Southmoreland softball’s Todd Bunner pays tribute to late father, his coaching inspiration

Wednesday, April 5, 2023 | 10:02 PM

Todd Bunner didn’t want to let dad down. Or his team.

Divine intervention was something Bunner had always believed in, but was never in a situation where he had to call on it.

The Southmoreland softball coach glanced to the sky with his top hitter up with an 0-2 count in the bottom of the ninth inning of a scoreless game Monday against visiting Ligonier Valley.

“OK, dad,” Bunner said to himself. “Let’s see what you’ve got here. This is it.”

With a runner at second after an error, junior Amarah McCutcheon launched the next pitch over the left-field fence and Southmoreland walked off with a 2-0 victory.

“Thanks, dad,” Bunner recalled thinking as he left the third base box and greeted his players near home plate.

Dad died two days before the big win.

David Bunner, who coached his sons and inspired them to coach, succumbed to bladder cancer about a year after his diagnosis. He was 81.

So, why was Todd Bunner still coaching so soon after losing his father? Why was he leading the Scotties on Wednesday in another 2-0 win at Mt. Pleasant?

“Because he taught me everything,” Todd Bunner said. “He came to a practice and told me we had a nice team. That made me feel so proud. He coached me and my brother in football and baseball, but he also coached us in life. He’d want me to keep coaching.”

A stoic coach whose emotions often seem locked in a vault, Todd Bunner tried to keep his voice from cracking as he talked about his hero after Wednesday’s win.

David Bunner, whose laugh was said to be infectious, was a four-time letterwinner in football and wrestling at Washington High School. His future wife, Carol, was a homecoming queen while the two dated in school.

Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson used to be an assistant with Todd Bunner at Southmoreland, where Bunner is in his 10th year as head coach.

“He got me started coaching softball,” Brunson said. “He said he needed some help. Our daughters played travel ball. I decided to give it a try.”

The pair of Hempfield alums won a WPIAL championship together in 2018.

The South Park team Southmoreland played in the final didn’t seem to have a prayer with the way the Scotties were hitting.

But this year’s team may have had one granted — by dad.

“I believe they did,” Brunson said. “I believe in that stuff. They are getting a little help from somewhere. I think I know where.

“Todd is still here because when you do this, coaching is life. This is what we do.”

McCutcheon was awarded the game ball after Monday’s thrilling win.

“Then, she turns around and hands it to me,” Bunner said, tearing up. “She said, ‘Here coach, this is for you.’”

Thanks, coach.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


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