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Offensive production powers Bald Eagle Area baseball to PIAA quarterfinals

The defending Class 2A champs are moving on.

As June marked the beginning of the PIAA state baseball playoffs, Bald Eagle Area came out on top in the first round of action with a 9-3 win over Lakeview on Monday afternoon.

The Eagles, who came into Monday’s state playoff matchup with a 20-2 record this season, used big days at the plate from shortstop Kahale Burns (two home runs, three RBIs) and center fielder Cam Watkins (two hits, four RBIs) to advance.

“We’ve been hitting well, and typically what our game is, is (to) throw strikes and let our defense work,” BEA head coach James Gardner said. “Nothing changed today.”

Bald Eagle Area’s Tayten Yoder pitches in the game against Lakeview in the PIAA first round on Monday, June 3, 2024.
Bald Eagle Area’s Tayten Yoder pitches in the game against Lakeview in the PIAA first round on Monday, June 3, 2024.

Hosting the matchup at Doc Etters Field, BEA had the right-handed Tayten Yoder on the mound.

While Yoder initially saw some trouble in the first inning — including a kicked ball in center field that put a pair of Sailors in scoring position — he finished with a full seven innings pitched while allowing three runs and striking out four.

“Tayten set the tone for us well,” Gardner said.

It didn’t take long for BEA to score the game’s first run Monday. Burns swatted a leadoff home run to left field in the bottom half of the first, and the Eagles built on their lead through the next two innings.

Bald Eagle Area’s Connor Perry makes a diving stop during the game against Lakeview in the PIAA first round on Monday, June 3, 2024.
Bald Eagle Area’s Connor Perry makes a diving stop during the game against Lakeview in the PIAA first round on Monday, June 3, 2024.

In the second frame, the defending state champions put up a five spot, including a two-run double from Watkins and the second long ball in as many innings for Burns.

“He’s an amazing athlete, and (I’m) happy for him to have the big day … he definitely was a great leader for us today,” Gardner said of Burns. “He’s a young man that I can go talk to like another coach.”

Lakeview got itself on the board in the third. Hits from Lucas Fagley, the Sailors’ starting pitcher, along with left fielder Owen Dye and first baseman Maddox Bell shrunk the team’s deficit to four.

Bald Eagle Area’s Cam Watkins is congratulated by his teammates after his home run in the third inning of the PIAA first round game against Lakeview on Monday, June 3, 2024.
Bald Eagle Area’s Cam Watkins is congratulated by his teammates after his home run in the third inning of the PIAA first round game against Lakeview on Monday, June 3, 2024.

However, BEA expanded on its advantage with a two-run homer from Watkins and another run scored in the third. Despite a solo home run from Sailors second baseman Grady Harbaugh in the fifth frame, the Eagles held onto their comfortable lead as the second half of the game progressed quickly.

Following Watkins’ two-hit game, Gardner said his center fielder isn’t a “prototypical No. 9 guy” and the production he gets from him at the bottom of the lineup creates opportunities for the top.

“When something’s working, you don’t change it,” Gardner said.

Bald Eagle Area’s Cam Watkins makes a catch in center field during the game against Lakeview in the PIAA first round on Monday, June 3, 2024.
Bald Eagle Area’s Cam Watkins makes a catch in center field during the game against Lakeview in the PIAA first round on Monday, June 3, 2024.

Lakeview, which was coming off of its first District 10 title in program history, dropped to an overall record of 16-3 as its season came to a close.

The Eagles will now prepare for their second round matchup in states, which will be against Montineau in the quarterfinals. As they continue their quest to go back-to-back, the squad is continuing to focus on fundamentals.

“We throw strikes, we make routine plays, we grind out our at bats and get guys on base,” Gardner said. “There’s nothing fancy about us.”

Around the county

Bald Eagle Area softball: The Eagles, like their baseball counterparts, won their first round matchup in states Monday. They defeated Muncy, 2-0. The Eagles will take on Williams Valley on Thursday in the quarterfinals at a time and location to be determined.

Bellefonte baseball: The Raiders lost to Indiana Monday afternoon in the first round of states, 3-0, and have been eliminated from the postseason.

Bald Eagle Area’s Alexa Baney gets a hit during the PIAA first round game against Muncy on Monday, June 3, 2024.
Bald Eagle Area’s Alexa Baney gets a hit during the PIAA first round game against Muncy on Monday, June 3, 2024.