Gateway softball competing for WPIAL playoff spot

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Friday, April 12, 2019 | 6:55 PM


Gateway softball was a member of Section 1-5A last year, going 8-7 and qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs.

The Gators are still in Class 5A this spring but have moved into Section 2, tackling the likes of Hampton, Mars, Oakland Catholic, Penn Hills, Plum, Shaler and Woodland Hills.

On April 10, Gateway cruised past Oakland Catholic, 15-2, in five innings to improve to 4-3 overall and 3-3 in section.

“Our performance has been good, but we’ve struggled at times,” said Scott Lewis, the Gators’ second-year coach. “We look to minimize mistakes, and if we do that, we can complete for a playoff spot.”

Captains this season are seniors Gionna DeLuca (2B), Jordan Henderson (3B) and Mykaila Jackson (P/1B).

“Entering into a new section, I’m happy with the team’s aggression and determination to play our hardest every game,” DeLuca said. “We’re taking the losses as learning experiences and using that to motivate us (in) facing the section teams a second time around.

“I believe our greatest strength comes from the team aspect itself. We have a bigger team than last year, with freshman starters all the way through seniors, and we pick each other up when needed. I view that as a key component in sports. We win as a team and lose as a team, and that’s what makes softball so much more enjoyable.”

Henderson said the Gators’ focus is on a WPIAL playoff berth and a deeper run in the postseason.

“Our goal is to make it to the playoffs, like last year,” Henderson said. “I believe that with each game we grow a little stronger.

“I think one of our biggest strengths is being there for one another when someone does something, whether it be good or bad. We pick each other up and give all our support to one another.”

The Gators have been bolstered by a strong group of freshmen to add to a talented group of returning players.

“We are fortunate to have these players who have a lot of potential,” she said. ”Sadly, this is my last year, but they will all grow to help the team make a name for themselves in the upcoming years.”

Along with Jackson, Henderson and DeLuca, the starting lineup consists of juniors Maura Ryan (P/1B) and Kayla Gratton (P/SS), sophomore Emma Kennedy (C), freshman Deanna Gratton (DP/C), and outfielders Sydney Hunter (CF), Nikkita Vojnik (LF) and Katie Ryan (RF). Hunter is a junior. Vojnik and Ryan are freshmen.

DeLuca, Jackson, Henderson, Maura Ryan, Kayla Gratton, Kennedy and Hunter were returning starters this spring. Kennedy led the team in hitting last year.

Against Oakland Catholic, Hunter homered and had four RBIs. Maura Ryan and Kennedy also belted home runs.

“We have numbers this season, something that hasn’t always been in our favor,” DeLuca said. “Our team has a large number of girls that can play multiple positions, all bringing in skill sets necessary to win games.”

Maura Ryan and Jackson have handled most of the pitching duties this season.

“Last year, we had a taste of the playoffs,” Jackson said, “but to achieve a better outcome we have to improve at every practice and work as a team to finish better off than last season.”

Last year, Gateway won its last four regular-season games and dramatically clinched a WPIAL playoff spot on the final day of section play.

The Gators are hoping to avoid any last-minute theatrics in wrapping up a potential playoff berth this season.

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