It’s a widely accepted sports axiom that defense wins championships. No one mentions that it can also lose them.
But a shoddy third inning in which Mount Pleasant took advantage of a pair of Tunkhannock errors gave the Vikings their first PIAA softball title in school history as they went on to top the Tigers, 5-3, in the PIAA Class 4A championship game.
Mount Pleasant put runners on first and second with none out in the third when Chloe Poulich rifled a shot at the first baseman, which handcuffed her. The ball caromed off her glove, hit the wall and rolled along it all the way into the right field corner, allowing two runs to score and Poulich to get all the way to third. She scored when Meadow Uncapher’s hot grounder to third was mishandled, putting the third run of the inning on the board.
Tunkhannock trailed 3-1 at that point. It threatened in both the fifth and sixth innings, loading the bases with none out — but was only able to score a run in the sixth off Carolyn Alincic. And, in the bottom of the fifth, Mount Pleasant had scored two runs thanks to three extra-base hits to go up 5-2.
Mount Pleasant’s Ava Gnibus then made the play of the game in the sixth when she dove for a liner by losing pitcher Hope Jones in center field.
“I knew I had to either make the catch or at least keep the ball in front of me or they would win the game,” said Gnibus, who also had three hits in the game and scored twice. “This is mind-blowing. Our pitchers are wonderful and, if they’re pitching a great game, we have to play a great game behind them.”
Added Tunkhannock coach Bob Hegedty: “We definitely had our chances to push runs across, but we couldn’t get the timely hit. They are a good team. Their pitcher is tough. We knew that coming in. My hat’s off to them.”
Winning coach Lauren Shaheen gave credit to Alincic for coming through in the clutch to preserve the title.
“She did a fantastic job,” Shaheen said. “In the sixth inning, I was ready to make a switch (of pitchers). I really wanted Carolyn to see it through. I was happy to see her get herself out of those jams.”