After tough season, Gateway softball seeks improvement in ’23

Sunday, March 12, 2023 | 11:01 AM

When the Gateway softball team faced Thomas Jefferson for the first of two Section 2-5A matchups last year, the Jaguars stung the young Gators, 15-0, in three innings.

Three weeks later, Gateway took TJ to the full seven innings in a 9-0 loss.

To second-year Gators coach Donny Holl, that was a strong sign of progress for a team and program searching for positive signs in an otherwise difficult season.

“You can see the character of these girls in really wanting to create a positive, winning culture for this program,” Holl said.

“We want to get back to having a winning record, having positive seasons and eventually making it back to the playoffs. We had girls who took a number of tough, lopsided losses last year but stayed positive because they wanted to see good things happen.”

Gateway was shut out nine times in 12 games last year and gave up 10 or more runs in 10 of its 11 losses.

But the team, which finished 1-11 overall in addition to its 0-10 mark in the section, was able to celebrate a 19-4 victory over Woodland Hills on senior day on its home field.

The victory snapped a 23-game losing streak dating back to the 2019 WPIAL playoffs.

Gateway lost four seniors to graduation, including Deanna Gratton, the Gators lone all-section player who now is a freshman on the Washington & Jefferson softball team.

A half dozen players are back to help the Gators win games this season. The team is young with two juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen. There are no seniors on the roster.

“With that youth is the exciting fact that you get to see them grow,” Holl said.

“The girls who were freshmen last year are going to come back and have the chance to be leaders this year. We’ve already seen growth and progress. They want to build every year.”

Sophomore Gianna D’Agostino is back at shortstop.

“We’re here to have fun but to also play as a team for each other,” she said. “We’re working harder, and we’re seeing a difference. It’s going pretty well.”

Sophomore Abby Griffith returns to the pitching circle.

“I was definitely nervous coming in to last season knowing I was a freshman playing varsity against teams with a lot of really good seniors and experienced players,” Griffith said.

“But I kept working hard, and through a lot of the tough games, they really helped me develop a mindset that I wasn’t going to give up, no matter what the situation was in a game. We definitely encouraged each other last year, on and off the field. I really see us growing as a team and getting better.”

Holl said his excitement for the future of the program at the varsity level also is based on seeing strong numbers at the junior high level and through Monroeville’s area youth organization.

“It shows there is interest in the sport and girls who want to play,” Holl said. “Our job is to bring them up in a good program and a good culture where everyone is on the same page.”

Gateway will be able to test its mettle at home on a renovated field with a lot of new features from artificial turf and dugouts to a bigger and brighter scoreboard in left field.

The Gators will face a challenging Section 2-5A schedule which includes defending WPIAL Class 5A champion Armstrong, Class 5A runner-up Penn-Trafford, and 2022 playoff qualifiers Franklin Regional, Latrobe and Kiski Area.

Penn Hills, Woodland Hills, Obama, Derry and Yough are part of an early-season nonsection slate before Gateway opens section play April 3, at Latrobe.

“No matter what happened in games last year, those girls fought to the end each time,” Holl said.

“That’s what I wanted to see, and that’s what I want to see again. If we do that, good things can happen.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at


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