For the Deer Lakes softball team this season, the usual suspects have stepped up and produced the usual results.
The defending WPIAL Class AA champions one-upped their 2012 15-1 regular season by finishing this regular season undefeated with a 16-0 record.
The core of this team, including catcher Hannah Blinn, shortstop Becca Babincak and outfielders Leanne Crawford and Courtney Lubick, all seniors, junior pitcher/first baseman Siera Sarver and pitcher Tiffany Edwards and second baseman Katie Gozzard, both sophomores, have started the past two seasons.
The team's combined record from 2012 and 2013 was 37-2 following their 13-3 WPIAL quarterfinal victory Monday against McGuffey. They were scheduled to play Beaver Area Wednesday in a semifinal.
"It has been the usual suspects," Lancers coach Craig Taliani said. "We have had a lot of our seniors step up this year but really we have gotten contributions from everyone. Some young girls have come in and filled in some positions. From defense to offense, it has just been an all-out team contribution."
Blinn and Babincak have been starters since their freshman season. Blinn will play softball next season at Allegheny College while Babincak is a Point Park University basketball recruit.
Edwards filled in this season for Haliey Moretti who graduated after last season.
"Haliey Moretti carried us last year," Taliani said. "She got all the wins in the playoffs and was just really a tremendous pitcher. That was one area where we were concerned going into this year.
"We knew Tiffany was a very good pitcher and she was going to have to step up and carry the load and she has done that very well."
Edwards finished the regular season 15-0 while pitching the bulk of the innings with Sarver also seeing some time in the circle.
"Tiffany does a little bit of everything," Taliani said. "I would say she has an above-average fastball, she mixes in a couple different types of offspeed pitches. I would say she is a pitcher. She is not going to throw 70 mph but she is quick and gets on top of the hitter quickly. She has some other offspeed pitches that are tough to hit."
The Lancers have been as consistent and dominant as anyone in Class AA this season. They activated the 10-run mercy rule in 10 of their 16 regular-season games.
In back-to-back games in mid-April against Freeport and Burrell, Deer Lakes won two one-run games, but nobody else was able to stay within four runs of the Lancers. Over their last seven regular-season games, Deer Lakes outscored the competition, 91-5.
Deer Lakes had many goals this season, one in the back of the team's mind was an undefeated season. Last year they were 13-0 with three regular-season games remaining when they lost 1-0 at Burrell.
"It was just a little something extra," Taliani said of the undefeated regular season. "It wasn't anything that we had set out to do but we were happy to be able to finish undefeated."
The only starters Deer Lakes had to replace from last season were pitcher and center field. The Lancers entered the season ranked No. 1 by the Post-Gazette and they went wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in the WPIAL and were eventually granted the top overall seed in what is an extremely loaded Class AA field.
Class AA also features Chartiers-Houston and Riverside. Chartiers-Houston won back-to-back WPIAL Class A titles before moving up this season and Riverside features senior pitcher Kirsten Wilson, one of the most dominant pitchers in the WPIAL. Deer Lakes, Chartiers-Houston and Riverside all finished the regular season with undefeated records.
"From the very beginning we knew it was going to be a loaded field," Taliani said. "I think all those teams probably have the same realization, it is just a strong class this year."
Regardless of the postseason results, this senior class has helped elevate the Deer Lakes program to new heights. Last year's WPIAL title was the first in school history.
"I think we have steadily built success here over the last eight or nine years," Taliani said. "Obviously, this group has taken us as far as we have ever gone. This is a very competitive group of girls, they put some respectability from around the WPIAL into this program."