Mt. Pleasant softball team wins 1st state title
With the school's first PIAA team title in jeopardy, Mt. Pleasant coach Lauren Shaheen stayed with starting pitcher Carolyn Alincic.
And the coach's confidence paid off.
Tunkhannock loaded the bases in consecutive innings, but the Tigers could score only once off Alincic as the Vikings held on for a 5-3 victory in the state Class 4A softball title game before a capacity crowd at Penn State's Nittany Lion Park.
Ava Gnibus had three hits, a walk and a pair of runs scored, and Chloe Poulich was responsible for driving in four Mt. Pleasant runs.
Mt. Pleasant finished 17-3, and Tunkhannock, also making its first PIAA finals appearance, went 19-6.
With two full-blown threats and pitcher Meadow Uncapher available, Shaheen resisted a move.
"Looking at their team and their hitters, we saw our best possible defense with her on the mound and Meadow at second base," Shaheen said. "We were prepared to make a switch, and I am usually one who makes a switch quickly. I just had a feeling I wanted Carolyn to see it through."
Said Alincic: "I'm glad coach had confidence in me. I've definitely come a long way since the start of the season."
The Vikings had just taken a 5-2 lead in the top of the fifth on doubles by Gnibus and Addy Kubasky and a triple by Poulich.
The Tigers opened the bottom of the frame with singles by both Hope and Faith Jones and Paige Mokychic.
Alincic then struck out Jena Simmons, induced Kendra Schultz to pop up to left and retired Sarah Traver on a grounder back to the circle.
In the sixth, two singles and a fielder's choice loaded the bases for Hope Jones, who hit a sinking liner to center. Gnibus made the catch at her shoe tops.
"I knew the bases were loaded, and I had to do something," Gnibus said. "I just wanted to make sure I kept the ball in front of me."
Danielle Krispin scored from third on the catch, but a force play by Paulich to home and a pop up to short preserved the lead.
"Their pitcher was tough, we knew that coming in," Tunkhannock coach Bob Hegedty said. "We just couldn't get a timely hit and hats off to them."
Said Alincic: "I had faith the whole time in my fielders. I know if there's a fly ball, my outfield's going to get it."
The Vikings got on the scoreboard in the third.
Freshman Sydney Kanuch stated the rally with a single, and Gnibus walked. Poulich laced a hard bouncer off the body of first baseman Hailey Farr that was ruled a three-base error. Poulich came home on an error at third to make it 3-0.
"I think we did a good job offensively," Shaheen said. "Our focus was to attack, be strong and be confident in ourselves."
Tunkhannock scored in the third when Mokychic doubled home Jenn Bulford, and the Tigers tallied another an inning later when Traver doubled and came home on Farr's two-base hit.
It wasn't the first time Shaheen has been involved with a team from Tunkhannock. As a member of the West Point Little League 9/10-year-old team, she pitched in the state title game victory over Tunkhannock.
George Guido is a freelance writer.