McKeesport softball team has section title aspirations

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 1:01 a.m.

McKeesport took a very different approach to softball in 2012.

Instead of relying on a pitcher to stonewall opponents and scratching out a run or two for offensive support, the Tigers went the other way and tried to outslug teams.

It's hard to argue with the formula when it works. McKeesport (10-9 in 2012) racked up 86 runs in 18 games (4.8 runs per game), not including a 7-0 forfeit win against Penn Hills. The Tigers finished third in Section 2 and gave eventual WPIAL Class AAAA champion Canon-McMillan a solid game before bowing out of the playoffs with a 4-1 opening-round loss.

“I think that it gives the girls a boost for this year knowing that we only lost to them, 4-1, and that we lost to them by home runs,” McKeesport coach Missy Conrad said. “Going into this season it really built their confidence up losing that playoff game because I think they're excited to get back and achieve one of goals, which is making the playoffs.”

Pitcher Jess Beitler spotted the ball well in 2012 and didn't allow a home run all season until the playoff game against Canon-McMillan, when she was touched up for three. Since that time, the junior has worked on improving her arm strength and continuing to develop into more of a power pitcher.

“We haven't had to play anyone yet, but she's doing better at this time this year than she was last year at this time,” Conrad said. “She pitches every day and has been working hard to be a better pitcher this year, and I'm excited to see what she can do this year.”

Last season, Beitler was more of a finesse thrower and would work the corners with a wide array of pitches. For the most part it worked, but despite a powerful offense, the fact the Tigers allowed 87 runs showed a necessity to work on both pitching and defense.

And 2013 will be different for several other reasons. Because of the WPIAL biennial realignment McKeesport has to be considered among the favorites to not only make the playoffs, but to win the section for the first time since 2010.

Gone are defending section champion Franklin Regional (17-3) and fourth-place finisher Fox Chapel (10-7). In their place are Oakland Catholic (3-14) and 2012 City League finalist Allderdice (11-8). With those changes, the likely scenario is that the title could end up coming down to McKeesport and Plum, a team the Tigers twice lost to in 2012.

“That's what we think, but you can't look at every game you go into and think ahead that you're going to win. I tell the girls all the time they have to play one game by one game,” Conrad said. “But both games against Plum did not turn out the way we would like it, and the girls know that's going to be our toughest game this year. I think we have a strong enough team with our hitting and fielding that we should handle them.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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