Mt. Pleasant’s title defense fall short in PIAA semifinals

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Monday, June 11, 2018 | 7:18 PM


LORETTO — Mt. Pleasant had allowed one home run all season heading into the PIAA semifinals. So when the second of back-to-back solo blasts by Punxsutawney sailed over the fence in center, clanged off a garbage can and bounced into the bleachers in the third inning Monday, the Vikings knew they might be in trouble.

Defending champion Mt. Pleasant could not untangle the knot that was that tough inning, and struggled to get the bats around on Chucks senior pitcher Kylee Lingenfelter, in a 3-1 loss in the Class 4A semis at St. Francis (Pa.).

Lingenfelter, the second Penn State pitching recruit the Vikings (19-2) faced in five days (Belle Vernon's Bailey Parshall the other), showed supreme confidence against a potent lineup that rivals any in the state.

Lingenfelter tossed four-hitter, struck out 12 and did not allow a walk. She fanned seven consecutive hitters early and contributed a solo home run, which was followed by another dinger from teammate Sarah Weaver to make it 2-0.

The back-to-back shots gave the Chucks a boost of confidence.

“With the first home run, our energy just spiked,” Punxsutawney coach Al Pifer said. “With the second one, which I think was on the next pitch, it went up even more.”

Lingenfelter (15-2) has struck out 225 this season and has a sub-0.80 ERA.

“You get spoiled by performances like that from Kylee,” Pifer said.

District 9 champion Punxsutawney advances to its first state final since 2006. The Chucks will take on the winner of Tuesday's game between Nanticoke and Bethlehem Catholic in the title game at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Penn State.

Mt. Pleasant left a runner stranded at third in the first inning — when it hit about a dozen foul balls while feeling out Lingenfelter — then left runners at first and second in the fifth after it managed two hits. It then failed to bring another home from second in the sixth after it finally managed a run.

Mt. Pleasant was hoping for a return to State College and made a mild push late despite a three-run deficit and two outs. Senior Chloe Poulich doubled and scored on another two-base rip by freshman Haylie Brunson to make it 3-1.

But Lingenfelter limited momentum time and again. She got a flyout to end the sixth and set down the Vikings, 1-2-3, in the seventh to close out the victory.

“She is a very good pitcher,” Mt. Pleasant coach Lauren Armanious said. “I thought we hit her well, and our timing was good. I have nothing but good things to say about our girls' effort. We got under the ball a lot and couldn't get hits consistently.”

Punxsutawney made it 3-0 in the fourth. Kendal Johnston doubled to the fence in left to chase Vikings junior ace Carolyn Alincic, who went 4 13 innings and was replaced by senior Meadow Uncapher.

Consecutive errors by Mt. Pleasant led to the third score, the second coming after a dropped fly ball that came off the bat of Abby Gigliotti. Uncapher struck out the next two hitters and allowed one hit the rest of the way.

The lead was enough for Lingenfelter.

“This team has exceeded expectations all year long,” Pifer said. “The girls have come together really well. They are gamers.”

After an undefeated regular season and a run to the WPIAL and state semis, Mt. Pleasant can begin to think about the future with a nod to the recent past. The last two years have made for quite a run.

“Our girls put their best game out there every day,” Armanious said. “To get this far in a season, it shows such a commitment and such dedication. We had an excellent season.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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