Mt. Pleasant sees room to improve after closing out Avonworth for 5th straight postseason shutout

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Friday, June 11, 2021 | 3:17 PM


Mt. Pleasant slept on a 3-0 lead but didn’t think that would be the final score against Avonworth in a PIAA Class 3A softball quarterfinal that took two days to complete.

But it was, and the Vikings are moving on with an eye toward waking up their bats.

“Survive and advance,” coach Chris Brunson said. “That’s the theme of the day. It’s nice to get the win, but we have to tighten some things up and refocus.”

The game was continued Friday afternoon at Fox Chapel after heavy rain forced a suspension Thursday at Norwin. But the WPIAL champion Vikings were not able to do any more damage offensively and were held to their lowest output of the postseason.

Junior Katie Hutter had the only hit for Mt. Pleasant on Friday, and that was a bunt single in the sixth. That after they had five extra-base hits Thursday.

While the performance was a far cry from the 8-0 one-hitter the Vikings rang up against the Antelopes in the WPIAL semifinals, it still was their fifth straight shutout and it saw senior pitcher Mary Smithnosky push her scoreless innings streak to 33.

“We needed to be better offensively and on the base paths,” Brunson said. “I don’t know what their pitcher did from yesterday to today, but she was after the hole and got us to chase. We needed to be more focused today.”

Thursday’s three runs turned out to be a smash-and-grab for the Vikings (19-3), who advance to the state semifinals for the fourth straight season. They will play District 9 champion Punxsutawney (11-10) at 1 p.m. Monday at St. Francis (Pa.) in Loretto.

The Vikings won a state title in 2017 and were eliminated in the semis in ’18 by Punxsutawney and in ’19 by Elizabeth Forward.

“We’re thankful that we got those three runs,” said Smithnosky, who struck out eight and did not walk a batter. “It was kind of a little cushion for us to keep us going. We definitely could have been better offensively. … Avonworth is a good hitting team, and they could have changed the game with the snap of your fingers — one hit, one swing.”

Avonworth (14-7), despite a sharper look and solid pitching from freshman Alivia Lantzy — watch this team next year — was unable to pick at the deficit.

The game resumed with Mt. Pleasant batting with one out in the bottom of the fourth. It looked like the Vikings would turn things up in the fifth when they loaded the bases thanks to an error and two walks. But Lantzy got sophomore Sophia Smithnosky to fly out to short to quell the threat.

“It wasn’t hard to come back (the next day) with all the adrenaline and excitement the girls were feeling,” Avonworth coach Jenna Muncie said. “They were excited for the opportunity. Mt. Pleasant is just really tough. There are no easy outs in their lineup.”

Mt. Pleasant left runners at second and third in the sixth when senior Haylie Brunson flew out to center and the Antelopes doubled up the Vikings on junior Ciera Jimenez’s relay to third. It was the third outfield assist in the game.

Junior Abby Swank had a two-run double Thursday and senior Hannah Gnibus added a run-scoring triple.

Hutter went 2 for 4 with a triple, while Smithnosky and Haylie Brunson each had a double.

Lantzy had two hits for the Antelopes.

Avonworth, the WPIAL champion and PIAA quarterfinalist in 2019, only had one hit Friday after getting four the previous day.

“We start four freshmen,” Muncie said. “This was a great experience for our girls to play on this stage against a team of that magnitude.”

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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