GCC softball gets momentum-building win over playoff-bound Jeannette

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | 7:31 PM

Greensburg Central Catholic was hoping to take momentum into the WPIAL Class A softball playoffs. To peak at the right time, as the expression goes.

A run-ruled victory over rival Jeannette should help do the trick.

The Centurions, back in the postseason after a year absence, erupted for six runs in the first inning to set the scene in an 11-1 victory over the Jayhawks in a Section 3-A game Tuesday in Carbon.

GCC (9-7, 7-5) swept a home doubleheader on the final day of the regular season, pounding visiting Geibel, 16-1, in three innings in Game 2.

Jeannette and GCC met for the second time in five days. The Jayhawks rallied for a 10-8 win Friday, a game that saw the Centurions get 17 hits.

Eager for the rematch, GCC went to work early and settled things in five innings.

After a single by Jeannette leadoff batter Brylin Hickman to open their second meeting, GCC and sophomore pitcher Jaden Cox settled in and kept the base paths moving.

Cox, senior Sam Orndoff and freshman Natalie Ward drove in runs, and freshman Mia Mazak was walked with the bases loaded in the first. Senior Bella Skatell followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-0.

“It was big for Jaden to get three up, three down in the first inning (after the hit),” GCC coach Mike Gaffney said. “Then we came and hit.”

Jeannette (8-5, 7-5), also bound for the WPIAL postseason, cut the lead to 7-1 in the third on a run-scoring single by junior pitcher Faith Johnston.

But the Centurions took advantage of five errors to extend the advantage to 9-1 in the fourth. GCC, conversely, did not make an error.

“Our timely hitting and our defense picked it up today,” Gaffney said. “Our defense made the plays they had to make. Jeannette had a couple good hits, but the routine plays, routine fly balls, routine ground balls, we’re making the plays and helping our pitcher out.”

Cox helped her cause by going 3 for 3. Ward added two hits and Orndoff drove in a pair.

Jeannette had just four hits and struck out eight times against Cox, a transfer from Yough.

“Starting on the mound gave me a lot of confidence, and I felt good in the first inning,” Cox said. “Getting three up, three down … there are a lot of good hitters on that team. It feels good to win a big rivalry game.”

Jeannette, which turned some heads with a 4-2 win over second-place and No. 3-ranked Springdale on Monday, left the bases loaded in the fourth.

“GCC is a good-hitting team, and they came out ready to play,” Jeannette coach Zac Karas said. “We’re the kind of team that when we’re on, we’re on. And when we’re not, we’re not.”

After a leadoff single by freshman Riana Booher to start the fifth, GCC activated the 10-run. A run crossed on a throwing error, and sophomore Ava Bailey ended it with a two-out, RBI single to make it 11-1.

GCC scored 11 runs without an extra-base hit.

“It’s a big cushion,” Cox said of the run support. “It makes it easier … not that I want to give up walks, but it helps.”

The Centurions are looking for their first winning season since 2015 when they finished 10-5. That also was the last time they won a playoff game.

“Hitting-wise, the last four, five games, we’ve actually been hitting the ball as a team, from one through nine,” Gaffney said. “It’s all starting to click at the right time.

“Our confidence level picked up four or five games ago when we played Springdale. Two pitchers who really aren’t pitchers have stepped up in Jaden and Bella (Skatell). The product on the field is so much better than it’s been. We’re confident, but we’re not overconfident.”

The Jayhawks, whose last winning season came in 2014, used a five-game winning streak around midseason to key a run to a playoff berth. Jeannette has no seniors.

“Our girls are so excited for the playoffs because none of them have experienced them before,” Karas said. “They’re anxious to see what the playoffs are like.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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