It seems every softball game the James Buchanan Lady Rockets have played the last 2 weeks, they’ve been the underdog.
And it looks like Thursday’s game won’t be any different.
The Lady Rockets will try and step to the challenge once again as they face the District 7 runner-up Mt. Pleasant Vikings in the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals at 5 p.m. at Mt. Aloysius College.
JB (16-7) reached the quarterfinals after beating Blue Mountain 8-2 in the Monday’s first round. The Vikings beat Bellefonte 9-4 in their first round game.
Mt. Pleasant will certainly be JB’s toughest hurdle to date as the Vikings have quite a resume to back their 20-1 record.
Where to start with this talented Vikings squad? Their starting pitcher is as good of place as any.
Senior Carolyn Alincic is one of the top pitchers in the state and will play next year at Division I Morehead State. She is 14-1 with a 1.13 ERA. In 105.1 innings pitched she has 182 strikeouts and only 22 walks.
Back in April, Alincic had a 20-strikeout game vs. Connellsville and 3 days later fanned 18 in a 3-2 win over Yough. On Monday she did give up 11 hits, but also struck out 12.
“I don’t exactly know how good she is, but making contact and putting the ball in play will be our No. 1 priority,” JB coach Troy Pittman said.
Behind Alincic the Vikings have a boatload of talented underclassman that can hit a ton.
Top offensive producers are sophomores Mary Smithnosky (.536 batting average, 37 hits, 14 RBI), Haylie Brunson (.368, 21 hits, 14 RBI, 12 extra base hits, including 4 HRs), Hannah Gnibus (.333, 23 hits, 16 RBI, 8 2B) and freshman Katie Hutter (.435, 30 hits, 11 RBI).
Against Bellefonte, Brunson and Smithnosky combined to go 7-for-10 with 4 runs scored and 2 RBI.
“Their top 5 hitters will definitely be difficult to get through,” Pittman said.
The Vikings also have playoff experience.
Two years ago Mt. Pleasant won the Class 4A state title and last year it reached the state semifinals.
“I’d say they’re an experienced ball club, but they have a lot of sophomores and freshmen,” Pittman said.
The Lady Rockets will try and counter with what has worked for them of late – solid pitching by senior Jenna Mongold, clutch hitting and sound defense.
Mongold is 9-4 with with a 0.58 ERA. She has 112 strikeouts in 96 innings pitched with only 19 walks. On Monday she pitched 5 innings vs. Blue Mountain to get the win. She gave up 4 hits and struck out 6.
“We’ll try and have Jenna move the ball around on them and keep them off balance,” Pittman said.
Mongold is also the Lady Rockets leader in almost every offensive category. She leads the team in batting average (.486), hits (34), runs scored (26), doubles (10) and home runs (4).
Other top batters for JB are Lindsey Meyers (.304), Kate Ebersole (.302), Kirstyn Atherton (.288, 15 RBI), Maria Burkett (.284) and Maddie Bailey (.267, 22 runs scored).
“I think our schedule and the league we play in prepares us for games like this,” Pittman said. “I just hope we compete with them, and late in the game it’s close. The girls are really enjoying this ride right now. “