Frazier passes stern test from Mt. Pleasant with playoffs around corner

Friday, May 13, 2022 | 11:34 PM

As coaches schedule playoff “tune-up” games, they’re looking to put their team in some situations that they’ll face in the playoffs.

Frazier head coach Don Hartman got just that Friday.

The Commodores fell behind early but were able to rally for a 3-2 win over visiting Mt. Pleasant in the “exact type of game” Hartman was looking for to clinch an unbeaten regular season.

“It’s exactly what we were looking for. That’s what I wanted to see,” Hartman said. “We faced some adversity, we made some mistakes that I’m glad we made today and not in a playoff game, and now I know what kind of things we’re going to work on in practice.”

The Commodores (15-0) fell behind early in the first inning as the Vikings’ Katie Hutter led off the game with an inside-the-park home run on a hard line drive to right. Frazier right fielder Maria Felsher made a diving attempt at it, but the ball skipped past her and rolled to the fence.

Abby Swank followed and reached on an error on second baseman Gracen Hartman, and Sophia Smithnosky made it on base with a fielder’s choice.

Two batters later, Krista Brunson delivered an RBI double to right-center to give the Vikings (8-9) a 2-0 lead. It was the first time this season Frazier trailed in a game.

“It was a game full of mistakes, especially in that first inning,” Hartman said. “But we rebounded. We made the routines. Our infield, we have a bunch of girls with really quick hands out there. They got a lot of attempts today. That’s the beauty of playing a team like Mt. Pleasant. Their top five hitters, they’re five of the top hitters in the WPIAL. They’re going to put the ball in play. They’re all fast. They have a lot of lefty hitters. It was a great challenge for us. I’m glad we were able to clean things up.”

Frazier starter Nicole Palmer was hit around pretty good in that first inning, throwing almost 30 pitches. That’s something that hasn’t happened this season.

“I’m glad it did. We talked before the game and I challenged her. I told her, ‘They’re going to hit. You need to hit your spots and you need to stay off the plate.’ She recovered nicely and I thought she pitched a great game,” Hartman said of the sophomore.

Palmer finished with a four-hitter, allowing only one earned run and striking out eight.

The Commodores backed their pitcher up and finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth.

Tori Washinski, who finished with two hits, led off the inning with a single before Delaney Warnick brought the boom on an 0-2 count right behind her. Warnick send a screaming line drive deep over the right-center field fence to tie things up. It was her fifth homer of the year and gave her a team-leading 30 RBIs.

“The girl has so much power. But I think the difference this year is just her mental maturity,” Hartman said of the junior. “She knows she has great power, but she’s not out there trying to kill the ball like she did at times last year. She knows with the power she has, she just needs to make good contact. I think it’s a testament to her mental maturity and her approach hitting with two strikes. She’s adjusted to the fact that as the clean-up hitter, she’s not going to see fastballs.”

Warnick struck again in the bottom of the sixth, ripping a double deep over the head and off the glove of Brunson in center field. It set the table for a great display of situational hitting for the Commodores.

Grace Vaughn put the ball in play and hit a grounder to shortstop to move Warnick to third. Emi Bednar followed with a ground out to short, this time picking up the RBI and scoring Warnick with what would be the game-winning run.

Mt. Pleasant head coach Chris Brunson knows his team had chances, including in the fifth inning with they were in the same position with a runner on third and one out.

“When we didn’t execute that run, I thought it was going to be pretty hard to hold them a couple more innings without them scoring a run,” Brunson said. “And that’s kind of the advantage of playing at home.

“With the double in the sixth, a fly ball to center field and our kid is running back. If the ball sticks in her glove, that’s a different story, too,” Brunson said. “There were a couple of different things, but I just thought it was a really well-played game. This is why we do this going into the playoffs.”

The Vikings are the No. 8 seed in the Class 3A bracket. They’ll face No. 9 North Catholic on Tuesday. The Commodores, the No. 2 seed in 2A, will face No. 15 Apollo-Ridge Wednesday at Penn-Trafford at 5 p.m.

“Games like this are why Chris and I try to get together once or twice a year,” Hartman said. “We know they’re going to be close, competitive games. We’re good friends and love getting the best out of our teams.”

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