Mt. Pleasant gets past Penn-Trafford in early-season softball showdown

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Saturday, April 3, 2021 | 5:30 PM


Having played three games coming into Saturday’s nonsection showdown against Penn-Trafford, a team that finally was playing its long-awaited season opener, Mt. Pleasant had somewhat of an advantage.

“An advantage, or a disadvantage?” Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson pondered before the game. “You never know how that’s going to go.”

Penn-Trafford had all the fanfare. It was debuting its glossy new turf infield, and the top-ranked team in WPIAL Class 5A was champing at the bit to play again.

But Mt. Pleasant, the No. 1 team in 3A, spoiled the field’s christening and the Warriors’ 2021 debut, rebounding from a rare defeatwith a 6-5 victory.

Each team had its share of big hits and impressive defensive plays.

“That’s a really good team, and they got our best,” said Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little, whose Warriors won a PIAA title in 2019. “Today wasn’t all about the result for us. We are just thrilled to be playing again. We hadn’t played in 658 days. That’s a long time. Mt. Pleasant was just a little bit better than us today in a see-saw game.”

Senior shortstop Hannah Gnibus ripped a two-run homer over the right-field fence in the top of the seventh inning for the go-ahead score.

It was the team’s eighth homer of the season but first by Gnibus, a Pitt-Johnstown commit. She was 0 for 3 when she came to the plate to follow senior Mary Smithnosky, who led off the inning with a single.

“I knew if I kept my hands back, I could drive it,” Gnibus said. “She threw me a change-up, and I was able to hit it out.”

Little coaches Gnibus in travel ball with Team PA Prady.

“She can swing the bat,” Little said.

Mt. Pleasant (3-1) rallied from a 3-0 deficit, taking a 4-3 lead in the fourth on back-to-back doubles from junior center fielder and Akron commit Katie Hutter and senior third baseman and Pitt recruit Haylie Brunson, who doubled twice.

Brunson’s two-run double gave the Vikings a one-run advantage.

“This was a great team win,” Haylie Brunson said. “When we lost to Norwin, it kind of lit a fire under our butts. A lot of girls refocused and put the work in.”

Mt. Pleasant lost to Norwin, 6-4, to snap a 36-game regular-season winning streak.

“When you lose, it wakes everybody up,” Chris Brunson said. “I knew we’d be OK. The sky wasn’t falling. This was the first time today where we had a buy-in, team-concept kind of win. We have been fighting that.”

Penn-Trafford (0-1) tied it 4-4 in the fifth on a run-scoring grounder from sophomore Sarah Yamrick, who added a RBI single in the sixth to give the Warriors a 5-4 edge.

Yamrick added a double and was 2 for 4.

“They are a really good hitting team,” Chris Brunson said of Penn-Trafford. “They had us on the ropes twice.”

Senior third baseman Allie Prady, a Fairmont State recruit, led off the seventh with a double off the fence in left for the Warriors, but reliever Sophia Smithnosky, a sophomore who earned her second win, retired three Warriors in a row, two via strikeout, to end it.

Hutter and Haylie Brunson both went 2 for 4, and Mary Smithnosky was 2 for 3 for Mt. Pleasant, which played without senior Courtney Poulich, who is resting a sore quad muscle.

Junior McKenzie Rapp started in the circle for the Warriors, but junior Mia Smith entered in the third and eventually took the loss.

Mary Smithnosky, who will play at Western Michigan, pitched 5⅓ innings for the Vikings before her sister came in.

Senior Julia Moorhead had a two-run single. Senior Brooke Cleland, a Seton Hill recruit, and Prady each had two hits for the Warriors. Senior Bloomsburg commit Emma Little added an RBI single.

“We played a lot of girls to see who could rise to the occasion,” Denny Little said. “We played well. It’s not who wins at the beginning, it’s who wins at the end.”

Mt. Pleasant had 12 hits to Penn-Trafford’s 10. The Warriors left 10 on base.

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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