Quakertown softball lineup has serious pop

Quakertown centerfielder Tara Baglivo (left) and first baseman Lauren Beal pose before the game against Upper Moreland on Thursday. Baglivo will play for Bucknell University next year while Beal will play for Marist College.

Tara Baglivo says she knew right away.

Even before the regular season started, the Quakertown softball senior said.

Before the team was outside fielding ground balls on a dirt infield.

Before the Panthers were shagging fly balls on grass.

It was during practice, in March, the first week, she said.

That's when she knew what kind of a hitting team Quakertown would be.

Inside the confines of the Freshmen Center gym - the weather too dreary and cold to practice outside - that's where Baglivo noticed it first.

She could tell by how hard the line drives were being hit during front toss drills. By the way the balls were being drilled into the back of the net.

It was a good indication, Baglivo said, a good indication of the kind of productivity to come.

Turns out, she was onto something.

Sixteen runs here.

Fourteen runs there.

Twenty-one just this Monday.

Eighty-eight total in only 8 games for the Panthers (6-2).

"When we were practicing in the beginning, I knew," Baglivo said. "Knew we weren't going to have to worry about it, that we were good enough as a team to compete. We could tell we had very talented hitters and that everyone could contribute, produce a lot of runs."

For Quakertown, the production starts with Baglivo and Lauren Beal.

Baglivo, the leadoff hitter, while Beal bats cleanup.

Baglivo minds center field, flanked by two freshmen, while Beal plays first base.

Baglivo, a player on the varsity roster since her first tryout as a freshman, Beal, a varsity player a few games into that same year - and a stalwart in the lineup since her first at-bat with the team, a single up the middle against North Penn.

Baglivo, headed to Bucknell next season, Beal, on her way to Marist.

Baglivo, a finesse hitter, Beal, one who hits for power.

"Every time she comes up to bat, you don't want to expect a home run every time but the potential is there," coach Rich Scott said of Beal, who's gone yard six times this year and is hitting .438 with an on-base percentage of .608.

And Baglivo?

"She can put the bunt down, she can slap, she can power hit it over your head," he said. "She's a great weapon to have. She can do all of that. Getting on base is key and she has the speed where she can usually get on second."

Baglivo and Beal. Beal and Baglivo.

The pair knew that with only five returning starters from last season's successful campaign that they would have to be the ones to pick up the mantle left by players like Spenser Gray, Meg Klee, and Alyssa Wilkinson.

That's how the Panthers could continue where they left off a year ago, they both said.

"It's very nice to have them there as seniors, leading the way, and they are doing a great job," Scott said. "I knew going into the season we had them coming in and they were key for the team, and key for developing underclassmen.

"I wish I had it every year," Scott added of having two Division I recruits. "It sure is nice to have."

The evolution of Beal and Baglivo as playmakers and leaders mirrors the evolution and development of the program. A program that not too long ago was hurting.

"The team today shows up to the field and they expect to win. Years ago, three years ago, four years ago that wasn't the case," Scott said. "They showed up and didn't always expect to win. Now, the culture has changed. Each and every game they expect to win. That's a major accomplishment for them, the turnaround."

Both Beal and Baglivo pointed to their sophomore season as the turning point for the team, a year when they lost "about six games or so" by one run. It gave the group confidence and a belief that they could contend with the best of them.

Those traits have only increased since.

"If we keep playing the way we are playing, we can top the conference, make playoffs, and hopefully win some games in playoffs," Beal said. "I think it would be awesome. In the past, people have looked down upon Quakertown, like, 'oh it is just Quakertown,' and then expect to walk all over us. Now, we are making a name for ourselves."

Like on Thursday, when the Panthers scored six first inning runs.

A contest in which, Beal, even though she hits from the four-spot, always expected to get her chance at the plate.

In fact, it doesn't matter what inning - or game - it is, she feels the same each time.

From the dugout she watches - and cheers - knowing her turn will come soon.

She also knows Baglivo will get on, "She always finds a way" and from there Beal's focus shifts to figuring out a way to get her in.

"I usually am expecting a hit out of her, obviously," Baglivo said. "It's nice when she does hit home runs. I expect to score every time because I know the team can hit really well."

Beal expects to get an at-bat.

She also expects Baglivo to get on.

And Baglivo expects Beal to hit her across.

But those are just the beginning of the expectations of this Panthers team.

Ones Baglivo and Beal could have told you about before they had even played a game.

Kharman@phillynews.com @ka_harman