Hempfield softball rallies to win third consecutive PIAA title

Friday, June 15, 2018 | 6:06 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK — Winning state titles and getting late-inning heroics never gets old for coach Bob Kalp and his Hempfield softball team.

Hempfield captured its third consecutive PIAA title by rallying to defeat Parkland, 4-3, in eight innings on Friday at Penn State's Beard Field in the Class 6A championship. It was Kalp's 500th game as a coach. His record is 401-98-1.

It was a two-out double by sophomore catcher Emma Hoffner in the bottom of the eighth inning that scored Megan Monzo and sent the Spartans home to Westmoreland County with the school's fourth state title.

Parkland (24-4), the District 11 champion, jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, and junior pitcher Kelly Dulaney looked unhittable. It was Parkland's first loss in the state finals in six appearances.

But Hempfield (24-3) had been in this position before, and there was no panic among the players. Five of its previous playoff games and been decided by a combined seven runs, and it's been a different late-game hero.

The first order of business was to get a hit, and Hoffner led off the fifth inning with a single.

Then next was to find a way to score some runs. Hoffner singled home one run, and semifinal hero Ashley Orischak followed with a two-run double to tie the score 3-3 in a three-run sixth.

And while starting pitcher Maddie Uschock predicted Hoffner would be the hero, the senior should have predicted herself as well.

“Maddie has been a rock all season in every game,” Kalp said. “She kept us in the game, let us hang around and see if we can scratch out a run and beat you. That's what happened. Parkland getting three in the first inning, they probably thought it was pretty much over.”

Parkland scored three runs without Uschock recording an out, but she calmed down and went to work. She stranded Steph Herpel, who had a two-run triple, at third and then proceeded to retire the next 16 batters.

“I was happy we came out firing,” Parkland coach Barry Search said. “We just couldn't get anything generated after that. I give credit to them. They hung in there and came though and got the runs.”

After the first inning, Parkland's bats went quiet. Uschock allowed one hit and struck out 11. She again kept the opposing batters off balance with her off-speed pitches.

“There was a questionable call she didn't get on the first batter, and she wasn't getting calls at the plate,” Kalp said. “The zone changed for her later.”

Hempfield's batters, on their own, changed their approach to the plate in the sixth inning. They aggressively attacked Delaney's first pitch and got hits.

“They knew the situation,” Kalp said. “I really didn't realize that we went after the first pitch.”

Laura Fox and Monzo hit first-pitch singles, and, with two outs, Hoffner singled home the Spartans' first run. Orischak jumped on the first pitch she saw and rifled a double to left-center.

“We play with a deficit in about every game, so that doesn't scare us away. It brings us together,” Uschock said. “It (stunk) that we sent down early, but I have faith in them, and when they tied it up, I got emotional. We were confident we could shut them down and win it.”

Hoffner had three hits and two RBIs and Orischak had the other two RBIs.

“I felt I had something to prove,” Hoffner said. “I hadn't been hitting as well. I wanted to come into the postseason and produce.”

Orischak added: “This is amazing. I felt I had a little more of a part. The momentum changed in the sixth because we knew what she was trying to do.”

Those two will be the pillars of another strong squad returning to make a run at a fourth consecutive title.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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