Gateway powers past Oakland Catholic in softball clash
Several postponements and cancellations because of adverse weather and playing conditions delayed the start of the Gateway varsity softball team's season 12 days, but when it did get started against Section 2-AAAA foe Allderdice on April 4, the Gators were ready.
It opened with a 12-0 victory over the Dragons at Gateway, and it started a streak of four games in six days.
The Gators started out 3-1 overall and 3-0 in the section, and they scored a 12-2 victory over Oakland Catholic in five innings Monday.
“The girls were itching to get out of the gym,” Gateway head coach Chuck Myers said. “We didn't take a day off even though we were stuck inside a lot of those days. We did as much as we could, and the girls worked hard.”
Gateway scored 37 runs in its first three wins — included in that run was a 13-0 victory over Penn Hills – and suffered a 6-2 loss to Norwin in a nonsection game Friday, but Myers knows that things would get tougher with games against Plum and McKeesport.
The Mustangs and Tigers are section-title contenders with the Gators, and Gateway was slated to play at Plum's new high school field on Tuesday. The game was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.
The Gators host Mc- Keesport on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. It is Gateway's first night game of the season, and McKeesport will visit the Gateway Sports Complex hoping to stay undefeated both overall and in section play.
“We hadn't started 3-1 in a long time, but we know we are facing some big challenges,” Myers said.
“We want to keep chasing that playoff position.”
Gateway has a rematch against Oakland Catholic on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Mazeroski Field in Schenley Park.
On Monday, Gateway scored single runs in the first and second innings and tallied two more in the third before exploding for eight runs in the bottom of the fourth.
The Gators played small ball and also collected a couple of power hits.
Senior Laura Hudec tripled, singled twice and drove in two runs, while freshman Giana Basilone added three hits and two RBI.
Senior Lauren Henderson and freshman Ufuoma Ogagan added two hits apiece, while juniors Danielle Kochka and Kelly Kapp each recorded a hit.
Kochka drove in Gateway's first run of the game with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first.
It answered the two runs Oakland Catholic scored in the top half of the frame.
“I am pretty excited about how we've been hitting so far,” Myers said.
“We've been aggressive.”
Gateway didn't commit an error against the Eagles, and made a couple of key plays to fuel the victory.
Oakland Catholic led 2-0 in the first and had runners on first and second with one out before Kochka induced a pop-up behind home plate and a ground out to third base.
Kochka, who started in the pitching circle, and the rest of the Gators defense retired Oakland Catholic in order in the second.
The Eagles used a single and a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs in the third.
Kochka struck out the next batter, and Ogagan, Gateway's first-year varsity catcher, threw down to Hudec at third to eliminate Oakland Catholic's lead runner trying to move up.
A ground out to Basilone at short ended the threat.
Kochka hit a batter to start the top of the fourth, but that runner was removed on a third-to-second fielder's choice.
A 5-4-3 double play then quickly ended the inning.
“I was so grateful to have a great team behind me to back me up,” Kochka said.
“They give me a lot of confidence to know I can put it over the plate and they will be there.”
“We practice turning the double play every day and practice pick-off plays every day,” Myers said.
“When you can eliminate a runner from the base paths like that, it cuts their scoring opportunities down. We played great defense today. That is going to be important if we are to contend for a playoff spot.”
Kochka fired one-hitters against Allderdice and Penn Hills and surrendered six hits against Norwin.
“Danielle has done a phenomenal job pitching almost every inning so far this season,” Myers said.
“She settled down after that first inning. She threw strikes and let the defense help her. They only got four hits. I will take that from her every time.”
Kochka walked four against Oakland Catholic and finished with the two strikeouts.
Freshman pitcher Madison Lewis, projected by Myers before the season to work a number of innings in her first varsity season, suffered a broken finger on her pitching hand during a fielding drill in practice the day before the Allderdice game.
“She's determined to get back as quickly as possible,” Myers said. “Until then, she is doing whatever she can to help the team. She was charting pitches on Monday and was cheering on everyone. If we can get her back in the pitching circle, she and Kochka can be a really nice 1-2 combination.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.