The Southmoreland softball season started innocently enough. The Scotties played to a 9-7 regular season record; battled injuries, bad weather, and a challenging schedule; and while they limped into the playoffs with four straight losses admittedly to top-notch competition – which may have toughened them up – Southmoreland qualified for the postseason for the fourth straight year. The team was rewarded with a third seed for the WPIAL 3A playoffs.
New season. New challenges. But the same attitude: Play for each other.
So the Scotties came from behind in dramatic fashion to beat Steel Valley in the first round, 6-5 after scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning; defeated previously undefeated Freeport 6-4 in the semifinals; then knocked off defending state champion and section rival South Park 12-1 in a game shortened by the 10-run rule, an upset so astounding that no one could have predicted it. But not really a surprise to members of the team.
“I don’t even have words to describe it,” said senior Lexei Belzer. “I’ve been to the playoffs four consecutive times. Being that it’s my senior year, and being with this group of girls I love so much, I wouldn’t want it to be with anyone else.”
Now the Scotties enter new territory, taking on Central June 4 in the first round of the state playoffs. And if the South Park game is any indication of what is to come, coach Todd Bunner should be able to breathe easy.
“This team is so unified,” Bunner said after the title game victory at Seton Hill University. “They all get along together, they love each other, and they fight for each other.”
The championship is the third in school history, with two cross country teams winning championships in the 1990s. But this title has a different feel to it, as could be witnessed by the people who lined the streets of Scottdale when the team made a couple victory laps hours after beating South Park.
“It’s a thrill you can’t even describe, honestly,” said winning pitcher Jess Matheny, a freshman playing through a knee injury that will require surgery after the season is over.
But first things first: a date with Central and destiny. No matter what happens, the Southmoreland girls will have the times of their lives.
“I wouldn’t want to go to states with any other team,” said junior Lexi Klatt.
Perhaps senior Bethany Bunner said it best when asked to describe the best mindset for postseason play: “No nerves, you have to play loose.”