Erica Rodriguez delivers in clutch as GCC softball advances with win over Charleroi

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Thursday, May 18, 2023 | 10:43 PM


Sophomore Erica Rodriguez got credit for an RBI earlier in the game when she was issued a bases-loaded walk.

With her team’s season on the line in the seventh inning, she earned her next two RBIs.

And Greensburg Central Catholic earned another trip to the WPIAL semifinals.

With a full count, Rodriguez cracked a two-run double to deep center to give No. 5 seeded GCC its first lead as it pushed past No. 4 Charleroi, 4-3, in a tight 2A softball quarterfinal Thursday at Norwin.

“I knew the situation, and I just told myself, go have some fun,” said Rodriguez, who went 2 for 3 with three RBIs. “I figured, if I get a hit, I get a hit. I was nervous but confident.”

So were her teammates, who had to hold off the Cougars in the bottom of the inning before they could exhale.

“We built so much this year and in my four years,” senior pitcher Emma Henry said. “It used to be, ‘GCC softball is a joke.’ I didn’t want that four-year legacy to end.”

GCC (13-2) advances to play top-seeded Neshannock (18-0) in the semifinals.

Charleroi (16-3), which had won seven in a row and was seeking its first semifinal trip, made one last push as junior Maddy Lancy blasted a solo homer to start the seventh.

But Henry struck out two of the next four hitters as the Centurions made their comeback stand.

“Our girls were composed through it all,” GCC coach Mike Gaffney said. “They never quit. Erica comes up, it’s 3-2, and she gets a heck of a hit.”

Sophomore Abby Dei added an important insurance run in the seventh for GCC with an RBI single to make it 4-2.

“That was big right there,” Gaffney said.

During GCC’s rally, the Cougars questioned a potential runner interference on junior Grace Kindel, who singled, and headed for second on another hit by junior Mackenzee Kenney.

Kindel collided with the second baseman, but no call was made.

Kindel was the tying run.

Rodriguez was up next and knocked both girls in to make it 3-2.

“There were some bad calls,” Charleroi coach Trey Tilghman said. “That changes the outlook of a game. There was one out, and that call would have been huge. I know there is nothing we can do about it now. GCC is a good team.”

Charleroi took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on an inside-the-park home run by speedster McKenna DeUnger, a junior catcher.

GCC evened the score in the fifth when sophomore pitcher Sofia Celaschi walked in a run with the bases loaded, her third walk of the inning.

The Cougars regained control at 2-1 when junior Emma Stefanik turned an inconspicuous pop up to right into a double to knock in a run.

Kindel went 3 for 4, and Henry and Kenney had two hits apiece.

Stefanick had two hits to lead the Cougars. Celaschi struck out 13 but gave up 11 hits and walked three.

“Soph pitched well. This is a tough way to end,” Tilghman said. “We’ll be back next year.”

Henry fanned nine, scattered six hits and did not have a walk. Freshman Delanie Kuhns had a triple for the Centurions.

“This give us a lot of confidence to keep going,” Rodriguez said.

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

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