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McKeesport softball extends season-opening win streak to 5

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 11:00 p.m.

Coming into this season, the McKeesport softball team had not won its opener in more than a decade and, since 2004, had lost at least three of its first five games on six occasions.

This year has been different. Not only did the Tigers win their debut against St. John Villa Academy (N.Y.) in a preseason showcase in Myrtle Beach, S.C., they opened the season with four consecutive victories, including one in their first section game against Oakland Catholic.

Make that five straight victories.

McKeesport (5-0, 2-0) rode a perfect game and 3-for-4 showing at the plate from starting pitcher Jess Beitler to a 15-0, five-inning victory over Penn Hills (0-2, 0-2) on Friday at Universal Park. It was the first perfect game for the junior right-hander in WPIAL play.

“I was doing good with location and my curveball,” Beitler said. “And I hit pretty well, too.”

Beitler belted two triples as part of the Tigers' 15-hit attack, reached base in all four plate appearances and drove in three runs. But it was her performance on the mound that kept Penn Hills from even coming close to being a serious threat.

Staked to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, Beitler nearly struck out the side on nine pitches. She fanned the first two batters and was 0-2 on her mound opponent, Witney Larko, who wound up grounding out weakly to second on the ninth pitch of the inning.

Beitler struck out eight and did not allow a ball out of the infield. She did not throw a ball until her 11th pitch, and of her 50 pitches, 38 went for strikes. She did go to three-ball counts on two batters, but one hit a grounder back to the mound and the other she fanned to lead off the fifth.

“She had really picked it up this year,” McKeesport coach Missy Conrad said. “She worked hard over the summer, worked hard over the winter, and her pitching is better than where it was. And we have a lot better hitters than we did last year at this time.”

In their first five games, the Tigers have averaged a stunning 10.0 runs, posted three shutouts and 10-runned three opponents. In its first two section games, McKeesport has scored 26 runs (13.0 per game) and has not been scored upon.

“This was one of the first games where we came out hitting inning one to inning five,” Conrad said. “I think the trip down south helped us because we were able to get some games in while the teams up here — some of them are only in their second game, so that definitely helped us.”

While Beitler was a dual threat, eight of the nine starters had at least one hit. Leadoff hitter Dom Clark was 3 for 4 and scored three runs, Vanessa Falce homered and drove in three and Kasey Dansak had two hits, including a triple, and three RBI.

Still, beating up a pair of 0-2 teams won't mean much if McKeesport can't carry it over into next week. The Tigers will play four section games, including April 13 against Plum, which potentially could be for a share of the section championship.

“We just keep going at practice every day and focus on the same things,” Conrad said. “Our next thought is Woodland Hills on Monday, and, when we get to Friday, then we'll look at Plum and start to talk about that.”

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