Versatile Hudec pleased to be part of playoff-bound Gateway softball team
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Laura Hudec has seen it all in her four years as a starter for the Gateway varsity softball team.
The senior has played various infield positions — she's a starter at third this season — and also has pitched for the Gators.
“I don't mind playing every position,” Hudec said. “I've always wanted to do what I can to help the team win.”
Hudec also is hitting better than .400 this season, and she collected a single and a double for two of Gateway's four hits in last Thursday's Section 2-AAAA finale at McKeesport, a 5-0 loss.
She was robbed of a third hit, as a screaming liner of her bat was snagged by the Tigers' first baseman.
Two days earlier, in a wild 15-13 loss to Plum, Hudec collected a triple, two singles and five runs batted in.
While Hudec is proud of her offensive stats and her play this season at third base, she said she's even more proud to share the trip to the WPIAL playoffs with fellow seniors Lauren Henderson and Tara McCarl and the rest of the team.
Gateway finished section play 7-5 and tied for third place with Woodland Hills.
The Gators split their season series with the Wolverines, so both teams enter the playoffs.
The Gators are in the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2008. That season, Gateway went 8-7 in section play and suffered a 4-0 loss to Mt. Lebanon in the first round.
McKeesport's 5-0 win over Gateway finished off a perfect 12-0 mark in section, while Plum ended section play at 10-2.
“To finally have a chance to be in the playoffs is great,” Hudec said.
“It's not over yet. I just hope we can play well.”
Myers has been impressed with Hudec's play this season and throughout her four-year career.
“She's definitely a cornerstone anyone would want to build a team around,” Myers said. “She leads by example, stopping any ball that's hit to her or at the plate offensively. She can put the ball anywhere she wants. She's a determined player.”
The freshman was pegged by Myers as the starting pitcher in the preseason, but a broken finger suffered in a practice right before the first game put her on the bench for several weeks.
She got a doctor's clearance to return to the lineup last week and saw her first varsity action as a pitcher and hitter against Plum.
Lewis went 0-2 against the Mustangs, and she struck out three Plum batters and gave up one earned run in two innings in the pitching circle.
She got the start against McKeesport, and she showed some toughness against a dangerous Tigers lineup.
McKeesport freshman shortstop Vanessa Falce has done damage against some top pitchers this season, and she hit two home runs against Lewis — her seventh and eighth of the season — but Lewis gave up only three other hits and struck out six in her first start.
The Tigers' two first-inning runs were unearned.
She also picked up her first varsity hit, a single with two outs in the fourth.
“It was tough not being able to play,” Lewis said. “I love softball and love being with my teammates. It was hard to watch and not be able to help them.”
Lewis said she was both nervous and excited when she took the field for the first time.
“I worked hard all fall and winter for it, and I finally got my chance to play,” Lewis said.
“It was one of the best feelings when I got in (against Plum). I knew I needed to keep calm and focus on what I was capable of doing against McKeesport. They have a lot of great hitters.”
Myers said he was pleased with Lewis' pitching effort against the Tigers, and, he said, he's happy to have a 1-2 pitching punch for the playoffs.
Junior Danielle Kochka, who started almost all of the games through the Plum contest, will also be available in the circle.
“Madison did well,” Myers said. “Before the injury, she threw five or six days a week, so she's a workhorse. She is working on getting more innings before the playoffs.”
Myers said the WPIAL playoff pairings are expected to be released Thursday, with the first games to be played as early on Monday.
Gateway faced a tough test Wednesday, as it was slated to take on former section foe Franklin Regional.
The game was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.
Franklin Regional, a perennial playoff team, struggled this year in Section 1. The Panthers finished in last place with a 2-10 record.
The Gators close out the regular season Thursday against Hampton at home at 4 p.m.
“I am excited about the playoffs,” Myers said. “As with any coach, I've tried to chart who we might play in the first round. We are a third-place team, and we will probably travel to any number of good teams. No matter who we play, we'll be ready.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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