Southmoreland stuns No. 1 South Park to capture 1st WPIAL softball title

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Thursday, May 31, 2018 | 5:27 PM


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Southmoreland players walked onto the field for the WPIAL Class 3A softball championship game giddy and laughing, loose and relaxed. It seemed more like school picnic day, the last day of school, maybe, rather than the minutes leading up to the biggest game of their lives.

They left the field with the same demeanor — and a pretty nice trophy.

Unflinching and fancy-free, Southmoreland captured the first WPIAL title by a girls team in school history Thursday afternoon and did so in stunning fashion, thumping defending PIAA champion and Section 3 nemesis South Park, 12-1, in five innings in the Class 3A title game at Seton Hill.

After four straight one-run championship games at Seton Hill, four straight classics, the Scotties decided to go rogue and turn this one into a classic blowout.

“It was just throw your glove up in the air, throw everything,” said Scotties sophomore right fielder Charity Henderson after a riled-up celebration that started near home plate, processed down the third-base line to join dozens of fans, and spilled over behind the Scotties' dugout. “Nothing in your hands, care-free. We're making history here.”

The third-seeded Scotties (10-7), who snapped a five-game losing streak against the section-champion Eagles, erupted for five runs in the first and third innings to send No. 1 South Park (16-2) into a tizzy from which it never recovered.

The Scotties, making their finals debut, kept South Park at arm's length from the get-go, and then stoked the fire with more offensive production in a no-doubter.

“No nerves, you have to play loose,” senior center fielder Bethany Bunner said. “There can't be any tightness. We went out and competed and gave it our all. It was absolutely wonderful. Awesome game. I'm glad I got to experience it with the best team I ever had.”

Freshman pitcher Jess Matheny, playing on an injured knee that will require surgery in the offseason, allowed five hits and helped her cause with two hits, including a double, and two RBIs.

Henderson, Bunner and Faith Miller all had two hits and two runs scored for the Scotties, who led 10-0 before South Park scored in the fourth. Bunner had a triple.

Lexi Klatt and Emily Eutsey each drove in a pair for Southmoreland, which set the tone in the first with five runs on two hits and three South Park errors. All five runs came with two outs.

Henderson scored on a wild pitch, Matheny drove in a run, a bases-loaded walk, another wild pitch and a few miscues and the Scotties were off and running.

“The girls have been disciplined the last couple games at the plate,” Scotties coach Todd Bunner said. “We wanted them to stay disciplined, swing at strikes only. That was effective for us. Once you get girls on and get a couple errors, that gets in your mind. That first inning was key because it put into our mind that we could beat them, and it put into their minds they could lose.”

Bunner works for UPS but his team delivered the school a prized package: a championship to remember. Familiarity with the Eagles helped, players said. That, and wanting to finally get one over on them.

“We played them two times already so we already knew what we had to do: hit the ball and play solid defense,” Henderson said. “It was kind of easy throughout there, it was just do what we had to do. We were hyped up from the beginning.”

The Eagles, who made five errors and surrendered six unearned runs, saw a 12-game winning streak end. Their only other loss came against Class 6A North Allegheny, 17-16.

“They're a really good team and everyone knows it,” Bethany Bunner said. “We didn't think we'd get that much of a jump on them. We gave it our all.”

Matheny struck out three straight batters to end the second, and the Scotties plated five more runs in the third as Shatterly doubled, Henderson singled, Klatt singled and three runs crossed thanks to errors to make it 10-0.

A wild pitch allowed South Park to score in the fourth, but the Scotties made sure the mercy rule held up with two scores in the top of the fifth. Bunner tripled to right and later scored, and Matheny doubled for make it 12-1.

“Everyone came out with confidence,” Matheny said. “We've been preparing ourselves for a week.”

Kaitlyn Pavlick and Grace Albitz each had two hits for South Park, which used two pitchers: starter Jessica Dean, who lasted 4 13 innings and gave up eight hits and six earned runs, walked five and hit three batters.

Both teams will open the PIAA playoffs next week, Southmoreland for the first time ever.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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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