Led by 4-member rotation, Southmoreland softball in battle for 1st
One thing Todd Bunner learned about the softball teams in Section 3-AAA during the first three weeks of the season, there are no gimmies.
“The section is so balanced that if you don't come ready to play every game, you can get beat,” said Bunner is his first season as coach at Southmoreland. “Every team is tough.
“I coached travel ball for years and it's different than high school. There is a difference in the quality of players. Travel teams are all-star teams.”
So Bunner, who graduated from Hempfield in 1985, and his coaching staff rely on their knowledge of longtime scorekeeper Eric Everhart about opponents, and so far so good.
“I'm not surprised we're doing well because I knew what kind of team we had,” Bunner said. “All we talked about was being competitive in the section.
“I'm happily surprised we're 4-0. I just want to be competitive in the section, and you have to been ready every game.”
Southmoreland (4-1, 4-0) is atop the section after victories against Thomas Jefferson, 9-3, and West Mifflin, 3-2, this week. The Scotties face Elizabeth Forward (5-3, 3-1) in a first-place showdown Friday.
Bunner said he's blessed with a strong pitching staff, led by senior Syracuse recruit Anna Marie Gatti, junior Kristen Suhan and freshmen Katie Troisi and Adeline Nicholson.
Suhan, a control junk ball pitcher, has two complete games this season, while power pitchers Gatti and Troisi have pitched in games together.
Bunner said Nicholson will eventually get her shot in a varsity game. She's mainly been used in junior varsity games.
“Nice thing about my team is I have four solid pitchers,” Bunner said. “They're all different. It gives us a nice mix.
“We've been battling the weather and poor field conditions all season. Hopefully, the weather will turn around.”
Gatti, catcher Chelsey Kuhns, third baseman Vanessa Richards and outfielder Sara Rock, all seniors, are counted as leaders along with juniors Suhan and utility player Trisha Bungard.
“I like our pitching, but our offense has been strong,” Bunner said. “We've scored 30 runs in four games. We can hit, too.”
Leading the way is center fielder/first baseman Briana Bunner, the coach's daughter, who is hitting .667. The sophomore led Southmoreland in hitting in 2013.
Briana Bunner is a power hitter. She had 15 doubles, seven home runs and a .452 batting average in 2013. She recently made a verbal commitment to attend Robert Morris. She had 42 teams pursuing her, including eight Division I schools.
“Briana is an aggressive hitter,” Coach Bunner said. “She was voted as one of the captains. She does a lot for the program. She even helps her younger sister's (Bethany) team in hitting.”
Others contributing offensively include Gatti, Richards, freshman shortstop Olivia Porter, Troisi and sophomore outfielder Kylee Wisilosky. All are good hitters, according to the coach.
Bunner said Kuhns is an outstanding defensive catcher and calls her a fourth coach when she's playing. Kuhns will play softball at Seton Hill.
“You can't take a day off in this section,” Bunner said. “Our recipe for success is simple: play error free, don't walk anybody and put the ball in play.”