After making 1st playoff trip, McKeesport now a section favorite
TribLIVE Sports Videos
For the longest time, McKeesport softball coach Missy Conrad didn't know the last time the Tigers won a playoff game.
She's heard 15 years. She heard 25 years. She heard never.
“Well, I know it is 2013 now,” Conrad said.
McKeesport (17-5) sneaked up on everybody a season ago and finished undefeated in Section 2 for the first time in school history and won its first WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game with a lineup that featured three freshmen and eight underclassmen.
When you have virtually the entire team back, including reigning Daily News Player of the Year Vanessa Falce and three-year starting pitcher Jess Beitler, there's no sneaking up on anybody this year, and Conrad knows it.
“The girls know that teams are out to get them this year,” Conrad said. “They all have been working hard in the offseason to be ready for the teams wanting a piece of them. I think the girls know what is expected of them, and I don't think it is a secret of what we have.”
What McKeesport has is arguably the best player in the WPIAL in Falce especially if you consider what the then 15-year-old freshman shortstop did against Quad-A competition last year.
Falce hit .513 with 10 home runs, 40 RBIs, 30 runs, 39 hits, nine doubles, and five triples — all team highs. During a nine-day span near the end of the regular season, Falce had three two-homer games against section opponents — Woodland Hills, Plum and Gateway.
“Everybody knows who she is and what she can do now,” said Conrad, who has a 32-24 record in three years. “She works hard enough every day that she is going to live up to what she did last year, if not better. She knows what she did last year and what is expected of her this year.”
Falce will have plenty of help.
Beitler went 17-5 a season ago with a 1.48 ERA and 140 strikeouts, including a perfect game against Penn Hills, but did as much damage at the plate as she hit .447 with 28 RBIs and four home runs.
Throw in the return of Dom Clark (.368), Courtney Patterson (.400), Mai Gooden (.320), Kai Gooden and Katie Barry, and the Tigers could surpass last year's offensive barrage of nine runs per game.
The one question mark for McKeesport will be at catcher with the graduation of Kasey Dansak. Conrad is still unsure who will be the everyday catcher heading into Saturday's opener at Fox Chapel.
“Honestly, that's still up in the air,” Conrad said. “I've had a couple girls interested in it this year, so we've been working with them. Once game day comes, whoever is going to be in there is whoever is catching the best.”
Actually, that's the approach Conrad is taking with most of the lineup. Even though eight starters return, she stopped short of calling anybody starters other Falce, Beitler and Kai Gooden.
“There are a couple of positions out there that aren't set in stone,” Conrad said. “It is whoever is practicing harder and hitting better, and that's who is going to play. We just had a conversation two days ago at practice, and I told them that everybody is starting at 0-0 and everybody's batting average is at zero, and that's how we look at it.”
Plum and Gateway should give McKeesport the most resistance in Section 2. But just don't ask Conrad anything about playoffs and a possible WPIAL championship run because she won't go there.
“We have to play it one game at a time,” Conrad said. “We never look too far ahead. We have talked about what we want to do. If we don't win our section then we aren't going to do well in the playoffs, and if you don't do well in the playoffs you aren't going to WPIALs. That's why we are just focusing on one game at a time.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Allegheny softball poised for successful season
- High school roundup: Yough edges Trinity in 9 innings
- Previewing the 2015 WPIAL softball season
- Plum softball looks to top unprecedented 2014 season
- Frazier softball optimistic heading into season
- Ligonier softball team works on offense
- Greensburg Central Catholic softball hopes to bounce back in Class A
- Hempfield softball motivated after missing playoffs
- Daily News roundup: Norwin hurlers no-hit Derry in opener
- Monessen softball setting lofty goals