Steel Valley softball falls to Charleroi

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:33 p.m.

A win over Charleroi wouldn't have clinched Steel Valley's first section championship in 15 years. It wouldn't even have sewn up a second consecutive playoff appearance for Matt Janov's softball team.

But it sure would have put them well on their way.

Steel Valley allowed four runs late in Wednesday's first-place showdown with Charleroi and squandered a chance to take control of the Section 4-AA race at the midway point with a tough 9-7 loss to the Cougars at Griffin Field.

“We could've really taken control of this section,” Janov said. “But we are still tied for first place halfway through. If you would've told me that a month ago, I would've taken it. To be tied for first isn't a bad place to be. It's wide-open now.”

Instead of taking a two-game lead with five left and owning the tiebreaker over everybody, Steel Valley (5-2, 4-1) finds itself tied for first with Charleroi (6-2, 4-1) and only a game ahead of Brentwood (4-3, 3-2) and South Allegheny (5-2, 3-2). Only three qualify for the playoffs.

Charleroi coach Trey Tilghman was aware of the importance of the game and made sure he let his players know.

“We didn't want to fall into that three-way tie for second place,” Tilghman said. “I told the girls that if we had any hopes of winning the section that it was going to have to start today.”

And Charleroi did it with hitting.

The Cougars banged out 17 hits — 11 of which came over the last three innings — led by three each by Sydney Toth, Morgan Riley, Adrianna Gottheld and Jen Tilghman. Tilghman knocked in three with three doubles, and Gottheld scored three times and drove in two.

“They are a good hitting team,” Janov said. “We might have had an error or two in there, but for the most part, they were on it.”

Steel Valley got three hits and an RBI from Chelsea Rohan and a pair of RBIs from Amanda Barnet, but couldn't hold on a 7-5 lead after sending eight batters to the plate and scoring four runs in the fifth off of winning pitcher Jen Tilghman.

A run-scoring groundout by Krista Bayus followed by an RBI single by Kenzie Fisher tied the game. The Ironmen took the lead on Barnett's two-out, two-run single.

“We could've folded right then,” Trey Tilghman said. “But we just never quit. Our best player had one of her worst games hitting. I told the girls we had to have everybody pick each other up, and that's what they did.”

Charleroi had runners at first and second in the sixth with one out when Riley smashed a ball down the left-field line to score a run. After Steel Valley starter Maddie Cotter got the second out, Gottheld clobbered a two-run single just inside the third-base line to make it 8-7. Tilghman's third double of the game pushed Charleroi's lead to 9-7.

“I don't know if (Maddie) had her best stuff today, but she battled hard,” Janov said. “I can't fault her at all. They just pounded the ball.”

And made Steel Valley's quest for a section title a little more difficult.

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