The Greensburg Central Catholic softball team is about soaring above expectations.
For instance, Anna Marie Gatti pitched in Monday's WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal game against No. 2 seed Seton-LaSalle and held the Rebels hitless in a 6-0 victory. She recorded 11 strikeouts in the seven-inning game and held the Rebels scoreless despite three Centurions errors.
The victory allowed Greensburg Central Catholic to advance to the semifinals, which were scheduled to be played yesterday. The Centurions were to face Riverside, which defeated Mount Pleasant, 3-0, in another quarterfinal.
The winner of the Greensburg CC/Riverside game advances to the championship next Thursday at California University of Pennsylvania while the loser will play in a third-place game with the winner of that advancing to the PIAA tournament.
The no-hitter was surprising to everyone, including Greensburg Central Catholic coach Gary Ciarimboli, "It was the best game [Gatti] pitched this year."
In the seventh inning, freshman Sierra Mathos took her turn as the Centurions number nine batter. She led off with a double and scored off of Carolyn Appleby's hit.
"[Mathos] scored two runs -- she's fast as lighting," said Ciarimboli.
He explained that Mathos' skill and production have been pleasant surprises this season: "She was one of those finds where I had no idea what I was going to get."
Later that inning, Ciarimboli sent junior Julia Lang in to bunt. The Centurions were leading, 3-0, with one out, and Lang fouled off the attempted bunt. So Ciarimboli told her to swing away. As a result, Lang knocked in two more runs for the Centurions.
Overall, Monday's was a game of surprises: Gatti's no-hitter, Mathos' offensive production, and Lang's RBI on what was supposed to be a bunt. For Greensburg Central Catholic, the game is a microcosm of this season.
Ciarimboli started the season with some expectations, but there have been many pleasant surprises along the way.
In March, no one expected Gatti to miss a month of the regular season with a bruised bone in her left foot. But the team pulled together.
Freshman shortstop Nikki Adisey pitched successfully for the Centurions in Gatti's absence, although that move required some other lineup changes as well.
Ciarimboli explained that when Adisey pitches, Leah Daigle plays shortstop. He also moves sophomore Karly Mellinger from right field to second base. The shifted field is not Ciarimboli's preference.
"When Gatti pitches, we're much better defensively," he said. "We're more skilled, more athletic."
The positive part about shifting players when Adisey pitches is that the lineup still works.
"Kids get hurt, kids get sick," Ciarimboli said. "Everybody knows what their job is."
With Gatti back, Greensburg is able to play Ciarimboli's favorite lineup in the field: Adisey at short, Daigle at second, and Mellinger in right. Likewise, Gatti is able to grow as a pitcher.
Although there have been many changes this season from Greensburg Central Catholic's starting expectations, team chemistry has been a constant.
"The team is pretty loose," said Ciarimboli. "Sometimes too loose."
But Ciarimboli cited the leadership of seniors Allie Perz and Leah Daigle.
"They're not verbal leaders; they lead by example," he said. "But if somebody needs to be told something, they do it.
"The girls knew what kind of ride and what kind of fun we had last year. If someone doesn't perform, someone else steps in and picks her up. This is what you've got to do for the playoffs."
First Published May 24, 2012 12:00 AM