Mt. Pleasant softball hopes to answer one last call

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021 | 9:35 PM


Mt. Pleasant softball coach Chris Brunson has been receiving dozens of phone calls and texts from fellow coaches and colleagues in the area with good luck wishes, salutes and plaudits.

Longtime Hempfield coach Bob Kalp was among them, as was Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little.

Both know something about winning PIAA championships. Kalp has four state titles in the largest classification, including three in a row from 2016-18, the latter two in Class 6A. Little won a title in ‘19 (5A).

The pats on the back are nice, but Brunson is framing some of the words of wisdom like Lexis Shawley framing a Mary Smithnosky pitch on the outside corner.

Freeze it for a second.

“They told me to stop and appreciate what we have done, and to have fun with it,” said Brunson, whose Vikings (20-3) will play for their second state title Friday in State College. “It was really cool for them to reach out.”

Kalp once was Brunson’s science teacher at Hempfield.

“He said to enjoy the moment, and I get that,” Brunson said. “It can all go by so fast.”

Mt. Pleasant went by Punxsutawney fast in the semifinals Monday, winning 13-0 in five innings to break a two-game skid in the state final four and return to the finals. The Vikings won the state Class 4A championship in 2017. Brunson was an assistant at Southmoreland, then.

“It starts all over now,” Brunson said about Friday’s 1:30 p.m. Class 3A championship against District 2 champion Mid Valley (22-2) at Penn State. “One more to go. I think we’ll be ready. Our girls are laser-focused.”

Mt. Pleasant has outscored a half-dozen playoff opponents, 49-0, with a pair of mercy-ruled finishes. The Vikings are driving the ball to the fence with authority, and Smithnosky and her defense have thrown out a dragnet at opposing hitters.

Smithnosky has not allowed a run since the final regular season game against McGuffey — ahem, a 14-4 win. That makes for a scoreless innings streak of 38 that she will take into her final high school game — and final game as a pitcher. She plans to play in the outfield at Western Michigan.

Mid Valley will present a high-toned lineup of its own. The Spartans hit .364 as a team and have 30 home runs.

“We weren’t looking at (team) records (Punxsutawney was 11-11 after Monday’s loss) or anything like that,” Smithnosky said. “You look at what someone did in the (regular season) and they can be a totally different team in the postseason. We are focused on us and what we do.”

And what Mt. Pleasant has done is working quite well, a perfect blend of strong, mistake-free pitching and defense, and repeatedly getting the business end of the bat on the ball for extra-base hits.

“We’re all hitting well right now,” said senior first baseman Courtney Poulich, who hit two home runs Monday to give her 10 for the season. “We want to keep it going.”

Mid Valley could be the toughest team Mt. Pleasant has faced all season. Or it could be another team that swings and misses against the Vikings.

Spartans coach Mike Piercy said he has been following Mt. Pleasant’s progress through the bracket.

“They are obviously an experienced and well-polished team,” the coach said. “We look forward to Friday.

“To win this game we need to get a strong performance from our pitcher, make plays defensively, limit mistakes and get the timely hits.”

Mt. Pleasant is prepared to face a solid hitting lineup.

“Everybody eventually gives up runs,” Brunson said. “Things can turn on a dime. But I think we’re built for adversity.”

Mt. Pleasant never has won a WPIAL and PIAA title in the same season, a footnote that carries meaning for the Vikings.

“We have incredible kids who come from incredible families,” Brunson said. “They have done everything we’ve asked of them. They worked through covid (in 2020) and got into this season. They knew they had to commit to this thing for two, two-and-a-half months and they have.”

Brunson said many of his players have played on Beard Field at Penn State, be it in the playoffs two years ago, or in camps or travel ball, so he doesn’t expect them to be in awe.

“I don’t see the moment being too bright for them,” Brunson said.

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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