No one, of course, could have predicted with absolute certainty that Deer Lakes' Siera Sarver was going to deliver the winning hit in the eighth inning of the WPIAL Class AA softball championship game last Thursday.
But it was a virtual lock that she was going to at least put the ball in play and give the Lancers a chance to end it right there.
Sure, Sarver had a recent history of delivering in extra-inning situations during the playoffs. But perhaps more importantly, she also always makes contact -- virtually every time Sarver comes to the plate, she puts the ball in play.
"I can say it now," Lancers coach Craig Taliani said after the WPIAL title game. "I didn't want to say anything before and jinx her. But in the semifinal against Neshannock, she struck out -- and that was her first strikeout in two [high school] seasons."
Sarver, a sophomore first baseman and pitcher, is Deer Lakes' cleanup hitter. She had the winning single in the bottom of the eighth of the WPIAL championship game, scoring Becca Babincak to give the Lancers a 3-2 victory against Greensburg Central Catholic at California University.
That extended Sarver's team lead in both batting average (in the .450 range, according to Taliani) and RBIs (almost 30). Sarver had two of Deer Lakes' four hits against Greensburg Central Catholic ace Anna Marie Gatti, including a single to lead off the fifth that broke up Gatti's perfect game.
"I face her many times in summer ball, so I knew what to expect coming in here," Sarver said after the game. "My first at bat I was edgy, but by the second at bat I was able to figure her out. I was able to keep making contact, and after a while I just got into a groove."
Sarver also started Deer Lakes' rally in the seventh, an inning the Lancers entered trailing, 2-0. Sarver reached with one out on a sharply hit ball to second that deflected off of Leah Daigle's glove and into the outfield.
The play was ruled an error, but it could have gone either way. Regardless, Sarver's propensity for avoiding a strikeout and always putting the ball in play pays dividends, and that was just another example.
"We knew she'd come through for us; she always does," Deer Lakes pitcher Hailey Moretti said.
Sarver also had the winning single in the bottom of the 10th of Deer Lakes' 6-5 victory against Mohawk in the WPIAL quarterfinals on May 21.
Sarver has been a key part of the offense for a Deer Lakes team that not only won its first WPIAL softball title but qualified for the PIAA tournament for the first time this season.
The Lancers edged Wilmington, 5-4, Monday and will face Martinsburg Central at 3 p.m. today at St. Francis University in Loretto.
"She has hit well for us for two years," Taliani said. "I think she wants to be in those types of situations where the game's on the line. She likes that. I think that's why she plays, and this year, she's been very clutch. Two extra-inning game-winning hits in the playoffs?
"But also throughout the season, she hit consistently for average and power. She's just a good hitter."
Taliani also complimented Sarver's glove work. A righthander, she has played some third base for the Lancers, too, and will be a candidate along with freshman Tiffanie Edwards to replace the graduating Moretti as the Lancers' top pitcher next season.
Saver, 5 feet 5, also plays for the Pittsburgh Power Gold elite softball summer travel team. She still has two years to go, but colleges are already showing interest in Sarver, Taliani said, adding that she has been to scout showcases and camps.
"She has real fast hands," Taliani said. "Her bat speed is very quick."
First Published June 7, 2012 12:00 AM