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WPIAL runner-up Monessen softball no longer an underdog

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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Hannah Yorty was shocked at the home run she hit during a WPIAL playoff game against Leechburg.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Dana Vatakis pitches to Charleroi batters during a scrimmage Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Monessen High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Dana Vatakis pitches to Charleroi batters during a scrimmage Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Monessen High School.

Monessen softball put the rest of WPIAL Class A on alert after making a deep run in the playoffs last season.

The Greyhounds (16-7 in 2017) collected wins over Riverview, Sewickley Academy and Carmichaels before losing to West Greene, 10-0, in the championship game.

“It has been our expectations for the last couple of years,” Monessen coach Bo Teets said. “Reaching the championship game was a big deal, but we aren’t satisfied with that.

“We are hoping to take the next step this year and actually try to win. It will be tough with our section with West Greene, and Carmichaels is a going to be grind.”

The Greyhounds had an early exit in the PIAA Class A playoffs after losing to Commodore Perry, 7-2, in the first round.

Looking to make a fourth consecutive playoff appearance, Monessen will return a big piece of its puzzle: senior pitcher Dana Vatakis.

Vatakis, a Robert Morris commit, went 15-5 with a 0.90 ERA and 174 strikeouts last season.

“She’s a student of the game. She puts more time into it than any other player,” Teets said. “She really has a love for the game. As much natural talent she has, the amount of work she puts in is 10 times worth that.

“She really has taken it to the next level in terms of her leadership and getting the younger players to come along.”

Supporting Vatakis offensively are senior infielders Maddie Guzzie and Destiny Habeck and junior outfielder Mattie Telegraphis.

“Pitching is so vital to softball, and we’re lucky to have a good one in the circle,” Teets said. “I think we have a solid core of girls around her to make plays when necessary.”

Teets will welcome the return of junior designated player Gabby Simpson, who was an all-section as a freshman. She missed her sophomore season because of injury.

Teets said senior left fielder Cara Wheeler is expected to contribute.

The Greyhounds understand they will need to approach the season differently after their championship game appearance.

“We’ve always been somewhat of an underdog. We were always someone who was a surprise going back to three years ago,” Teets said.

“I don’t think we will catch anyone by surprise this year. I don’t think anyone is going to take us lightly.”

Defending PIAA champion West Greene and perennial power Carmichaels help make Section 2-A one of the toughest.

“There’s not going to be too many easy games that we’re going to face in our section,” Teets said. “In my opinion, that makes us a better team when it comes down to the playoffs.”

The Greyhounds open at home against Charleroi at 4 p.m. Friday followed by a game at home against Frazier on March 26 and a game at Avella on March 27.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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