McKeesport girls secure playoff berth
Losing consecutive games by a total of three runs after starting the season 10-0, McKeesport second-year softball coach Missy Conrad could sense her team's frustration was at an all-time high.
It just happened that Woodland Hills provided the perfect opportunity to vent mostly because the Wolverines were next on the Tigers' schedule.
McKeesport unloaded for 18 hits, including a pair of home runs by Vanessa Falce and one by Jess Beitler, as the Tigers got back to their winning ways with a convincing four-inning 17-1 victory over Woodland Hills in a Section 2-AAAA game that clinched a second consecutive playoff berth.
“I told them to forget about Friday (12-11 loss to West Mifflin), forget about Monday (4-2 loss to Elizabeth Forward) because those losses didn't hurt us,” Conrad said. “Pretty much these kids don't like to lose, and they wanted to come back out here and get a win. We needed to take our frustrations out on somebody. It needed to be done.”
McKeesport got a monster game out of its freshman shortstop. Falce went 3 for 4 with four runs scored, a double, a two-run homer, a solo homer and five RBI. Falce has four home runs this season.
“She didn't do anything Monday, so I told her at the beginning of the game that she was slacking by only having one hit and that I needed more from her today,” Conrad said. “She came up with the big hits and was very clutch for us.”
It wasn't only Falce who brought the bats. All nine starters managed at least one hit off a pair of Woodland Hills pitchers.
Beitler went 3 for 3 with two doubles, a solo home run and two RBI; Courtney Patterson added three singles and two RBI; Kai Gooden was 3 for 3 with three RBI; Dom Clark had a single, triple and two RBI; and Katie Barry knocked in a pair of runs.
“They lost the last two, so they were ready to go,” Woodland Hills coach Tony Paganico said. “They are a good team and are very well coached. There is no doubt about that.”
Beitler picked up the win as she scattered four hits over four innings. Beitler had a no-hitter into the third before Abby Trolanowski singled to left. Autumn Porter accounted for Woodland Hills (4-6, 4-6) only run with a RBI single in the fourth.
“When we play at home, we seem to play tight,” Paganico said. “In all honesty, I think it is because mom and dad are in the stands. Maybe we should just play away all the time.”
It probably wouldn't have mattered where this game was played. McKeesport put up five runs in the top of the first off of starter Kelsey Geyer on the strength of two-run singles by Barry and Gooden.
The Tigers added three more in second to chase Geyer. Reliever Kirsten Terry didn't fare much better. Despite pitching well in their first meeting three weeks ago, Terry allowed 10 hits and nine runs over the final three innings including back-to-back tape-measure shot homers by Falce and Beitler in the fourth.
“We are hitting, but we need to hit all the time, every game,” Conrad said. “I am happy how we responded to the losses.”
McKeesport (11-2, 8-0) will have a chance to take a giant step to clinching the outright section title at home Saturday when the Tigers play Plum (9-2, 8-1) at home in a noon start. McKeesport won the first meeting, 5-1, two weeks ago.