Close games sharpen Greensburg Central Catholic softball for battles ahead

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 | 6:29 PM

It’s funny how a regular-season schedule can sometimes balance itself out.

Greensburg Central Catholic softball went from winning games that barely lasted four innings to winning some that could have gone to extra innings.

It has brought a sense of equilibrium to the third-ranked team in WPIAL Class 2A.

A series of blowouts — 13-3 over Derry, 21-0 over East Allegheny, 19-0 over Ellis School, 22-0 over Steel Valley — were tempered with one-run wins over Apollo-Ridge (3-2 and 13-12) and Steel Valley (7-6).

With this team, it’s wrecking ball one day, heart monitor the next.

“We needed some longer games so we could play better together,” sophomore outfielder Erica Rodriguez said. “It has helped us as a team.”

The more reps the Centurions (10-1, 7-1) have experienced, the better they have been. Ninth-year coach Mike Gaffney knows full seven-inning games, no matter how close they are in score, will better prepare his team for the WPIAL playoffs.

“It’s putting them in those situations,” Gaffney said. “They just want it. It’s nothing us coaches are doing. It’s them wanting to find a way to win.”

The Centurions, who are one game behind Serra Catholic in Section 2, are in position to win their first section title since 2013. GCC hosts Serra on Tuesday.

GCC, a returning semifinalist and PIAA qualifier, went back and forth with Apollo-Ridge in the teams’ second matchup at Seton Hill before junior Macee Magill knocked in sophomore Maddy Bova for the go-ahead run and a 13-12 win. The game was shortened to six innings because of rain and pending darkness.

GCC has a tendency to see the light at the end of the tunnel when it gets down, which hasn’t been very often this season.

“It’s five-nothing (in the first), then we score nine,” Gaffney said. “Then, we’re down 12-9. They didn’t seem bothered at all. They just went out and played.”

The next day, junior Grace Kindel drove in three runs as GCC clipped Steel Valley, 7-6, for a Section 2 win.

The Centurions were averaging 10.6 runs per game.

“I think from last year to now, we’re a better team,” said senior Emma Henry, a Central Connecticut State commit. “Our chemistry is good. We have had some high scores, but I think we can hit even better than we have. If we have any trouble, it’s usually something mental we did to ourselves.”

Another clunker followed the close win, though, as GCC beat Steel Valley, 22-0, in a rainstorm and 40-degree temperatures. Amazingly, the Centurions only had two hits but walked 25 times in the three-inning win.

Continuity has helped to stabilize the defense. Gaffney said Henry and junior Makenzee Kenney told him to give freshman Madison Keller a look at first base.

He did, then shifted sophomore Abigail Dei from the outfield to second.

“It has really worked out,” Gaffney said. “I feel like we’re solid defensively.

“It’s been very easy to coach these girls. With seven returning starters, you know what you have.”

Henry, who has shared pitching duties with Kenney — Dei also saw time last week — has played second and third.

Magill is an anchor at shortstop and catcher Isabella Marquez, the only other senior and a Mount Aloysius commit, is a rock behind the plate.

“We have a well-rounded team,” Rodriguez said. “I think we can go as far as we want to go.”

Henry was batting .556, Rodriguez .529, Magill .514, Kindel .441, and Kenney .406.

Five girls had at least six RBIs.

Henry was leading the team in hits and doubles. She was tied with Kindel for the lead in runs scored.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


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