Junior first baseman Sierra “Cici” Sarver scoffs at the mere suggestion that Deer Lakes players might get bored scoring so many runs.
“Scoring runs is always fun; it never gets boring,” Sarver said.
Her team’s production is becoming offensive to opponents.
The Lancers, set to begin another postseason run, have become a run-scoring machine, putting together scale-tipping innings with assembly-line precision. Turn your head at a game, and you’re liable to miss base-runners zinging across the plate like they’re in the E-ZPass lane.
And the pace has not slowed for some time. Consider: Deer Lakes (15-0) has outscored its opponents across the past two seasons, 360-75.
That’s an average of 9.8 runs, in 37 games.
The team has scored 10 or more runs 19 times in that span, with many games not lasting past the fifth inning — some not past the third.
Coach Craig Taliani’s shoulder hurts from waving players home.
“It’s a tough nine to pitch to,” said Taliani, who lost only two starters from last year’s 20-2 team that captured the school’s first WPIAL softball championship. “I think the best thing about this group is the way they respond after we give up a few runs.”
But Deer Lakes hasn’t given up much. Last year’s team allowed 53 runs in 22 games. This year’s group has surrendered just 22 in 15.
“We’re still just as close (as last year’s team),” senior catcher Hannah Blinn said. “We have some freshmen who have stepped in and really helped us. We pick each other up. It’s nice to know that (about the lineup).”
Defense and pitching have thrived with the extra offense.
“It’s a big burden off my back,” said sophomore Tiffany Edwards, the Lancers’ ace who has been just as effective getting people out as she’s been driving in runs. “I know I am going to have help behind me.”
The Lancers’ impressive production could result in a second consecutive WPIAL Class AA championship. The same type of heavy hitting propelled them to the title last year, although they won three one-run games in the playoffs.
Small ball isn’t a problem for Taliani, but he hopes the Lancers can spot teams a few runs and rest on a cushion this postseason.
Sarver will do all she can to make that happen.
“We play better with pressure,” Sarver said. “We set a lot of goals. We want to win WPIALs again and then win the state. We weren’t able to do that last year.”
Deer Lakes poured gravy on an already plentiful campaign by finishing undefeated en route to a second straight Section 3-AA title. But to this team, that’s like a single. This swing-for-the-fences group wants another trophy.
“Finishing undefeated in the playoffs. Now that means something,” Taliani said. “We’ll play our game and take our chances.”
And they’ll take offense to anyone who challenges them.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected].