Gators unable to overcome Tigers in 3-1 loss in home finale
Members of the Plum varsity softball team filled the home bleachers at the Gateway softball field Monday night as the Gators took on McKeesport in a Section 2-AAAA battle.
The Mustangs had a vested interest in Monday's outcome, as the difference between an outright section title and a shared crown came down to whether or not Gateway would be able to upend the Tigers.
Plum came into the game 11-1, while McKeesport tried to finish section play with the same record.
The Gators had their sights set on an upset of the Tigers with hopes of keeping their slim playoff chances alive.
After seven innings of spirited softball, McKeesport came away with a 3-1 win and a co-section title with Plum, and Gateway found themselves officially on the outside of the playoff mix.
Despite the loss, Gators head coach Andy Popojas said he was pleased with his team's effort against the Tigers.
“The girls were ready to play this game, as opposed to the first McKeesport game (10-0 loss),” Popojas said.
“We wanted to give McKeesport a game, and I think we gave them a pretty good game.”
Gateway fell to 5-6 in section with the loss. That, coupled with Woodland Hills' 4-3 win over Penn Hills on Monday, eliminated the Gators from playoff contention and put the Wolverines in the postseason.
“We gave it our best shot,” Popojas said. “(Jess) Beitler is a good pitcher, and we just needed a little more offense.”
The game was the final one at home for seniors Danielle Kochka, Kelly Kapp, Brianna McCarthy and Kim Mignogna.
“They took it a little hard when it was over,” Popojas said.
“Everyone was pretty emotional because it's a tight-knit group overall.”
Gateway had four hits against Beitler, and seniors accounted for three of them.
Kochka smacked an RBI double in the bottom of the first to answer a McKeesport unearned run in the top of the frame.
Kochka added a single in the third, while Kapp singled with one out in the fourth.
Lewis followed Kochka's single with one of her own in the third, and Gateway had two on with two outs.
However, a deep fly out to center off the bat of McCarthy ended the threat.
Kapp was left stranded at second after her hit in the fourth.
In addition to the four hits given up, Beitler, a senior, struck out 12 Gateway batters. She retired 10 in a row to end the game.
Popojas credited Lewis with a strong pitching effort.
McKeesport tallied 10 hits, but Lewis countered that with nine strikeouts.
The defense also made some key plays to keep the Gators within striking distance.
Gateway fared better offensively against Plum in last week's 10-6 loss to the Mustangs on Plum's field at Plum High School.
The Gators hit four home runs, with two coming off the bat of sophomore Jasmine Copeland. McCarthy and Lewis had the others, as Gateway collected six hits overall.
Gateway had a 6-3 lead in the fifth inning, but Plum rallied to tie it in the bottom of the fifth and surge ahead in the bottom of the sixth.
Gateway hoped to wrap up section play on a positive note Tuesday with a game at Oakland Catholic.
The contest was to be completed past the deadline for this week's edition.