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North Allegheny holds off McKeesport in quarterfinals

| Monday, May 20, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

Stuck in a tie late in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals against McKeesport, North Allegheny coach Rick Meister knew he needed an offensive spark to get his team a much-needed run.

He also knew where to get it. He just had to pick the perfect time to insert sophomore Mackenzie Gostomski as a leadoff pinch hitter.

“We know that Kenzie can get that ball down, and she can fly like the wind and create problems for the other team,” Meister said. “She is the prototypical leadoff batter. …And anytime we need a leadoff batter (for an inning) that's where we use her and she understands her role.”

Using Gostomski to lead off the bottom the sixth worked to perfection as she beat out a bunt single to start a three-run rally, capped by a two-run double from junior Christine Scherer to help North Allegheny (16-4) beat a scrappy McKeesport (17-5) team, 7-5, at Hampton to earn the school its first semifinal berth since winning the 2006 WPIAL title.

“I was looking for a nice, low, inside pitch,” Scherer said. “It was my job to get that hit, and I was proud of myself.”

McKeesport, which pushed through to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history after an extra-inning win over Baldwin the first round, had an opportunity to pull out another dramatic victory.

Mai Gooden led off the seventh with a towering home run, and with two outs freshman shortstop Vanessa Falce singled for her third hit of the game to bring the tying run to the plate. North Allegheny junior right-hander Sami Beining, though, struck out cleanup hitter Jess Beitler with a high fastball on a 3-2 pitch for her 10th strikeout to close the door.

“We knew we were in for a battle, but you play every game like it's your last game and give it everything you've got,” Beining said. “All day I just kept it low because they take it long.”

Leading, 1-0, a McKeesport error put the first North Allegheny batter on base, and with the bases loaded, catcher Bonnie Pierson lined a three-run triple to give the Tigers a 4-1 lead after one inning.

McKeesport pecked away until Kai Gooden hit a RBI triple in the fourth to score Katie Berry and tie the game, 4-4. That was how it stayed until Gostomski led off the sixth with a single and eventually scored on McKeesport's third and final error.

“I told them earlier in the week that if we don't make all our plays, NA was going to take advantage of it, but they kept fighting and kept hitting the ball, and that's all that I could ask out of them,” McKeesport coach Missy Conrad said.

North Allegheny will play No. 7 seed Peters Township (18-4) on Wednesday at a time and site to be determined.

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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