Southmoreland ready to defend WPIAL title with 8 returning starters

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | 7:47 PM


Southmoreland kicked up a thrilling celebration last year after dismantling defending state champion South Park to win the WPIAL Class 3A softball championship on the carpet at Seton Hill.

The title run was historic, something the program in Alverton had not seen before.

Scotties coach Todd Bunner wants nothing more than for his team to do it all over again this season, and the talent is there for a repeat.

That being said, Bunner’s approach has been more on the mental side. He knows getting the team to buy into a singular focus could be what really makes them dangerous.

He ended a practice this week with two words: Stay humble.

“I don’t have to tell them much,” Bunner said. “They’re pretty grounded kids already. But they know to be successful again, we have to do what we did. It’s not going to be handed to you. You have to work hard, get a little lucky and be in the right situation.”

The Scotties will open the season as the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A by the Tribune-Review.

They have plenty of girls who know how to use the business end of the bat, along with some strong pitching and defense. Eight starters return from a 12-8 team that also reached the PIAA semifinals in its first state-playoff trip. Among the top returnees are college recruits Lexi Klatt, a senior catcher, and senior second baseman Faith Miller.

Klatt hit .464 in a potent lineup that produced 1 through 9. She had a team-best 32 hits, plus 22 runs and 21 RBIs. She also is expected to do some pitching.

“Since our talent is coming back and we have some really good freshmen coming up, we could win in states this year,” said Klatt, an Alderson Broaddus commit. “We kind of left off at a bad place at states since we lost, and I would say it’s unfinished business now.”

Miller, a Robert Morris recruit, said the team’s perspective is just as important as its situational hitting.

“You have to play loose and free,” Miller said. “That’s how we played last year and how we won. We just have to play our game.”

Miller also will provide some power.

“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Miller said. “We have a very good pitcher in Jess, and she’s injury-free. We have a really strong defense — defense wins championships — and we also have a lot of power in the lineup.”

The only starter lost to graduation was center fielder Bethany Bunner, a four-time all-section player now at IUP.

Sophomore pitcher Jess Matheny, who played through the pain of a torn lateral meniscus in her right knee for most of last season, had offseason surgery and is ready to go.

“It will take her a little bit to get the kinks and the bugs out,” Todd Bunner said of the lefty. “But she is pain free.”

Junior outfielder Charity Henderson, a Cal (Pa.) recruit, led the team with a .492 average and four home runs. She scored 25 runs.

“We all have good bats and a really good infield,” Klatt said. “We’re pretty much just as good or better than last year.”

Southmoreland’s offense erupted in the WPIAL final to take down South Park, 12-1, in five innings. The Scotties put up double-digit runs in eight games.

Other key returnees are junior first baseman Courtney Myers, junior Abbigayle Fullem and sophomore Emily Eutsey. Junior Maegan Shetterly is a Wooster recruit.

“We have six or seven really good hitters,” coach Bunner said.

Throw in a rising crop of freshmen and the Scotties also have some depth to a 15-player roster. The group includes Tyson Martin, Elle Pawlikowsky and Madison Cylhert.

New-look Section 3 also will include Brownsville, Keystone Oaks, South Allegheny, South Park, Steel Valley and Waynesburg.

Southmoreland has three solid nonsection matchups scheduled against Mt. Pleasant, Albert Gallatin and Monessen.

New Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson was an assistant with Southmoreland last year.

“We have to be competitive every game we play,” Todd Bunner said. “If we do that, the chips will fall. We’ll land where we’re supposed to land.

“I think they are in the right mindset. I think they understand what they did last year, but they’re hungry and they want to try and do it again.”

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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