All season long the Beaver Area softball team worked extensively on "small ball" situations ... just in case.
It just happened that the Bobcats were able to call upon the small ball approach in the biggest game of the season, a WPIAL Class AA title game showdown between the only two unbeaten teams in the WPIAL.
Senior Katie Glass started the third inning with a bunt single. Two sacrifice bunts later, she was on third base and she came around to score when sophomore Jennifer Kondracki reached base on an error.
In the fifth inning, sophomore Jayda Justice led off with a single. Two sacrifice bunts later she, too, was on third base and scored on a wild pitch.
Those two runs would be all No. 1-seeded Beaver (16-0) would need as it defeated No. 2 Deer Lakes (18-1) and captured the first WPIAL title in program history.
"Both pitchers started out strong and you could tell it was going to be a pitcher's duel," Beaver coach Butch Rousseau said. "So we tried something different -- we went to small ball."
Beaver defeated District 5 champion Everett, 6-0, Monday at North Allegheny. That victory advances the Bobcats to the state quarterfinals at 4 p.m. today at St. Francis University in Loretto against Phillipsburg-Osceola, who defeated Moniteau, 19-6, Monday in another PIAA first-round game.
Deer Lakes went with pitcher Tiffany Edwards while the Bobcats countered with sophomore Casey Farkasovsky, who had one of her strongest games of the season on the biggest stage. Farkasovsky fired a three-hit shutout. She held the Lancers hitless through the first three innings but there may have been flashbacks of déjà vu after that.
A year ago the same two teams met in the WPIAL semifinals and Farkasovsky was perfect through two innings but after lengthy weather delays, she was tagged for eight runs in the third inning and Beaver watched a seven-run lead evaporate.
"[Last year's semifinal loss to Deer Lakes] was on their minds," Rousseau said. "It is something in the back of their minds what happened last year. We probably could have gone a little further. I know they just didn't want that to happen again."
Last Thursday in the WPIAL finals, she got out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth inning Deer Lakes had runners on second and third with one out, but Farkasovsky struck out the next two batters. An inning later she stranded two runners again. She closed the game without allowing a hit in the sixth or seventh inning,
"I have been around them for a while now and really when you looked around, they were confident," Rousseau said. "Casey pitched us out of a big jam. The girls all contributed. I didn't see any panic at all."
After a first-round bye, Beaver edged Burrell, 2-0, and Keystone Oaks, 2-1, to reach the WPIAL finals.
Rousseau thought the WPIAL final would be a little different contest than the quarterfinal and semifinal games with more runs being scored.
"I kind of figured if we get around [the lineup] one time, maybe we can catch onto the pitcher," Rousseau said. "It didn't work so we tried something different. We work on [playing] small ball. I told them all year, eventually one of these games is going to come down to you getting your bunts down and things happening after that. Fortunately, it happened to be this game."
The small ball approach came up big and helped the program land its first WPIAL title.
"It is great because a lot of these girls, I have watched them grow up," Rousseau said. "I have been with them. They made it a point last year, before they leave they wanted a championship. It came sooner than they thought. I am just proud of all of them. They had that goal in their mind."