Hempfield ace Riley Miller named Tribune-Review Westmoreland Softball Player of the Year

Saturday, June 24, 2023 | 8:11 PM

When she took the softball, popped it in her glove and stepped into the chalk-lined circle for the first time, Riley Miller knew she was also entering an elite sisterhood.

When she stepped on the rubber, she was ready to be the next one.

Hempfield is known for producing high-end pitching talent that wins championships, and Miller was no stranger to the mystique.

At this school, pitching for the softball team is up there with playing quarterback.

The names are Spartans’ elite: Jaci Kalp, Tina Skelly, Morgan Ryan, Lauren Shaheen, Hope Pehrson, Danielle Resovich, Maddie Uschock, Callie Sowers (and more) … the list goes on.

“I knew about what has happened here in the past,” said Miller, a sophomore. “It’s a lot of pressure coming in. I love playing softball and love playing for Hempfield, so I can take that pressure.”

Miller made sure the bar remained high as she helped lead the Spartans to their eighth WPIAL championship and a runner-up finish in the PIAA playoffs.

For her efforts, she is the Tribune-Review Westmoreland Softball Player of the Year.

Toryn Fulton of Franklin Regional, Amarah McCutcheon of Southmoreland and Emma Henry of Greensburg Central Catholic also received consideration.

Miller was the headliner on a team of talented players.

“Riley is a star,” said Hempfield coach Tina Madison, a former Spartans standout ace. “She loves to compete, and she goes out and performs at a high level. She is a silent leader.”

Miller went 19-4 with a 1.25 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 140 innings. The sophomore walked 27 and gave up 25 earned runs.

In the WPIAL 6A championship game against Seneca Valley, she struck out 11 and allowed four hits in a complete-game win that gave Hempfield its first district title since 2019 and eighth overall.

She proceeded to toss a pair of shutouts in the state postseason as underclassmen-filled Hempfield charged into the state finals for a fifth time.

She held her own against North Penn (28-0) and star ace Julia Shearer in a 1-0 loss in the PIAA final.

“If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that we’d make it this far, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Miller said. “I knew we would be good, but to be in the state finals is exciting. You don’t just expect it to happen.”

Miller injured her leg last season and could not pitch in the semifinals against Seneca Valley. But she was healthy and ready for the Raiders this year, winning two out of three matchups with them.

“She hits her spots and keeps the ball very low,” Madison said. “She is a gamer. By about the third time I saw her pitch last year, I knew she was going to be a good one.”

First team

Toryn Fulton

So., 2B, Franklin Regional

Division I prospect slashed .552/.600/1.155 (1.755 OPS) with seven doubles, eight home runs and 32 RBIs.

Emma Henry

Sr., P, Greensburg Central Catholic

Central Connecticut State commit batted .610 with a 1.162 OPS and .966 slugging percentage and was 10-2 as a pitcher.

Lauren Howard

Sr., 3B, Hempfield

Had breakthrough season, coming up big in the playoffs. Hit .443 with 1.146 OPS, 35 hits, 14 RBIs and a program-record 36 runs scored.

Amarah McCutcheon

Jr., SS, Southmoreland

The Division I prospect batted .542 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 22 runs for the WPIAL runner-up Scotties.

Maren Metikosh

Sr., OF, Belle Vernon

Central Connecticut State commit helped Leopards win a WPIAL title. She only struck out four times in 92 at-bats and did not commit an error, while hitting .417 with five homers abd 28 RBIs.

Cheyenne Piper

Jr., P, Ligonier Valley

Finished 9-8 with a 1.36 ERA and struck out 194 in 113.1 innings against only eight walks for the Rams.

Gionnah Ruffner

Sr., OF, Greensburg Salem

Seton Hall commit hit .534 with a team-best nine home runs and 25 RBIs. Had a 1.750 slugging percentage and eight doubles.

Bailey Snowberger

Jr., SS, Norwin

Holy Cross commit batted .519 with 28 hits, 19 doubles, five homers, .849 slugging percentage and 1,524 OPS. Also scored 39 runs.

Grace Stein

Fr., P, Jeannette

Exploded onto the scene and led Jayhawks back to WPIAL playoffs. Finished 12-5 with a 1.50 ERA and 136 strikeouts while tossing five no-hitters. Also batted .590.

Josie Straigis

Sr., P/SS, Latrobe

Bloomsburg commit was a dual threat for the Wildcats as hitter and pitcher. She hit .418 with eight home runs.

Second team

Krista Brunson

Sr., OF, Mt. Pleasant

Ciara Camacho

So., C, Franklin Regional

Izzy DePalma

Sr., C, Derry

Sophia Doherty

Jr., 3B, Derry

Makayla Etling

So., C, Southmoreland

Maggie Howard

Jr., OF, Hempfield

Madie Kessler

Sr., C, Norwin

Hayden Kranick

Sr., OF, Latrobe

Cam Ponko

So., 3B, Penn-Trafford

Sophia Smithnosky

Sr., P, Mt. Pleasant

Gracie Sokol

Jr., 1B, Belle Vernon

Adoria Waldier

So., SS, Yough

Honorable mention

Maddie Brown

Jr., P, Southmoreland

Peyton Heisler

Jr., OF, Hempfield

Olivia Kolowitz

Sr., P, Belle Vernon

Macee Magill

Jr., SS, Greensburg Central Catholic

Alyssa McCormick

Sr., P, Norwin

Josey Michalski

Jr., 3B, Norwin

Madison Nguyen

Sr., 1B, Franklin Regional

Alexa Patberg

Sr., IF, Franklin Regional

Sarah Podkul

Jr., 2B, Hempfield

Erica Rodriguez

So., OF, Greensburg Central Catholic

Mikayla Spoonhoward

Jr., OF, Yough

Kayla Williams

Jr., P, Latrobe

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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