West Mifflin clinches 2nd straight postseason berth with win over Southmoreland
TribLIVE Sports Videos
From the outside, it seemed like a curious decision by West Mifflin softball coach Casey Phillips to send a runner home from second in the top of the first inning of a scoreless game knowing that Southmoreland center fielder Briana Bunner had a strong arm.
But knowing that Southmoreland could, and likely would, turn to Anna Marie Gatti on the mound at any time during Thursday's Section 4-AAA game, Phillips was going to take any chance he got.
Paige Flore was out by 20 feet, but West Mifflin got one other chance.
This time, the Titans didn't waste it.
Alyssa Cairns' third-inning infield single off freshman Katie Troisi pushed across Kacey Larson with the only run of the game as West Mifflin (13-2, 8-2) clinched its second consecutive playoff berth and inched closer to a section title with a 1-0 win over visiting Southmoreland (8-5, 6-4).
“We want to make the playoffs, win the section and play for a WPIAL championship,” Phillips said. “To clinch a playoff spot two years in a row is a huge deal for us and especially like this. This game had a playoff feel to it. Big games usually come down to pitching and defense, and this one was no different.”
Neither team made an error, and there were only eight hits.
Flore went the distance as she scattered three hits and with nine strikeouts. Flore allowed only one runner to reach second base: Troisi's third-inning leadoff double.
“We just didn't hit the ball,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “That is very unusual for us. We usually hit the ball well, but we just couldn't put the bat on the ball.”
The Titans couldn't either. Well, at least when Gatti entered the game not long after West Mifflin took the lead.
All five of West Mifflin's hits, including two by Cairns, came within the first 12 batters of the game, or when Gatti wasn't in the game.
Gatti, a Syracuse recruit, struck out the first four batters she faced and didn't allow a ball to leave the infield during her 31⁄3 innings.
Gatti didn't allow a baserunner until she walked Amber Cook in the sixth. That's also when she aggravated a knee injury that's been hampering her throughout the year. Gatti stayed in the game to pitch to the final three batters.
“Anna Marie has just been working her way into it, and we can't overuse her right now,” Bunner said. “I didn't want to start her. I wanted to see how far our freshman could go. If we see them in the playoffs, maybe they will see Anna for seven.”
West Mifflin had a chance to jump on Southmoreland in the first when Flore led off with a single then stole second. After one out, Cairns singled up the middle. Phillips said he would send Flore again if the same situation would arise.
“We want to be aggressive on offense,” Phillips said. “So much has to happen for us not to score there. She made a great play, but so much has to go right for them. She is going to score on that same play 99 times out of 100.”
The game remained scoreless until the third when the Titans used some small ball tactics.
Larson walked and moved to second on Flore's sacrifice bunt and then to third on Chelsea Hess's single. Hess stole second, putting runners and second and third for Cairns, who hit a slow roller to second baseman Kristen Suhan that scored Larson.
“They made plays today, and we didn't,” Bunner said. “Whenever playoffs come around, it is going to be a different beast. We just have to make sure we make it in.”
Southmoreland put runners on base in all but the first and seventh innings but couldn't solve Flore.
“It's a healthy competition between (Flore and Gatti),” Phillips said. “It's two great pitchers going after each other. If that doesn't bring out the best of you, I don't know what will.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.