Gateway showcases ‘premier baseball and softball complexes’ during WPIAL playoffs

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Sunday, June 4, 2023 | 11:01 AM


When the baseball and softball fields at the Gateway Sports Complex were still in the construction stage, Gateway athletic director Don Holl gazed into his crystal ball and saw the facility hosting a number of WPIAL playoff games.

Hope and optimism turned into reality over a two-week span from May 15-30 as Gateway hosted 22 baseball and softball contests.

Pressure-packed elimination games in different rounds punctuated what Gateway officials hoped would be a meaningful experience for teams and spectators alike.

“We knew that this was going to be one of the premier baseball and softball complexes in the WPIAL and the region, and we were excited about showcasing our new facility,” Holl said.

“We kept the WPIAL aware of the progress we were making and let them know that we would be ready to host games. Games the (Gateway) baseball and softball teams played at home showed that. We certainly threw our name in the hat and were excited the WPIAL chose us as many times as they did. We were proud that the facility could be a part of the WPIAL-playoff experience for so many athletes outside of our district. We hope that we provided those meaningful moments.”

The first game of the 22 — a Class 5A softball first-round matchup between No. 9 Plum and No. 8 Thomas Jefferson on May 15 — provided the foundation for what was a series of competitive contests.

Plum held a 6-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, and confidence was high for the Mustangs. But the Jaguars didn’t fold their tents and roared back in their final at-bat, scoring five runs to win. The final four runs came on a dramatic walk-off grand slam.

It was the first of three softball games that day. In all, Gateway hosted four softball tripleheaders and one on the baseball side.

Plum and Seton LaSalle baseball were the most successful of all the teams which took the field at Gateway. Both the Mustangs and Rebels went 2-0.

Shaler softball played three times at Gateway and went 2-1. The No. 2 Titans played one of the more dramatic games in the playoffs against No. 3 Trinity in the Class 5A semifinals on May 24. Trinity prevailed 5-4 in nine innings.

But Shaler bounced back to defeat South Fayette, 2-1, in the third-place consolation last Tuesday to clinch a berth to the state tournament.

“It’s the WPIAL playoffs, so we knew we were going to see great competition in each game, but certainly the nine-inning Trinity and Shaler softball game was a classic game,” Holl said.

“What a battle they had. And for closeness and fan interest, the Norwin and Hempfield softball game had such a great turnout as the schools are neighbors and aren’t too far from Monroeville. That was such a great atmosphere.

“Also, when Plum played baseball here for their first two games, the amount of people who made the short trip here was pretty neat. There was so much on the line in each game, and you saw teams and individual players really show their talents. It was a lot of fun.”

Holl said he was proud of the many from Gateway who stepped up and made things run as smoothly as possible.

“We have a lot of great people here, and it does take all of them communicating and coordinating to make sure we’re on the same page,” Holl said.

“In the (athletic) office, my secretary, Jill (Fischetti), does such a great job getting our event workers together and getting everyone on schedule for the concession stand while also coordinating the umpires, working with the game managers from the WPIAL, and all of the parking logistics. There is a lot of background, invisible preparation for those games, and her work is such an important part of the equation. There’s so much that goes into it, and I am so proud of our Gateway team.”

Holl said Gateway hoped to continue hosting playoff games in the PIAA tournament.

First-round games were Monday, weather permitting.

“We know that there will be a number of games involving WPIAL teams against teams from the east or the north,” Holl said last Thursday before the brackets were finalized.

“Other facilities that make more geographic sense, that is totally understandable. If we’re called upon at any time throughout the state tournaments, we’ll be ready.”

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 mlove@triblive.com.

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