Mt. Pleasant claws its way to victory over Southmoreland in section softball showdown

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 | 6:20 PM

Haylie Brunson has been one of the toughest outs in the WPIAL this softball season with her .600-something average and 20-plus extra-base hits.

But even the senior slugger from Mt. Pleasant knew the challenge that awaited her No. 1-ranked Vikings on Tuesday against No. 2 Southmoreland in a Section 3-3A showdown.

When the final out was recorded, host Mt. Pleasant reacted with celebratory cheers and a little added excitement because they scratched out a 7-5 win to gain at least at share of the section title while also stating a strong case for the No. 1 seed in next week’s WPIAL playoffs.

With their sixth straight victory, the Vikings moved to 13-2 overall and 7-1 in section.

“It’s a huge win,” said Brunson, a Pitt signee who went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer. “We knew they would give us a tough time. We had to stick to our process. We figured we’d have to claw our way to some runs.”

The teams will meet only once in section play because they are up against the WPIAL deadline for section games. The softball committee will unveil playoff pairings Thursday.

Both played a second game after their meeting Tuesday. Southmoreland (8-2, 3-2), which has contended with covid shutdowns, traveled to Brownsville, and Mt. Pleasant hosted Hempfield in nonsection play.

Southmoreland has another doubleheader — against South Allegheny and Waynesburg — planned for Wednesday.

“This is a huge team win for us,” Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson said. “We had to use both of our pitchers. Girls were coming up in clutch times. (Southmoreland) is an outstanding team. That’s why we celebrated like we won the World Series.”

After Mt. Pleasant took a 3-1 lead in the first on Haylie Brunson’s two-run, line-drive homer to center and sophomore Krista Brunson’s RBI single, the Scotties tied it in the fourth.

Sophomore Bryn Charnesky singled in senior Emily Eutsey, and a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score.

In the fifth, Eutsey, who had herself a 3-for-3 day, ripped a two-out, two-run homer over the fence on left center to give the Scotties a 5-3 advantage.

The Vikings rallied in the bottom of the inning, not with glamorous gap-shots as has become customary, but with patience.

Junior Katie Hutter, an Akron commit, led off with a double, and Haylie Brunson barely reached on an infield single. After senior Courtney Poulich was hit by a pitch, senior Mary Smithnosky came up with the bases loaded and nobody out.

The Western Michigan recruit delivered another infield hit to score Hutter and cut it to 5-4.

“If we can beat them, we can beat anybody,” said Hutter, who went 2 for 3. “This was a high-energy win for us. Our energy was a big part of why we won.”

A bases-loaded walk by senior lefty Jess Matheny made it 5-5, and Krista Brunson’s groundout gave the Vikings the lead back at 6-5.

Krista Brunson also had two RBIs.

“We kept having good at-bats,” Chris Brunson said. “We didn’t go up there and give at-bats away. We made (Matheny) work for everything, and she held us down for awhile.”

Sophomore Sophia Smithnosky, who came on in relief of her sister, Mary, and earned the pitching win, grounded to short. Southmoreland threw home for the second out, but another run came in as the Scotties attempted a rundown, which was successful for the last out.

“They can really hit the ball. They’re very young,” Chris Brunson said. “We came out and threw the first punch. They threw that punch, and we came back. Defensively, we made a few plays that changed the game.”

Southmoreland got a two-out double from Matheny in the seventh but to no avail. The Vikings got Scotties standout freshman Amarah McCutcheon to fly out to second for the final out.

McCutcheon went 2 for 4 with two runs.

“It was a good game,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “We out-hit them. They had two offensive innings and a few calls we didn’t agree with and an error from us. Who knows? Maybe it’s a different outcome if we’re playing at home.”

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

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