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McKeesport softball rolls past Gateway

| Thursday, April 10, 2014, 11:39 p.m.

McKeesport's offense continued to surge on Thursday, shredding Gateway pitching for eight runs in the second inning, and the Tigers claimed a 10-0 victory at home in a WPIAL Section 2-AAAA softball game shortened to five innings by a 10-run rule.

Despite a 9-0 loss to section-leading Plum in their only defeat, the Tigers nearly matched their season average of 10.8 runs per game in their latest outing and remained a game behind the unbeaten Mustangs for the lead. It followed a 20-4 rout of Allderdice a day earlier on the road.

“Our hitting was very good again,” McKeesport coach Melissa Conrad said. “Our pitching was good. Everybody played together.”

Jess Beitler pitched a four-hitter for McKeesport (5-1, 4-1), striking out six, walking none and hitting a batter. The Tigers sent 13 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored eight runs against two Gateway pitchers to take command.

McKeesport, which had 11 hits, won its fourth consecutive game since the loss to Plum on March 27. Gateway (3-2, 3-2) dropped its second in a row following an 11-7 setback to the Mustangs on Tuesday.

“In softball, it's all about pitching,” Gateway coach Andy Popojas said. “McKeesport and Plum are the two schools in this section that are hurdles for us, but we think by the end of the season, we can be right there with them. The kids knew what they were in for against those teams. We gave Plum a scare. It was back and forth. This game was a tough one.”

After McKeesport took a 1-0 lead in the first, when Vanessa Falce tripled and scored on an error, the Tigers' offense continue its rampage, scoring eight runs in the second, highlighted by Dom Clark's two-run triple and Beitler's two-run double.

Katie Barry also had two RBIs for the Tigers, including a run-scoring single in the fourth that gave McKeesport its 10-run cushion.

Both teams continue their schedule Friday, McKeesport remaining home against winless Fox Chapel (0-8) of Section 3 and Gateway traveling to Section 1 Hempfield (3-2).

“Our bats have been alive,” Conrad said of McKeesport's high-scoring output. “We've been working hard on hitting. We hit for at least an hour a day. Everyone, from 1 through 9 in the lineup, is contributing.

“We're hitting, we're pitching and we're fielding. We're all pretty much encouraging one another.”

Conrad, a West Mifflin graduate and former Edinboro University outfielder, is getting comfortable in her third season at McKeesport.

“The girls know what's expected from me,” she said. “They've been very respectful, all 24 of them. They know that if they want to have the chance to be on the field and be a part of this team, they'll continue to work hard at all aspects of the game, all the time.”

Gateway got three hits from losing pitcher Danielle Kochka.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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