Gildea delays surgery; pitches Brentwood into playoff contention

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Meghan Gildea was looking forward to her senior season as the starting pitcher for the Brentwood softball team when a knee injury during basketball season put her future on the mound in jeopardy.

But Gildea's determination to play for her team won over her parents, doctors and the school district.

She was cleared to pitch this season, and has proven to be a true competitor.

Gildea and the Lady Spartans were 6-2 overall through eight games, and in second place in Section 4-AA.

“Meghan is playing with an enormous amount of courage,” Jen Ditoro, Brentwood's head coach, said. “She's pitching injured, but she's pitching well. She's finding a way to get it done.”

On Jan. 20, Gildea tore her right anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, playing basketball for the Lady Spartans. The serious knee injury requires surgery and months of rehabilitation.

Gildea's dreams of resuming her starting pitching role for her senior year were clearly in jeopardy.

While she waited for her surgery date, Gildea attended spring practice sessions with the Lady Spartans to lend support to the team.

But during those practices, Gildea had a revelation.

“I started throwing the ball and it didn't hurt too much. I started thinking I could pitch for the team after all,” she said

Gildea's mom, Bonnie, recalls when Meghan came home and told her parents she wanted to delay the surgery and pitch for Brentwood this season.

“We thought she was crazy. But she kept insisting she could do it,” Bonnie Gildea said. “And her doctors said that she was the one that had to decide.”

Gildea has started every game for Brentwood. Prior to this week's action, the Lady Spartans were 5-2 in section play, and Gildea had racked up 44 strikeouts to go along with her .432 batting average.

When she reaches any of the bases, Brentwood uses a pinch runner for her.

“Softball is Meghan's sport,” Ditoro said. “She has a variety of pitches, and a high velocity.”

Surprisingly, the inability to put full weight on her right leg has not affected Gildea's pitching speed.

“I am actually pitching faster than I did last year,” she said.

The Lady Spartans also benefit from a great attitude, and contributions at several positions, according to Ditoro.

“We were very hopeful that we had a solid team,” Ditoro said. “But, the girls attitude is great. They just refuse to lose.”

Evidence of that mindset was clear in a recent victory against Greensburg Central Catholic. The Lady Spartans did not let a devastating 19-4 early loss to the section leader define their season.

Instead, they came back and won a 1-0 decision against the same team in a hard-fought game last week.

Sophomore infielder Miranda Klein had the game-winning RBI.

“(Greensburg Central Catholic) is a ranked team,” Ditoro said. “Both teams played solid, but we ended up on top.”

Ditoro relies on five outfielders, who are platooned thoughout the games. They are senior Breanna Nola, juniors Brooke McWilliams and Alexis Bubacz, sophomore Natalie Andrews and freshman Taryn Sherry.

“Our defense has been outstanding,” Ditoro said.

Junior Alexis Gaughan has worked her way into the starting lineup at the shortstop position.

“She's made some key plays for us,” Ditoro said.

Other contributors for the Lady Spartans this season include senior outfielder Shelby Sorochman, junior catcher Sydney Bauer, junior outfielder Laura McGowan, sophomore third baseman Miranda Klein, plus freshmen Alecia Folino (third base), Lesley Murrio (outfield) and Alexis Wagner (first base).

Ditoro is cautiously optimistic that her squad can hold onto second place in the section. The top three teams advance to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Charleroi, Steel Valley and South Allegheny are the key games remaining on the Brentwood schedule.

“We control our own destiny,” Ditoro said. “It's nice to be doing the chasing instead of being chased.”

Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.

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