Gateway softball hopes to build from progress made this spring

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Sunday, June 12, 2022 | 9:01 AM


When one looks just at the scores of a majority of the games for the Gateway softball team this spring, thoughts might develop of a team that went nowhere in developing on the field.

But first-year coach Donny Holl said that was far from the case in examining his youthful, and in some areas, inexperienced 2022 team which finished 1-11 overall and 0-10 in a strong Section 2-5A with the likes of WPIAL runner-up and current state quarterfinalist Penn-Trafford, as well as playoff qualifiers Thomas Jefferson, Latrobe and Connellsville.

“When the wins and losses aren’t where you want them to be, as a coach, you still want to see that growth, progress and other victories that might go unnoticed to people outside the program,” said Holl, the son of Gateway athletic director and football coach Don Holl.

“Taking Thomas Jefferson the full seven innings after they beat us in three innings the first time was a win for us. Doing better in the last few games was a win for us. We had girls who started out not catching the ball very well to now having a pretty trustworthy outfield and others who we know will make plays. The girls accomplished a lot, and they can be proud.”

Holl, who came on board as head coach earlier this year, said the seniors — Deanna Gratton, Tamara Martin, Jasmine Taylor and Nikkita Vojnik — led with a positive attitude every day.

“We knew we were going to struggle because we were young,” Holl said.

“They did an excellent job of leading by example and helping the younger girls get better. They did the little things that often times are forgotten with teams which are young and are struggling. They kept up the energy, and that propelled us to keep growing throughout the year.”

Gratton said she knew there might be some growing pains as a young team developed by gaining experience in practice and games. The Gators were shut out nine times in their 12 games and felt the sting of the 10- or 15-run mercy rule several times.

“Coming in, we had a young team with a number of freshman and some girls who had never played before,” Gratton said.

“Throughout the season, those younger players really grew, and we learned a lot from each other, especially with communication on the field. I think that was a successful part of the season beyond just the results of games.”

Gateway snapped a 23-game losing streak dating back to the WPIAL-playoff loss to Trinity in 2019 with a 19-4 nonsection rout of Woodland Hills on May 4.

“It was nice to finally be the big dog on the field,” Gratton said.

“It was awesome to see the freshmen and everyone else get a chance to celebrate together. It was a really good environment. It was just so much excitement. It was fun.”

Gratton was selected to the all-Section 2 second team for her play at third base.

“It is definitely a nice accomplishment, and it makes me feel really good about myself,” she said.

“Last year, I really didn’t play my position that much, so to get back there this year, it was a good feeling. I was pretty comfortable there.”

As a freshman in 2019, Gratton was selected to the first team as a designated player.

Gratton also entered the pitching circle at times this season to help out freshman starter Abby Griffith.

This summer, Gratton hopes to play a lot of games in travel tournaments with her Gamma Storm 18U travel team before her arrival on campus at Washington & Jefferson.

Gratton said she’s excited to continue her softball career with the Presidents in the Division III Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

“I reached out to the coach, and she was very welcoming to me,” said Gratton, who will have a family rivalry with sister Kayla, who will be a junior at rival Waynesburg.

“It is a different level of competition, and I know I will have to work hard for my spot. I can’t wait to play and prove myself.

“It will be exciting and definitely different to go up against Kayla when we play Waynesburg. We had been on the same team together our whole lives. I did think about playing with her, but carving my own path at W&J was the better option for me. W&J had more opportunities for me in what I was looking for academically.”

Fellow senior Nikkita Vojnik is headed to Lancaster Bible College to play both volleyball and softball, while Tamara Martin is expected to join the basketball team at CCAC-Boyce.

For the returning girls, Holl said there are a number of offseason opportunities, especially ones over the summer, to improve and get better for next season.

“These girls are excited to continue to build and develop,” he said.

“We saw some great pitchers this year and faced some really challenging lineups. Seeing that helped the girls understand what they need and want to do to get better and win games.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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