With ace Maddie Brown happy, healthy and sharp, Southmoreland blanks Mt. Pleasant

Wednesday, April 5, 2023 | 8:42 PM

With his team’s fourth straight win freshly in the books — a 2-0 shutout of rival Mt. Pleasant in Section 3-3A —Southmoreland softball coach Todd Bunner gathered with his players in front of their dugout Wednesday and offered praise to his player of the game.

“Maddie Brown,” Bunner said, “we’re standing on your shoulders right now.”

Brown, close to blushing, nodded with a humble grin.

“Aw,” Brown said. “It’s about grit. This team wants to be there. I have a great defense that believed in me.”

The pitcher’s shoulders are fine. It was her back that caused her problems late last season and for the better part of six months that followed.

“I cracked my L4 and L5 (vertabrae),” Brown said. “I hurt it early in the season and played through it. But, eventually, I had trouble walking and breathing. It was super tight.”

Months of rest and rehab allowed the junior to return to the circle, and she has been sharper than ever for the Scotties (4-1, 2-0). Brown allowed three hits in a complete-game win, striking out seven and walking one, just two days after an eight-inning, walk-off victory over Ligonier Valley by the same 2-0 score.

Brown also pitched that entire game.

“She’s a different kid,” Bunner said of Brown. “This was a much different scenario (than Monday). We played team ball. We had some girls step up in big situations. Maddie was strong again. She is stretched out and ready to go, and this also was a tribute to our defensive play.”

Host Mt. Pleasant (5-3, 1-1) never got a runner to third and couldn’t cash in with the two that reached second.

“They’re a good team over there,” Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson said of Southmoreland. “Maddie was awesome today. They played solid defense and got timely hitting when they needed it. We just didn’t hit today. We didn’t execute our bunts.”

Brown, who said her back pain was particularly difficult during a playoff game against Derry last year — when she threw a two-hitter — decided to shut it down and seek medical attention after that game.

She did not need surgery but did not pitch in four more postseason games, including a PIAA first-round matchup.

“That was it,” she said. “That’s when I knew. I was pitching so much, over and over, it was overuse. It was a lot on my body. I am taking better care of myself now.”

Junior shortstop Amarah McCutcheon, who delivered the winning homer against Ligonier Valley’s 20-strikeout pitcher Cheyenne Piper, had two hits and an RBI in this win for the Scotties.

After a scoreless three innings, the Scotties took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. McCutcheon singled to open the inning, stole second and took third on an error.

Junior Gwen Bassinger then grounded out to short, bringing McCutcheon home.

In the bottom of the third, Mt. Pleasant freshman Grace Etling roped a double to the fence, but she was thrown out trying to turn it into a triple.

“She slid in and touched (the base) before she was tagged,” Brunson said. “That’s what I saw. If she is called safe there, who knows what might happen?”

Vikings’ senior Sophia Smithnosky ripped a drive to deep center in the fourth, but sophomore Taylor Dopplehauer made a reaching grab to deny Smithnosky extra bases.

“She made that catch on the tips of her toes and fingertips,” Bunner said. “I told her not to step in, but to freeze when the ball was hit her way. What a play. It was a snowcone catch.”

The Scotties added their second run in the sixth.

Junior Brooke McBeth led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by freshman pinch-hitter Madison Lucia and made a heads-up move to third.

McCutcheon followed with a groundout to short, allowing McBeth to score for a 2-0 advantage.

“Maddie Lucia gets a lot of credit there,” Bunner said. “We had faith in her to put her in that position.”

Mt. Pleasant had a flickering attempt at a rally in the seventh.

Junior Ally Jones singled to right, and courtesy runner Emma Leechalk took first.

Leechalk crept off the bag and was caught in a rundown but somehow made it safely to second.

Brown induced a pair of flyouts before she struck out junior Mady Hart for a third time to end it.

Smithnosky struck out nine and did not issue a walk, but took the loss.

“There are four teams that can win this section,” Brunson said. “We think these are two of them. It’s only the second section game. We’ll keep at it. Southmoreland is a nice team.”

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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