Big-hitting Mt. Pleasant blanks Ellwood City for 2nd WPIAL softball championship

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021 | 4:34 PM


A fourth-grade student made the Mt. Pleasant softball team a good-luck card before the WPIAL championship, one of several the players received and read.

One charming message stood out from the pile: “Softball was invented to show boys how it’s done.”

The Lady Vikings must have been inspired. They showed the rest of the WPIAL how it’s done with a decisive victory in the title game.

The Vikings’ offense erupted for 16 hits — 12 of them for extra bases and 10 of them doubles — to power a 15-0 five-inning victory over Ellwood City in the Class 3A final Wednesday afternoon at Cal U’s Lilley Field.

The championship is the second for No. 1 seed Mt. Pleasant (17-3) — the team’s first since 2016. It was the Vikings’ third straight shutout in the postseason.

“We had been waiting for a game like this, waiting for this to happen,” Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson said. “Our girls can swing the bats. We totally put it together today. I think they all hit one off the wall. We kept the hammer down. Everyone hit.”

And hit … and hit …

Who didn’t have a double?

Sophomore Sophia Smithnosky went 4 for 4 with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs, senior Haylie Brunson was 3 for 4 with three doubles and three RBIs, and senior Hannah Gnibus added three hits, including two doubles, and scored three runs, as the Vikings rolled.

“We had a lot of energy going into this all week,” Sophia Smithnosky said. “This is what we have been preparing for all season. Coming into this, we had a lot of confidence and we knew we were going to bring our best game.”

No. 11 Ellwood City’s run of upsets finally ended. The Wolverines (14-5) will join the Vikings in the state playoffs, which begin Monday.

Ellwood City, which had five errors, could only muster two hits against senior ace Mary Smithnosky.

The Vikings hit early and often against Wolverines’ freshman pitcher Julia Nardone, who was tagged with nine earned runs.

Mt. Pleasant, with its gaudy stats and dugout full of college-level talent, lived up to the hype that began tailing them before the start of last season.

The pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, which made the build-up to this title seem like forever.

Mt. Pleasant lost in the ’19 4A title game to Elizabeth Forward.

“For us seniors, since we were freshmen we have been pulling for this,” Haylie Brunson said. “We all really wanted this. We were firing on all cylinders, trying to put the ball in play as much as possible and make things happen.”

Almost quietly, Mary Smithnosky tossed her third straight playoff shutout, a two-hitter with six strikeouts and one walk. She faced just 18 batters.

“It starts from communication and team bonding before you can get the bats and gloves out,” Mary Smithnosky said. “That was something big for us today. And my catcher (Lexis Shawley), she helps me so much behind the plate. I have all the credit to give to her, and my pitch-caller (coach Aaron Hutter).”

Shawley also had three RBIs.

Mary Smithnosky also went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. She buried her silver medal from the ’19 loss in her backyard.

“I guess I can accept that silver one now that I have a gold, too,” she said.

Mt. Pleasant put up seven runs in the second inning as junior Katie Hutter, Haylie Brunson and Mary Smithnosky doubled and senior Courtney Poulich hit a two-run home run to make it 9-0.

Three more runs in the fourth brought the 10-run rule into play. Sophia Smithnosky and sophomore Krista Brunson connected for RBI doubles to make it 12-0.

“Our game plan was to try to come out and jump on them early, because they are a little younger of a team,” Chris Brunson said. “We were that team two years ago when we were younger.”

Ellwood City was seeking its fourth WPIAL title. It won in Class 3A in 2008 and ‘17 and 2A in ‘16. But the rally-starting magic that the Wolverines used against No. 6 Deer Lakes, No. 3 Waynesburg and No. 7 Southmoreland never took shape against Mt. Pleasant.

Watch an archived video stream of this game on Trib HSSN.

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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