Mt. Pleasant softball drops Yough in semis, on to 1st PIAA title game
A pivotal third inning proved to be the key Monday as Mt. Pleasant is headed for its first PIAA title game.
After loading the bases with none out against Yough, the Vikings got on track with a walk and a single after two outs in a 7-2 victory in the Class 4A semifinals at Cal (Pa.'s) Lilley Field.
Mt. Pleasant (16-3) take on Tunkhannock in the championship game at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Penn State's Nittany Lion Park.
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the third, Mya Klejka and Sydney Kanuch opened with singles and Ava Gnibus reached on an error.
Yough pitcher Kierra Waywood then retired the next two batters on a popup to short and a foulout to third. But with a 3-2 count, Meadow Uncapher drew a walk to bring home Klejka. Freshman designated player Autumn Shogan singled home Kanuch to put the Vikings in front 2-0.
“There were about 10 or 12 pitches thrown to Meadow,” Vikings coach Lauren Shaheen said. “We tell the girls to choke up on the bat with two strikes and make them pitch. She really did a good job drawing that walk. A walk is as good as a hit there.”
Yough, trying for a second straight trip to University Park, finished 19-4.
“You get three of their girls on, it's tough to get out of it,” Cougars coach Dutch Harvey said. “You throw the right pitches, then they hit one of them. (Waywood) has been fighting tendinitis for the last four weeks, and today it finally caught up with her.”
With one out in the fourth, the bottom of the Mt. Pleasant batting order was at it again. Klejka singled, and Kanuch reached base on an errant force-play attempt.
Gnibus then doubled to chase Waywood.
“We have come to draw from our seven, eight and nine spots,” Shaheen said. “People in the middle of the lineup get on, and they have absolutely come through. They've done a very good job of that.”
Adaline Kubasky then hit a grounder to short off reliever Karlie Clark. Hannah Bach slickly tagged Gnibus going by, but her throw home to get Kanuch was too late, making it 4-0 Mt. Pleasant.
An error on Shogan's grounder led to another run when Shogan scored on a wild pitch. The Vikings then put the icing on the cake with Chloe Poulich's two-run homer, blasted over the center-field fence, which recently was moved back about 30 feet, according to Cal officials.
“We just wanted to focus on making contact, and that was the result,” Poulich said. “I was struggling a lot hitting lately. I was honestly just working on contact.”
Despite the loss, Harvey is happy with the fact Yough is solidly on the softball map in the Keystone State, helped by last year's 1-0 win over Lampeter-Strasburg in the state final.
“We had some seniors step up with leadership,” Harvey said. “They got better and better with leadership throughout the year. “
George Guido is a freelance writer.