Mt. Pleasant softball overcomes adversity, defeats Bald Eagle Area

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Monday, June 7, 2021 | 6:58 PM


Some teams would have collapsed if faced with adversity before a big game.

Mt. Pleasant used it as a rallying cry.

When Vikings senior third baseman Haylie Brunson dislocated her finger on her throwing hand in pregame warm-ups, it stunned her teammates and forced her coach, also her dad, Chris Brunson, to juggle his lineup.

Haylie Brunson moved to designated player to keep her bat in the lineup, and four other players were forced to change positions.

It didn’t deter the Vikings. Mary Smithnosky tossed a three-hit shutout, second baseman Katie Hutter drove in three runs and first baseman Courtney Poulich hit a moon shot in a 4-0 victory over District 6 runner-up Bald Eagle Area (17-4) on Monday at Peterswood Park.

The Vikings (18-3), who have yet to allow a run in four postseason games, advance to the PIAA quarterfinals against the WPIAL’s third-place team Avonworth.

“Haylie dislocated her finger and couldn’t play the field,” Chris Brunson said. “She gutted it out and tried to swing the bat and put the ball in play.

“I’m really proud of the team effort we had. They didn’t let that get to them. Maybe a younger team would look around and say, ‘Oh, crap.’ They did a good job rebounding and pushing forward toward the goal.”

Adversity is nothing new for the Vikings this season. Mary Smithnosky and others have had injury issues.

“The team keeps pushing forward,” Chris Brunson said. “We even had to endure more adversity with the lightning delay (35 minutes in the top of the fifth inning).”

Mt. Pleasant grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Lexie Shawley walked with one out, Sophia Smithnosky singled and Abby Swank walked to load the bases. Hutter then delivered a two-run single.

Bald Eagle Area looked to score in the top of the third. Marino Shawley doubled, and an out later, Maegen King singled to left. But Hutter snagged a line drive and turned it into an inning-ending double play.

“When they got the lead-off double, I’m thinking as a coach they’re probably going to score one run. Let’s limit it to that,” Chris Brunson said. “Defensively, that was the play of the game. Sometimes a ball gets hit right to you.”

Hutter was one of the pregame position switches Brunson had to make. She moved to second base from center field.

“I played second my freshman season,” Hutter said. “Coming in from the outfield is a huge adjustment, especially on this field. It’s like a parking lot. The ball was hit low, and I knew I had to charge it.”

Poulich hit a no-doubter in the bottom of the third inning with the ball landing in the parking lot above the field on the fly.

“I was waiting for my pitch, and I got it,” Poulich said. “I had to take a swing at it. It felt good.

“I have to give credit to others. Katie had a clutch hit and a great defensively play. Obviously, we had to overcome adversity when Haylie went down. We all rallied for her. She’s a senior, and we knew she wanted it. Mary pitched great.”

Bald Eagle coach Don Lucas said it was the farthest he’s seen a ball hit in softball.

“They are a quality ball team and one of the better teams we’ve faced this season,” Lucas said. “If we get a hit here or there, it might be a different contest.

“That’s what good teams do. They make key plays. Big-time players come up with big-time plays.”

The Vikings made it 4-0 in the fourth inning when Sophia Smithnosky was hit by a pitch and moved to third on Krista Brunson’s double. Smithnosky scored on a sacrifice fly by Hutter.

Mary Smithnosky only had three strike outs, but she only walked one batter. Her defense was solid behind her.

“I was warming up and I saw Haylie. I said, ‘Wow,’” Mary Smithnosky said. “All I saw was her crying and holding her finger. That hit us hard because we count on Haylie a lot.

“We are so versatile. I’m glad we were able to make the moves we did. Even though they weren’t in their primary positions, they made the plays. I give credit to my defense that helped me a lot. Bald Eagle was a good team.”

After the second inning, Bald Eagle’s last threat came in the sixth inning when it had runners on first and third, but Smithnosky got Ava Stere to line out to shortstop Hannah Gnibus.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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