Steel Valley freshman tosses 1-hitter in softball win
Steel Valley softball coach Matt Janov flipped the ball to Maddie Cotter when nobody else was looking and quietly said: “We only do this for special occasions.”
Janov would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting occasion to give the game ball to a player.
In the first varsity start for the freshman, Cotter took a perfect game into the fifth inning before settling for a one-hitter while striking out 11 as Steel Valley opened up its season with a 2-0 Section 4-AA win over host South Allegheny.
“I wouldn’t imagine having a better script than that for your first varsity game,” Janov said. “I knew she had good stuff but you just never know until you see it in a game. She plays travel ball, has played in big tournaments and has been in big situations, so she wasn’t going to be overwhelmed.”
It was Steel Valley’s first win at South Allegheny in 13 attempts dating back to 2000.
It didn’t hurt that South Allegheny was in a giving mood, either.
The Lady Gladiators (2-3, 0-2) kicked the ball around, missed a fly ball, threw a wild pitch and had errant throws to wrong bases — and that was within the first four batters of the game.
South Allegheny’s three first-inning errors led to all of Steel Valley’s runs and made a hard-luck loser out of Lady Gladiators freshman pitcher Brenna Pribanic.
“I don’t know how she does it,” South Allegheny coach Hal Minford said. “She stays calm and doesn’t care about the circus that’s going on around her.”
Pribanic allowed only two hits — none over the final five innings — while striking out eight and walking one.
“I am disappointed the way we played behind her,” Minford said. “There are no excuses because when you are in this game long enough you play it one play at a time. You can’t make a mistake and hang onto it.”
In the top of the first, Steel Valley leadoff hitter Carley Rosso reached first after striking out and Lisa Straub reached on an error by Spencer Lawson.
After that, craziness ensued on a Skyler Vinay grounder that resulted in a fielding error, a throwing error and two Steel Valley runs.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we took advantage of that first inning,” Janov said. “We didn’t kill the ball, that’s for sure.”
Minford, to say the least, was not happy about the series of events that led to South Allegheny’s 2-0 deficit.
“I don’t think our fielding needs work,” Minford said. “I think our mental approach to the game needs work.”
South Allegheny committed six errors in the game but Pribanic was able to work out of jams in the second, third and fifth innings.
“Everybody is trying to do too much,” Minford said. “We are not comfortable with who we are yet. At the plate, everybody is trying to hit a five-run home run. Everybody has to relax and play.”
Cotter was cruising along with a perfect game into the fifth before Shannon Connors led off with a clean single. Pinch runner Casey Boden moved to second on a wild pitch and tried to advance to third on Stacia Petrillo’s fly ball to center.
However, Straub threw a laser beam to Paige Mitrik at third that nailed Boden by a couple of feet to end the threat.
“Not to say that I was conceding that run, but in my mind we are up two and I am more concerned keeping the tying run off second,” Janov said. “When she makes that throw, it was just a bonus.”
Following a walk, Cotter retired the final seven Lady Gladiators in order to earn the win.
“It was nice to start the season off with a win,” Janov said. “We have a young team so hopefully we can build off this.”