McKeesport softball ends perfect first half with signature win
For all the success the McKeesport softball team had in the first half of the season, there was one thing missing — something that would legitimize the Tigers and show they were really among the contenders for a WPIAL Class AAAA title.
They needed a signature victory.
Now, after a 5-1 win Saturday at Plum (5-1, 4-1), McKeesport (9-0, 6-0) has completed the first half of its Section 2 schedule with an unblemished record and is the only undefeated Class AAAA team in the WPIAL. And the Tigers did it against a Mustangs squad they had lost to in their last three meetings dating back to 2011 and one that came into the game having scored 62 runs in its first five games.
“They all wanted it very much, and they did show that they wanted it,” 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.”
Tigers pitcher Jess Beitler allowed only four hits and provided all the offense she needed with a third-inning grand slam. Junior second baseman Courtney Patterson gave the team some added insurance with a fifth-inning RBI single that scored Kasey Dansak, who went 3 for 4 against Plum starter Lyndi Garesis.
“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. It was one of those days.”
McKeesport had been hitting as well — the team has scored 80 runs in nine games for an average of 8.9 — but it has been the pitching and defense that have kept opponents at bay. Beitler already has a five-inning perfect game against Penn Hills, and, even with the five runs the Tigers allowed at Gateway, they are giving up only 1.3 per game.
Take out the game against the Gators, and that average drops to just 0.88 with three shutouts.
More telling was how solid McKeesport was when it counted against Plum. Aside from a Savannah Zummo home run in the bottom of the fifth that accounted for their only run, the Mustangs had only one other base runner reach third: Amy Flynn in the bottom of the sixth.
Plum was 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position, and while McKeesport was a pedestrian 3 for 13 (.231), the Tigers made theirs count with five RBI. Still, it did leave McKeesport with something to work on going forward. The team stranded six runners in the game: four in scoring position and three of those at third.
“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.”