Battery powered: Chemistry between pitcher Smithnosky, catcher Shawley drives Mt. Pleasant softball

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021 | 4:45 PM


Catcher Lexis Shawley received an unsolicited compliment from an umpire after a recent playoff game.

It made the Mt. Pleasant senior grin.

“He said he liked the way I was framing my pitches,” Shawley said. “He said it probably helped us get a few strikes.”

The proficiency also had something to do with the battery chemistry between Shawley and senior pitcher Mary Smithnosky, who has come into her own this postseason with a pair of shutouts.

No. 1 seed Mt. Pleasant (16-3) will take on No. 11 Ellwood City (14-4) in the WPIAL Class 3A softball championship at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday at Cal (Pa.)’s Lilley Field.

Smithnosky has been nearly unhittable in a pair of playoff wins, pumping strikes into Shawley’s glove. The Western Michigan recruit twirled a three-hitter and struck out a career-high 14 in a 6-0 win over Derry in the quarterfinals, then blanked Avonworth, 8-0, with a one-hit gem that saw her fan nine.

In the semis, she set down 15 straight hitters after giving up a light third-inning single.

“We have been playing together since we were 8 years old,” Shawley said. “I know her pitches so well and know what she should throw. I know what to do to get her settled down.”

Shawley said there are times when she shakes off a call from assistant coach Aaron Hutter and audibles the next pitch.

“I do that a lot, actually,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize what goes into catching. It’s not just kneeling down and catching the ball.”

Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson said Smithnosky’s emergence as a pitching threat hinges on her confidence.

“There are a lot of milestones for seniors to carry down the train tracks,” he said. “Just senior things. Prom, graduation, end-of-year things. I think things have been weighing on her a little bit. But she has a lot off her mind, and she is thriving.”

Smithnosky is 11-1 with a 2.90 ERA in 82 innings with 89 strikeouts and 20 walks. She knows this is her last year in the circle because she will be a position player in college and swing the bat. She’s good at that, too.

She has been one of the Vikings’ most productive hitters for two years. She is hitting .475 with with 10 doubles, three home runs and 24 RBIs.

She went 4 for 4 in the semifinal win over Avonworth with a RBI double and a three-run homer.

Just another day in the sun.

“I want to make the most of the time I have left (pitching),” she said. “It’s playoffs. The adrenaline is really kicking in right now. The heat personally raises my adrenaline and gets me going.”

There are two Smithnoskys available to pitch. The future ace and heir apparent to big sis, sophomore Sophia Smithnosky is 5-2 with a save. Mary Smithnosky admits she does not fit the mold of recent pitching standouts.

“I am not Carolyn,” she said, referring to strikeout fireballer Carolyn Alincic. “I am just Mary.”

Added Shawley: “I know there were people who thought we would struggle a little bit. That we wouldn’t have the pitching because we didn’t have Carolyn (Alincic) or Meadow (Uncapher). But Mary has done a great job for us.”

Determination, Mary Smithnosky said, is the driving force behind her playoff surge. And perhaps the reason Mt. Pleasant isn’t just a locked-and-loaded hitting team.

“I speak for all of us when I say, we want this,” Smithnosky said. “That’s been driving me and the rest of us to play our hardest.”

Said Shawley: “The seniors really want this. More than anything.”

Brunson was thrilled to see his team advance to the finals and qualify for the PIAA playoffs.

“Every time we win,” he said, “I get another week with them.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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