Ace Lexie Hames fans 19 as Seneca Valley wins Class 6A showdown with Norwin

Wednesday, April 26, 2023 | 9:44 PM

Like mother, like daughter? Or something like that.

Lexie Hames has picked up where her mother, Marlesse Hames, left off. Or something like that.

“She’s 10 times better than me. She’s a better athlete than I was, for sure,” Seneca Valley softball coach Marlesse Hames said of her daughter, sophomore Lexie Hames, arguably the best pitcher currently in the WPIAL.

Lexie Hames struck out a career-high 19 Norwin batters and Seneca Valley took advantage of four walks to produce the game’s only run in the second inning as the top-ranked Raiders edged host No. 2 Norwin, 1-0, on Wednesday in a WPIAL Class 6A game.

Seneca Valley moved into the Class 6A lead, a half-game ahead of Norwin in the standings, and ended the Knights’ eight-game winning streak dating to a 4-0 loss at Seneca Valley on April 4.

Hames allowed just three Norwin baserunners in hurling the one-hit shutout, Seneca Valley’s fifth consecutive victory.

The rematch was a bit tighter. While Hames was nearly perfect — in addition to yielding the one hit, she walked one while another batter reached on an error — Norwin’s Alyssa McCormick wasn’t far behind.

McCormick gave up just two hits but walked six — four in that fateful second inning — with another baserunner reaching on an error. She struck out four.

Kylie Staudt got the game’s lone RBI for Seneca Valley (11-1, 10-1), when she walked with the bases loaded in the second.

“That’s the game,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “That’s a hard way to lose it, walking in a run. It beats her up, but I can’t ask more of Alyssa. She did well.”

Norwin (12-3, 10-2) threatened to tie the score against Hames in the fifth, when Rachel Minteer singled for the Knights’ only hit and advanced to second on Miley Harrison’s sacrifice. But a pair of Hames strikeouts kept Norwin off the board.

“Norwin is an awesome team,” she said. “They’re going to be competitive the whole way through states.”

Much like Seneca Valley, of course. The Raiders, the defending WPIAL champion, reached the PIAA championship game last year, losing to District 1 champion Spring-Ford, 5-0.

Seneca Valley attempted to add on to its slim lead in the fifth. Anna Kalkowski singled to lead off the inning but was doubled off first on a hard line drive out by Hames. McCormick then walked Bella Gross before retiring the side.

“I told the girls this is like a playoff game,” Mesich said. “We have to use this to get better. We have to make adjustments. We rely on the long ball a good bit — we’ve hit 21 already — but it’s tough when you face a pitcher like that.”

Norwin’s Isabella Deering flirted with a home run in the bottom of the second, which would’ve tied the score. But Staudt made a leaping catch just in front of the fence to preserve Seneca Valley’s 1-0 lead.

“Games like this one makes both teams better,” Marlesse Hames said. “We’re going to see them definitely in those playoffs, and they’re a strong team defensively. We hit the ball, but they made really nice defensive plays. The outcome a lot of times comes down to whoever makes that one mistake or if the pitching is off a little. It just depends.”

As a Division III athlete in her day, Marlesse Hames was a ferocious competitor in softball and basketball at Penn State Behrend.

Her daughter Lexie, she said, is on a fast track to surpass Marlesse’s considerable accomplishments at Seneca Valley, where she led the softball team to a WPIAL championship and a trip to the PIAA final, and at Behrend, where she was a two-sport star.

The Marlesse Hames Award is given annually to the Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year in basketball at the Erie campus.

“She’s next level,” Mesich said of Lexie Hames, who increased her strikeout total this season to 172 and bested her previous single-game strikeout record of 18 against Baldwin on March 27. “You’re going to see her on TV somewhere. I compare her to Morgan Ryan, and that’s giving her huge, huge kudos, because she’s legit.”

Ryan, the former Hempfield star and 2017 Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year, spent four seasons at Notre Dame before using her final year of eligibility at Division II Seton Hill, where she compiled a record of 19-3 in 2022.

Hames, whose college recruiting process is in the early stages, said that following in her mother’s path has been a goal since a very young age.

“It started when I was a little girl,” she said. “My mother got inducted into the Butler County Hall of Fame and I went there, and I sat there, and I said I want to be where she is one day, and it just all clicked. It started right then and there. She’s accomplished so much. Even as a daughter, I respect her more than she’ll ever know. My goal was started by her and what she’s accomplished.”

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