Deer Lakes surprises retiring softball coach with ceremony

Friday, January 3, 2020 | 11:56 PM

Deer Lakes planned a halftime surprise at Friday night’s boys basketball game for retiring softball coach Craig Taliani.

Sitting in the stands, watching the Section 3-3A game between Deer Lakes and Burrell unfold, Taliani began to suspect something was up.

“I saw a lot of strange faces here,” Taliani said. “Then, when I saw one of our assistant coaches, Sara Plocki, come in, I thought there might be something up. I was completely shocked.”

Athletic director Charles Bellisario presented Taliani with a plaque for an outstanding coaching career that spanned 15 seasons. During that time, Taliani’s teams compiled a 204-78 record, made the WPIAL playoffs 12 times, won two WPIAL titles, finished as WPIAL runner-up three times, PIAA runner-up in 2015 and brought home eight section titles.

Taliani, 53, put in his resignation several weeks ago.

“There were a lot of factors like family considerations,” Taliani said about his decision to step down. “Work has gotten really busy the last couple of years. It was time. Every coach has a shelf life, some longer than others. The program is in good shape. We have a pretty good team coming up, so it was time to go, a good time to make a transition.”

Taliani is a social studies teacher at Deer Lakes.

Among Taliani’s biggest thrills was the 2015 state final at Penn State’s Beard Field, standing with his team along the third-base line as the national anthem played.

Said Taliani: “That whole day, I think about that whole event and get a shiver up my spine about that whole event. I watched my dad (Vince) come out of center field and into the dugout. I wish the game would have turned out a little better, but it was something I’ll never forget.”

Deer Lakes lost the PIAA final to Wilkes-Barre Holy Redeemer, 9-5.

From 2011-15, Deer Lakes compiled an 81-8 record.

“We had some incredible players and some really dedicated coaches,” Taliani said. “We just meshed real well together. As a whole team, there was a period where we felt we could take the field against any team at any level and compete. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

A 1984 Deer Lakes graduate, Taliani taught and coached in the Grove City Area School District before returning home. He was originally an assistant baseball coach and was hired to take over the softball program. Jan McDowell, Deer Lakes’ athletic director at the time, was also on hand Friday.


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