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West Mifflin softball deals McKeesport 1st loss of season

| Friday, April 19, 2013, 11:15 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
West Mifflin's Crystal Cook took to the mound against McKeesport on Friday, April 19, 2013, in McKeesport.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
McKeesport coach Missy Conrad give instructions to a player on Friday, April 19, 2013, at McKeesport.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News
West Mifflin's Crystal Cook delivers a pitch against McKeesport on Friday, April, 19, 2013 in McKeesport.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News
McKeesport coach Missy Conrad give instructions to a runner.

West Mifflin was still stinging Friday a day after it lost a critical section game to Elizabeth Forward.

To top it off, the Titans had to come right back and take on McKeesport, the only remaining undefeated team in Class AAAA.

Well, the Tigers were the only undefeated team in Class AAAA.

Senior shortstop Marla Small hit a three-run homer to highlight an eight-run inning that spurred Trib Total Media Class AAA No. 5 West Mifflin (11-2) to a 12-11 victory at Class AAAA No. 5 McKeesport (10-1).

“I told them before the game that the best way to forget about a loss was to get a win and to get a win right away,” West Mifflin coach Casey Phillips said. “I'm glad that we played because we wouldn't have played again until next Thursday.”

Small finished 3 for 5 with five RBI — all of which came in the final three innings — but it was the home run that changed the complexion of the game. McKeesport had scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 7-2 lead and appeared ready to cruise to its 11th consecutive victory to start the season.

“It really was a spark and, the thing of it is, the girls came in and started saying that they weren't out of it and the important thing was that it didn't have to come from me,” Phillips said. “That's refreshing that they have confidence in themselves as hitters and, in the grand scheme of things, as a team and we didn't go into panic mode.”

To its credit, neither did McKeesport. The Tigers trailed, 12-9, in the bottom of the seventh, but scored two runs and had the potential tying run on base when Jess Beitler lined out to center field to end the game.

Beitler finished 3 for 4 with a triple and three RBI, while teammate Vanessa Falce went 4 for 5 with two doubles, two RBI and scored three runs.

“It shows us where we are because West Mifflin is a really good team this year,” McKeesport coach Missy Conrad said. “As much as I hate to lose, it was a good loss. We talked all week about making errors and how that was going to cost us a game.”

With the game tied at 1, McKeesport committed three errors that led to an unearned run in the fourth and, after the Small home run, the Tigers made three more errors in the fifth that led to five unearned runs against pitcher Beitler. Only five of the Titans' 12 runs were earned.

By the same token, West Mifflin only made one error, but it was a big one. After McKeesport tied the game at 2, the Titans had two out in the fourth and a chance to close the door, but a throwing error extended the inning and led to five unearned runs that handed the Tigers a 7-2 lead.

In the grand scheme, the loss didn't hurt McKeesport as much as it helped West Mifflin. The Titans needed a rebound victory after the loss to Elizabeth Forward while the Tigers are more focused on winning their first Section 2 title since 2010.

“I'm upset, but they still have the goal of being the section champion,” Conrad said. “They've just got to come out and play. We're still good and we're still in charge of our own destiny and where we want to be.”

Still, West Mifflin also knows the value of a key nonsection win after an extra-inning loss in a rivalry game.

“A lesser team would have still been licking their wounds,” Phillips said. “But we came out here, we were focused and it was pouring down rain when we got here and we were focused on the task at hand.”

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

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