PIAA Class 3A softball championship preview: Mt. Pleasant vs. Mid Valley

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Thursday, June 17, 2021 | 3:37 PM


PIAA softball preview

Class 3A

Championship

Mt. Pleasant (20-3) vs. Mid Valley (22-2)

1:30 p.m. Friday, Beard Field, Nittany Lion Softball Park, Penn State University, University Park

Coaches: Chris Brunson, Mt. Pleasant; Michael Piercy, Mid Valley

Players to watch: Courtney Poulich, Sr., 1B, Mt. Pleasant; Maranda Runco, So., P, Mid Valley

How they got here: Mt. Pleasant — Defeated Bald Eagle, 4-0; Avonworth, 3-0; Punxsutawney, 13-0 (5 inn.); Mid Valley — Defeated Loyalsock, 12-0 (5 inn.), North Schuylkill, 7-6; Central Columbia, 1-0.

PIAA titles: Mt. Pleasant 1 (2017, 4A); Mid Valley 0

About Mt. Pleasant: The Vikings pulled out the heavy lumber again in the semifinals as they slammed four home runs, two by Poulich (Liberty commit), in a 13-0 five-inning win over Punxsutawney. They snapped a two-game losing streak in the state semis. Haylie Brunson (Pitt) and Mary Smithnosky (Western Michigan) also homered, while Hannah Gnibus (Pitt-Johnstown) had three hits, and Lexi Puskar and Krista Brunson each had a two-run double. It was reminiscent of the WPIAL championship when the Vikings thumped Ellwood City, 15-0, behind 16 hits, 12 for extra bases. Brunson leads the team with a .550 average, six homers, 22 doubles and 39 RBIs, while Katie Hutter (Akron) bats .548 with 46 hits, Smithnosky is a .459 hitter with four homers and 29 RBIs, Gnibus has a .446 average, 16 RBIs and 13 steals, and Poulich bats .442 with 22 RBIs (5 HR in the playoffs). Smithnosky is 15-1 with a 2.24 ERA, 112 strikeouts and 22 walks. She has pitched a shutout in every playoff game and has a 38-inning scoreless streak. Smithnosky has allowed 16 hits in the playoffs and has posted two one-hitters. Puskar is finished playing as she left Tuesday for the military. Chris Brunson is 39-5 in two full seasons as coach.

About Mid Valley: District 2 champion Mid Valley’s next state title will be its first. Mid Valley is located about 15 minutes south of Scranton. The sophomore-heavy Spartans also have a potent lineup and lean on the pitching and hitting of Runco, who has all of the team’s wins and 200 strikeouts against 29 walks and a 1.01 ERA. The sophomore is one of the best dual-threat players in the state. She is hitting a gaudy .691 with 19 home runs, 10 doubles and 47 RBIs. She has 47 hits and 41 runs. The big-swinging lefty is only 3 for 3, however, in the postseason because she has been walked intentionally 14 times. Runco throws in the low-to-mid 60 MPH range. But she doesn’t do it all. Three other regulars are batting .400 or better in sophomore Kat Davis (.458, 33 hits, 25 runs), freshman Chiara Zavislak (.418, 16 RBIs) and senior Lindsey Jason (.416, 32 hits, 20 RBIs). Jason has two postseason homers. Junior Kaylee Terranella has three homers and 22 RBIs and is 5 for 10 in the playoffs with four RBIs. As a team, the Spartans bat .364 and have 30 homers to go with a 1.17 team ERA. Mid Valley held back Central Cambria, 1-0, in the semis. Senior Zoe Zelinski had the lone RBI in the fifth. The Spartans only managed five hits as they tied their lowest scoring output of the season. Mid Valley lost in the first round in 2019 to Bloomsburg, 2-1. The Spartans made the state semis in ‘17 and lost to Pine Grove, 10-5. Piercy is 125-56 in nine seasons.

Championship factoids: Mt. Pleasant has a 11-3 record in the PIAA playoffs. … Mt. Pleasant beat another District 2 school, Tunkhannock, 5-3, to win the 2017 PIAA Class 4A championship. … The Vikings have qualified for the state softball playoffs in five straight seasons but never played in a PIAA postseason game before 2016. … The last WPIAL team to win a PIAA Class 3A softball title was South Park in 2017. … The last District 2 team to win a state Class 3A softball crown was Holy Redeemer in 2018. … Mid Valley has a 13-12 record in the PIAA playoffs. … The Spartans were 0-4 in state semifinals games before beating Central Columbia on Monday.

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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