Gateway's Gratton sisters face off on softball field for respective college teams

Apr. 30—When Kayla and Deanna Gratton shared the softball diamond growing up, they always did it on the same team.

But on April 8, the Monroeville sisters and Gateway High School graduates found themselves on opposite sides for the first time.

Kayla, a junior captain for Waynesburg, and Deanna, a freshman for Presidents' Athletic Conference rival Washington & Jefferson, put sisterly bonds aside for 14 innings over the course of two games as their respective teams hoped to gain the upper hand.

Round 1 went to big sister Kayla as the Yellow Jackets swept past the Presidents, 9-1 and 6-0.

"We still root for each other to do well, and we said good luck to each other before the games, but obviously we hoped our teams came out on top," Kayla said.

"Our parents didn't know who to root for, so they secretly rooted for both teams. It was just a different feeling having her on the opposite side and facing her instead of playing with her. But we always make sure we talk about our games and support each other. That's what we've always done."

Deanna said she was excited to face her sister for the first time.

"I am still her biggest fan whether we are playing each other or not," she said.

"I wanted Kayla to perform the best she could. She hit the ball to me twice, and I got her out both times. It kind of made me feel bad, but I also knew that I had a job to do for my team."

Kayla Gratton came into this spring off a 2022 season where she earned All-PAC honorable-mention recognition. She hit .272 and drove in 12 runs and fashioned a 2.80 earned-run average in 15 innings over five appearances in the pitching circle.

Gratton made her mark over a nine-game stretch through Waynesburg's crucial doubleheader sweep of Allegheny April 25. She went 12 of 22 (.545) at the plate, drove in eight runs, scored nine, and raised her season average 100 points to .386.

"Usually, I am a contact hitter, and I try to move people around the bases, but this season, I've been hitting the ball and getting on base to move myself around," she said.

"I adjusted my mentality at the plate and really focused on being confident, and I am glad with how my batting has improved from last year and freshman year to now. I want to be that leader who can show everyone how it's done. I have put myself in a good position to that."

Gratton knocked in the game-winning run in both victories over the Gators.

"After we split with Saint Vincent and Grove City and lost both games to Geneva, the leaders on the team needed to step up, and I am happy that I was able to do my part," she said.

"We swept Allegheny and put ourselves in a really good position."

Waynesburg was 25-7 overall and 14-4 in PAC play heading into Saturday's PAC home doubleheader against Westminster to close out the regular season. The top seed for the PAC tournament was on the line.

"I am very proud of all that we've accomplished this year," Kayla said

"Doing well this year after what we were able to last year (27-11 overall, 13-5 in PAC), we proved that we're a good team and last year wasn't a fluke. We had a lot of motivation."

Washington & Jefferson was 12-20 overall and 4-14 in PAC games heading into its conference finale at Bethany on Saturday.

The Presidents split a doubleheader with Grove City last Wednesday, and Deanna Gratton went 1 for 3 with a run scored in a 5-2 win in Game 2.

She has appeared in 29 of 32 games this year — all starts — and was batting .247 (18 of 73) with six doubles, a triple, nine runs batted in and six runs scored through the games with Grove City.

"It was exciting to be able to earn a starting spot right away, but it also was a little nerve-wracking," Gratton said.

"I wanted to prove myself to my team and my opponents, knowing there was a lot of competition for my position. But I felt good knowing I had my team behind me to support me. They've been there for me during the times I struggled and things didn't go my way."

Gratton excelled early on and earned PAC Rookie of the Week honors March 20 after posting a .462 average and a .692 slugging percentage with four RBIs and three doubles in helping lead her to team a 4-0 start.

"(PAC Rookie of the Week) kind of caught me by surprise," she said. "That was something I didn't think would happen in my first week of playing."

After that start, Gratton slipped into a 4-for-37 slump.

"I went to my coaches and asked what could I do to get better and get back to hitting again," she said.

"I got some extra hitting work in and just took a different approach to things. It was hard to be patient through the slump, but I think it paid off in the end."

Gratton recovered at the plate, and in a three-game stretch — the second game against Franciscan April 18 and both games of a doubleheader against Pitt-Greensburg April 20 — she went a combined 7 of 12 with two doubles, a triple, five RBIs and two runs scored.

"I knew what I was capable of, and I didn't know why I wasn't showing it on the field," she said.

"So, it was relieving when I was able to start getting the bat on the ball again."

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 724-226-4665, or via Twitter .