Experience, talent, depth part of winning formula for Mt. Pleasant softball

Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 7:12 PM

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Mt. Pleasant softball is averaging almost 10 runs a game and has surrendered just eight all season.

Imagine what the Vikings (14-0) might do when they figure out their lineup.

The defending PIAA Class 4A champions have lived up to expectations, blending experience and youth seamlessly while pounding out hits with quick bursts of offense and flattening opponents with precise pitching and defense.

An abundance of talent has afforded coach Lauren Armanious the luxury to experiment with lineups as the top-ranked Vikings gear up for another postseason run. They won a WPIAL title in 2016 but lost in the district semifinals to Belle Vernon last season before making a state-title charge.

The loaded back-to-back Section 1-4A champions have won 19 consecutive games.

Everybody came back from that team and a fresh group of next-wave underclassmen jumped into the sidecar, ready to keep the program pointing upward.

“We have such a wide array of talent: so much talent, and that's a good problem to have,” Armanious said. “We could be two-deep at every position. We have an excellent talent pool to pull from.”

Playing with the depth of an all-star travel team — a threatening mix of speed, power and technique — the Vikings have options.

They still are looking for the perfect mix to throw at teams in the playoffs.

“We've been trying to move people around to find where their niche is and where they can complement the team best,” Armanious said. “I think we're starting to come to the realization of who needs to play and where we need to go.”

Armanious said the team has used multiple lineups in the effort to find its starting 10 (flex player) for the postseason.

“We think we know … but we still plan for the future,” Armanious said. “We have lots of different plans in place. We have a plan A, B, C, D … of who can step up.”

The roster includes six seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and eight freshmen.

Armanious said she knew early the Vikings “had something special.”

“No matter how young or old, they all contribute strongly to every game,” she said. “We weren't shocked. We knew what to expect and have been pleasantly surprised to see how everything had been turning out and working very well.”

Eight players are hitting over .360, including senior third baseman Chloe Poulich (.533), freshman right fielder Haylie Brunson (.500), senior left fielder Addy Kubasky (.500), freshman Mary Smithnosky (.400), sophomore Sydney Kanuch (.394) and freshman Courtney Poulich (.393).

Towson recruit Chloe Poulich has eight triples, three home runs, 25 RBIs and 21 runs scored.

“Everyone learned their role and how they can help the team at the beginning of the season,” Chloe Poulich said. “Whether it's pinch-running, pinch-hitting, hitting for someone else, DH, flex … it's all starting to come together.”

Brunson, already committed to Louisiana-Lafayette, also has three homers — including an inside-the-park jaunt against Ligonier Valley — and leads the team with 29 RBIs. Kanuch has 15 runs and 11 RBIs.

Senior Ava Gnibus, a Cal (Pa.) commit who went 4 for 4 in last year's state final, has scored 19 runs.

Chemistry can be a fickle thing when already proven teams welcome newcomers. It can be a painstaking process, but not at Mt. Pleasant.

“We have six seniors. Every senior has played a big role,” senior first baseman/pitcher Meadow Uncapher said. “But the freshmen, the underclassmen, have been a huge part of it. It's surprising for such young players to have such good talent and on our team, every single girl, whether they're playing or on the bench, you can put them in the game and they'll produce. It's a great opportunity to play with these girls.”

Uncapher has teamed with junior cohort Carolyn Alincic to provide a strong-armed pitching duo whose volume is turned up by a sure-handed defense.

A Dominican College recruit, Alincic is 8-0 with a razor-thin ERA of 0.44. She has 70 strikeouts and four walks in 48 innings.

Uncapher, a Seton Hill commit, is 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 44 Ks and three walks.

The pair, along with minimal spot work from freshman Mary Smithnosky, has allowed 31 hits in 77 innings.

“Their pitcher is extremely hard to hit,” Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little said of Alincic. “They are very well-coached. They have some young hitters that can stroke the ball. The Brunson girl is the real deal. I can definitely see why they were state champions.”

Mt. Pleasant has wins over Class 5A contenders Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional. A strong nonsection schedule has amped up the team's focus. While they don't say it in so many words, it is championship or bust this season for the Vikings.

“I'm excited for what's going to happen in the playoffs,” Uncapher said. “If we don't win, it will be a disappointment, but as long as we go out and play like we have been … I don't think we're going to have any trouble getting to where we were last year.”

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

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

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