Twins 'Gooden' enough to win as McKeesport edges Plum
McKeesport knew it had to play a good game to have any chance to avenge its only loss and knock off undefeated Plum.
The Tigers had to settle for a Gooden game instead, and that was just fine with them.
Kai Gooden had two triples and a double and twin sister Mai Gooden added a pair of hits, including the go ahead single in the bottom of the sixth as McKeesport jumped back into a first-place tie in Section 2-AAAA with a 6-5 win over Plum, the Tribune-Review's second-ranked team in Class AAAA.
“They were twinning today,” McKeesport coach Melissa Conrad said. “It is twin action and they have in their brain that they were going to do that. When the one twin would get a hit, I would tell the other to twin it out like she did.'
And that's what happened.
When Kai Gooden tripled in the fourth, Mai Gooden followed two batters later with a double. In the sixth when Kai Gooden tripled again, Mai Gooden rifled a liner down the right field line off reliever and losing pitcher Amanda Dynoske to give McKeesport (7-1, 6-1) a lead it would not relinquish.
“I told her not to leave me on base and she didn't,” Kai Gooden said.
The same couldn't be said about Plum, who beat McKeesport (9-0) on March 27. Plum (8-1, 6-1) left 11 runners on base, including one on third in the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The Mustangs left the bases loaded with the tying run at third in the last inning.
“There was nothing you can really do,” Plum coach Jim McGrath said. “There was a lot of pressure on the girls. They want to do well, they want to get that RBI and bring the girls in. Sometimes it is just not in the cards.”
McKeesport pitcher Jess Beitler, a senior, had a lot to do with that.
Beitler, who picked up the win despite allowing 13 hits, worked out of jams the most efficient way possible – with the strikeout.
Beitler ended innings with runners on third base in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh innings with a strikeout.
“Jess pitched very well,” Conrad said. “She struck out batters when she needed to strike out players. We had a couple of errors, but she kept pitching like it didn't affect her.
“It was a very important game for the girls, and they knew that and that's why they came out fighting like they did.”
After McKeesport spotted Plum a 1-0 lead, the Tigers tied in the second and took the lead in fourth when Kai Gooden tripled and scored on a throwing error. Nicole Gergely's run-scoring single extended McKeesport's lead to 3-1.
And when Dom Clark belted a leadoff home run in the fifth to make it 4-1, it chased Plum's starter Rachael Adamski.
“We wanted to go undefeated, but I knew something was going to happen along the way and it did,” McGrath said. “They played great and we came back and played great. We knew this wasn't going to be a 9-0 game.”
Plum rallied for three runs in the sixth to knot the game at 4-4 with the big hits being run-scoring singles by Dynoske and Jordan Seneca to set up a Gooden sixth inning for McKeesport.
Kai Gooden led the inning off with her second triple and scored the go ahead run when her sister singled her in.
Plum loaded the bases in the seventh, but Beitler ended the game by striking out Michaela Palmieri with Seneca, who went 2 for 3 and is batting close to .800 on the season, in the on-deck circle.
“We believe that first game was a fluke loss for us,” Conrad said. “It was at the beginning of the year and we didn't have the same lineup, so we are kind of a different team than the first time we played.”