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Mckeesport girls take over 1st place

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 11:21 p.m.

If there was one thing the Plum softball team did extremely well in the early part of the season, it was the uncanny ability to score seemingly at will.

That was until the Mustangs hosted McKeesport on Saturday with first place in Section 2-AAAA up for grabs.

Tigers pitcher Jess Beitler allowed only four hits and provided all the offense she needed with a third-inning grand slam as McKeesport (9-0, 6-0) finished the first half of its section schedule with a 5-1 victory. Plum (5-1, 4-1) scored its only run on a Savannah Zummo homer with two outs in the fifth inning.

“We just didn't hit,” Plum coach Jim McGrath said. “She's a good pitcher, and we're a good-hitting team, and we faced some other good pitchers, but we just didn't hit.”

Plum, which had scored 62 runs in its first five games (12.4 per game) had won the last three meetings against McKeesport. Though the Tigers are off to their best start in more than a decade, they put extra emphasis on beating the Mustangs after they were swept in 2012.

Plum had won the past three meetings against McKeesport, and though the Tigers are off to their best start in more than a decade, they put extra emphasis on beating the Mustangs.

“They all wanted it very much,” McKeesport coach Missy Conrad said. “After the game Thursday at Gateway (a 6-5 win), they knew that they would have to come out and fire a little harder to beat Plum, and after the last two games they played them, they wanted it even more.”

The Tigers had runners in scoring position in the first two innings against Plum starter Lyndi Garesis, but she was able to keep them at bay with an 0 for 5 collar with runners in scoring position.

In each of the first two innings, McKeesport left the potential opening run at third base, and it appeared it might happen again in the third. After Mai Gooden reached on a dropped third strike, Dom Clark beat out an infield grounder for a base hit.

Vanessa Falce followed by lining a one-out single to center to load the bases. Beitler then changed the entire complexion of the game as she smashed an 0-1 offering from Garesis over the center field fence to give McKeesport a 4-0 lead. Not only did the Tigers have a commanding lead, they relaxed and got into the flow of the game.

“That was a great hit, and it does knock you down a peg,” McGrath said.

Aside from the Zummo home run in the bottom of the fifth, the Mustangs only had one other base runner reach third. Plum was 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position, and while McKeesport was a pedestrian 3 for 13, the Tigers made theirs count with five RBI. Chandlar Barfield singled home Kasey Dansak, who went 3 for 4, from second in the top of the fifth for McKeesport's final run.

“We can't leave base runners on third base because you're going to lose a lot games when you leave runners on, especially at third,” Conrad said. “But Jess broke out of a little bit of a slump and put some more confidence back in the team.”

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

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