Mt. Pleasant softball scratches out victory over Class 6A No. 5 Norwin

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019 | 8:50 PM


Mt. Pleasant softball coach Chris Brunson said he can feel a breakout offensive performance coming from his team. He can sense the bats warming up.

Until they do, he will take another scraped-together victory while the Vikings continue to display their other notable talents: pitching and defense.

Mary Smithnosky and Carolyn Alincic combined on a three-hitter, and the Class 4A No. 1-ranked Vikings turned back Norwin, the No. 5 team in Class 6A, 3-1 on Tuesday in North Huntingdon.

“That was one of those ‘just enough’ games,” Brunson said. “I’m not trying to be negative, but we need to do a better job offensively. We should be able to score more runs. The girls know that.”

The Vikings (9-0), who have allowed 13 runs all season but have not been dominant like past teams, jumped on the Knights (6-3) early and held strong in a quality nonsection test for both teams.

Smithnosky, a sophomore who pitched four innings before giving way to Alincic, delivered a one-out RBI double, and sophomore right fielder Haylie Brunson followed with a run-scoring triple to center to make it 2-0.

Brunson turned a double play in the bottom of the first, catching a flyout and firing to sophomore Lexi Puskar at first.

Mt. Pleasant posted eight shutouts during the regular season last year en route to the WPIAL and PIAA semifinals. The Vikings looked primed to blank their fifth opponent this year until the Knights finally chased a run home.

It stayed that way until third when Norwin put two runners on with no outs. Senior Makenzie Mihalko doubled to the fence in center to lead off the inning, and freshman Angelina Pepe, the losing pitcher, walked.

A passed ball and two groundouts later, junior second baseman Carly Cook stepped in and grounded softly to third. Junior Autumn Shogun couldn’t field the ball cleanly, and, while the Vikings eventually got an out at home, a run crossed to cut it to 2-1.

“We need to do a better job of getting bunts down,” Chris Brunson said. “Norwin is a very good team, so we’re happy to get the win. That’s why we schedule these tough games. Our pitching and defense have been strong.”

Norwin, coming off one of its most notable wins under coach Brian Mesich — 6-1 over Hempfield, which broke an eight-game losing streak against the four-time defending WPIAL champs — could not get a spark on offense.

The Knights had plenty of offensive firepower last season when they reached the WPIAL semifinals.

“We had that gap. We hadn’t played since Thursday,” Mesich said. “We laid an egg. The level at which we need to compete was not there, and that is not acceptable. Little things come back to bite us.”

The Knights’ 2 through 4 hitters were 0 for 9 with two walks.

In the fifth, the Vikings added an insurance run with one out. Freshman second baseman Katie Hutter’s groundout to the right side allowed courtesy runner Kayle Hutchison to score for a 3-1 advantage.

Alincic came on in the fifth and retired nine of 10, striking out five and walking one. For the season, Alincic (6-0) has 74 strikeouts, seven walks and a sub-1.00 ERA.

Smithnosky, who allowed three hits and struck out four, moved to 3-0. She has 27 K’s and three walks.

“Using the two pitchers has worked well for us,” Chris Brunson said. “Mary pitched well for us, and then we went to ‘The Hammer.’ That was our game plan.”

Sophomore Sydney Lokay pitched three innings of relief for Norwin.

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

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