Monessen solves Tilghman, Charleroi

Monessen's Cara Grogan steals 3rd in the bottom of the 3rd inning as Charleroi's Anjela Tilghman goes for the ball at Monessen High School softball filed on Monday, April 21, 2014
Monessen's Cara Grogan steals 3rd in the bottom of the 3rd inning as Charleroi's Anjela Tilghman goes for the ball at Monessen High School softball filed on Monday, April 21, 2014
Photo by Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
| Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 12:21 a.m.

It took the Monessen softball team seven innings to figure out Charleroi Area pitcher Jen Tilghman.

But it was better late than never, as the Lady Greyhounds (3-8, 2-6) plated a run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, before scoring the winning run in the bottom of the eighth to come away with a 3-2, extra-inning victory in non-section play.

“Tilghman is a tough pitcher,” Monessen softball coach Bo Teets said. “She doesnt give up many clean baserunners and keeps the ball down. It's tough to get a good read on her and she's definitely one of the better pitchers we have faced this season. But we got some timely hitting today when we needed it, and it really paid off.”

The Charleroi junior cruised through the first six innings, giving up just one hit, a run in the second inning and recorded 12 ground-ball outs. But in the bottom of the seventh, catcher Alexa Vatakis led off with a single up the middle and then scored when Ondrea Burroughs reached on an infield error.

In the bottom of the eighth, Cara Grogan led off with her second double of the game and scored on Vatakis' two out single to center.

“Jen did okay, except at the end,” Charleroi coach Trey Tilghman said. “We wanted to walk (Vatakis) and take our chances with the next girl, who I believe had struck out a few times. Then Jen pitches the ball over the plate. You can't do that. We wanted to put (Vatakis) on and instead we left the ball over the plate and she put a good swing on it.”

Monessen scored the first run of the game in the second inning, when Vatakis reached on an error and scored on Taylor Guzzie's groundout.

But the Lady Cougars (7-3, 5-1) took a 2-1 lead in the third when Sydney Toth led off with an infield single, before second baseman Morgan Riley launched an inside-the-park home run to deep center.

Charleroi threatened early and often on Monessen pitcher Shelby Minardi, but the sophomore continued to get out of tough situations.

In the first, second and sixth innings, the Lady Cougars put runners on second and third with one out, but in all three situations Minardi retired the next two batters to get out of the jam.

“(Minardi) has really come on as of late,” Teets said. “She started off a bit shaky with the cold weather, but as it has gotten warmer she has really proved that she is a pitcher that we can rely on down the stretch in the tough situations. She is a competitor and isn't looking to give up any free baserunners. She got us out of a couple big situations today and more importantly we kept a clean book behind her. You need to play good defense to beat a team off that caliber.”

Minardi finished with a line of six hits, two runs and five strikeouts in eight innings of work for the win. Tilghman took the hard-luck loss, giving up three runs – only one of which was earned – and four hits, striking out eight.

“We struggled hitting the ball, period,” Tilghman said. “Look how many 1-3's there were in the scorebook. Probably four or five just right back to the pitcher. We are a hitting team, we need to drive the ball better than that if we want to win.”

Grogan (two doubles) and Vatakis (two singles) had the only hits for the Lady Greyhounds.

Riley, Carina Gottheld, Adrianna Gottheld, and Tilghman collected a hit each for the Lady Cougars. Toth was 2-4 before spraining her ankle sliding back into first base in the top of the seventh.

“This win feels good,” Teets said. “We were struggling earlier in the season, but this is our third straight win so hopefully we turn the corner a bit and gain some confidence that will carry us through the second half of the season.”

Monessen travels to West Greene today while Charleroi will wait until Wednesday for a game at East Allegheny.

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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