucas countered by putting on a double steal to put the winning run at third.
“We were bunting the ball too hard,” Lucas said. “I told Hockenberry in the seventh that we needed to work the third-base side and make the bunt slower. She came up with the perfect bunt and we had decided that if she got on we were going to bunt her to second and then steal third.”
Clearfield intentionally walked Autumn Tobias to load the bases and give it a force out at every base, but Perry made it a moot point by blooping a single behind short in very shallow right-center field to end the pitcher’s duel.
“These girls were determined,” Danver said. “They’re upset right now. They came in here with the mindset that ‘we’re going to win this game.’ They didn’t care that they got beat 17-2 at the beginning of the year. They came out and played with heart.
“(BEA) had a couple fall in. They got a couple breaks and we didn’t. We played a great game. They played a great game.”
While Hipps put together a masterpiece, Peters was certainly twirling her own gem in the circle for BEA.
She got in a little trouble in the second when she issued a one-out walk to Lauren Ressler and a two-out walk to English, but she was able to work out of the jam with a strikeout.
In fact, every inning (second, third and sixth) the Lady Bison got runners on base, Peters buckled down and got out of it with strikeouts.
She fanned 16 Lady Bison batters and gave up just two hits, both to Clearfield leadoff hitter Karly Rumsky.
“She threw a great game,” Danver said of Peters. “We struggled with her the last two years. The last time we played I think we had six or seven hits, but today she kept us off balance and had us watching strikes. She did what she needed to do.”
Rumsky led off the sixth with a sharp single between first and second, and Morgan Cheek moved her to second with a sac bunt.
Bald Eagle elected to intentionally walk Hipps to put runners on first and second with just one out and take their chances with Clearfield’s No. 4 and 5 hitters Olivia Bender and Ressler.
Peters struck out both to strand Rumsky and Hipps then struck out the side in the top of the seventh to set up the Lady Eagles’ walkoff win.
With the victory, Bald Eagle Area advances to play Pine Grove, which beat Bloomsburg 17-0 in the other class 3A semifinal.
Clearfield ends its season at 14-10 after starting the year with a record of 6-7.
“They really started coming on strong at the end of the season,” Danver said. “They started believing in themselves. I think they have in their mind they can beat anybody.”
And Clearfield loses just one senior starter (Rumsky) and one senior bench player (Samantha Wisor), meaning the future is certainly bright for the Lady Bison.
“It’s definitely promising,” Danver said. “Definitely something to look forward to. But we’re going to have to go back to work in the offseason and throughout the year and get back to this point and get to the state championship one of these years.”
Rumsky cf 3020, Cheek lf 2000, Hipps 2000, Bender c 3000, Ressler 1b 2000, Mollura ss 3000, English 3b 2000, Benton rf 3000, Hertlein 2b 2000. Totals: 22-0-2-0.
Bald Eagle Area—1
Baney lf 3000, Hockenberry cf 3110, Caldana c-dp 2000, Peters p 3000, King dp-c 2000, Tobias 3b 2000, Perry ss 3011, Kinney 2b 2000, Eckley rf 2000, Fisher (flex) 1b 0000. Totals: 22-1-2-1.
Score by Innings
Clearfield 000 000 0—0 2 1
Bald Eagle Area 000 000 1—1 2 0
Error—Bender. LOB—Clearfield 5, Bald Eagle Area 4. SAC—Cheek Caldana. SB—Eckley, Hockenberry, King. IBB—Hipps; King, Tobias.
Clearfield: Hipps—6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 SO.
Bald Eagle Area: Peters—7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 16 SO.
WP—Peters. LP—Hipps (13-9).