Mt. Pleasant softball team still working to build chemistry after turnover of championship roster

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 | 5:51 PM

Mt. Pleasant wants reps. It needs reps. Lots of reps.

Results don’t matter, at least not in the nonsection games. Not in the baby steps of a softball season that lives in the shadow of the one that preceded it.

“This time of year, we all just need to play,” coach Chris Brunson said. “Win or lose.”

Sage advice from a WPIAL and PIAA championship-winning softball coach who is trying to find continuity in a new-look team, one that is finding it much more challenging to string together wins than its held-in-high-regard predecessor did.

Turnover is thick around the program, but with the early games that represent more opportunities to form chemistry, the absences of key players such as Haylie Brunson (Pitt), Mary Smithnosky (Western Michigan), Courtney Poulich (Liberty) and Hannah Gnibus (Pitt-Johnstown) could begin to fade.

That is a big ask, yes. But finding new ways to win, with new players, take time and patience.

“You have a whole new team every year,” Chris Brunson said. “We are still trying to have some things sort themselves out. I believe the only way to do that, win or lose, is to play games.”

Mt. Pleasant is 1-4. It lost three times all of last season (21-3).

The Lady Vikings lost 14-13 to Greensburg Salem and 14-11 to South Allegheny in the Section 3-3A opener.

They did earn a quality win against Class 5A Latrobe, 9-8.

In short, though, nothing has been easy.

“I think the kids have learned you just don’t get off the bus and win because of what’s been done in the past,” Brunson said. “I think sometimes the past helps, but it doesn’t win you a game. They are finding out its hard to win, and you have to focus all the time.”

There is still plenty of talent in the lineup. Fourth-year starter and Akron commit Katie Hutter was hitting .579 with three home runs and seven RBIs. The senior center fielder homered twice and drove in three against Greensburg Salem.

“We are a young team and continue to make strides each day,” Hutter said. “There are moments of greatness followed by a few mental mistakes that can be contributed to lack of experience. I believe if we keep our heads up and improve each day, we will be competitive when it counts.”

Senior first baseman Abby Swank, meanwhile, had a .611 average with nine RBIs, and freshman catcher Addison Reese had a homer and a three-RBI game.

Juniors Krista Brunson and Sophia Smithnosky also are looking to bring championship pedigree to the mix.

A number of freshmen and sophomores are looking to contribute as well.

The early bumps in the road have made last year’s highlights that much more illustrious.

“Last year was an incredible feat for the whole team and staff,” coach Brunson said. “We all made life-long memories, but it’s still last year not this year.”

Pitching remains a work in progress as Swank, Smithnosky and freshman GiGi Stanek take the circle.

“You are always developing pitching,” coach Brunson said. “Kids have to go out and sink or swim. You have to let them succeed or fail. At some point you have to take the training wheels off. You can’t do that in the gym. You gotta play games.”

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


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