Hempfield softball rebounds from rare loss to defeat rival Latrobe

By: HSSN Staff
Monday, April 23, 2018 | 9:06 PM


Still dumbstruck and reeling from a defeat Sunday against Penn-Trafford that terminated its 46-game winning streak, Hempfield's softball team made sure another streak remained intact.

The top-ranked Spartans bounced back from the rare setback with a 3-1 victory over Section 2-6A rival and No. 2 Latrobe on Monday in a much-anticipated rematch of last year's WPIAL championship game at Graham-Sobota Field.

Clearly, there is no reason to panic at Hempfield, which has 34 consecutive section wins.

The Spartans (6-1, 5-0) have not dropped a section game since 2015 and have been a model of resilience, having not lost two games in a row since 2014. They're chasing a fourth straight section title, which has been just the first domino to fall in recent seasons.

The three-time defending WPIAL champions — and winners of the last two PIAA titles — overcame an early deficit and the power pitching of Latrobe junior ace Kiley Myers to put together their ninth straight win over the Wildcats (6-1, 5-1), another streak that included a 13-2, six-inning defeat in the title game last May.

“I was concerned because we're a young club; a lot of new kids playing,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “The emotion of not playing well (Sunday) … Coming right off of that and turning around less than 24 hours later and coming out for a Latrobe team … they want us real bad. It's a good rivalry. We knew we had to be better.

“Who knows? We might be in for another three-game series with them.”

Hempfield senior pitcher Maddie Uschock held a powerful lineup in check before a large crowd that lined the top of the hill above the field. Latrobe managed just four singles and stranded seven, including leaving the bases loaded in the first when it could have added to an early advantage.

This looked to be the Wildcats' best shot at the mettlesome Spartans in a while, but Latrobe coach Rick Kozusko knew it would take more scoring.

“What hurt us was not getting those runs in those early innings,” Kozusko said. “We needed to push a few more across. If we'd have done that we would have been in great shape. You know you have more innings to play so you think you're going to get more opportunities, but sometimes you don't. We had some difficulty with bunts. We needed to get the bunt down to put pressure on the defense.”

Latrobe had outscored its first half-dozen opponents 61-1.

After an error and hit batsman helped set the table, senior Becca Tatone singled home a run with a two-out single in the opening inning for a 1-0 Latrobe lead. Hempfield, though, tied it and took the lead in the third after it loaded the bases.

Freshman Emma Hoffner grounded to third baseman Aimee Siecinski, who could not step on the bag in time for a force out, allowing senior Laura Fox to score.

With the bags still full, sophomore Ashley Orischak knocked in Dickinson recruit Margaret Monzo with a two-out sacrifice fly to make it 2-1.

“I told them on the way out on the bus, if we give up four (runs), we're probably going to lose,” Kalp said. “We're going to win 2-1 or 3-2. Latrobe has the best team in the WPIAL because they have so many talented kids returning. Some of our kids only have six games starting at the varsity level under their belts. There's something to be said for that. We have to learn to relax a little better and take care of the routine stuff.”

A couple of cool wind gusts knocked over the left-field fence, causing a short delay in the fourth, but Uschock did not tremble down the stretch.

After three consecutive 1-2-3 innings, she rendered a seventh-inning single by Mia Schweizer — and subsequent error by Hempfield — meaningless as she struck out pinch-hitter Emily Schmucker to end it.

“I knew I had two options,” Uschock said referring to Sunday's loss. “I could either be really sad about it and make excuses about it and carry it over into this game. Or, I could learn from it and make a lesson out of it, and bring some positive energy into this game. … I think my whole team did that too.”

While Uschock and the defense were locked in late, the Spartans added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Senior leftfielder Allison Podkul doubled, moved to third on a tag-up and scored on an infield hit by Monzo for the 3-1 advantage.

Podkul went 2 for 3. Uschock struck out four and walked two.

“I believed in my team so I kind of knew what was going to happen,” said Uschock, a Dominican recruit. “It was a big change coming off that loss. Before, we were playing to keep a streak. And now we're starting our own streak.”

Latrobe's 1-5 hitters were a combined 1 for 11 against Uschock, who had her change-up working.

Myers, who struck out 14 Yough hitters Saturday, fanned 10 this time and walked two. The Marist recruit allowed just five hits.

“Kiley pitched a wonderful game,” Kozusko said. “It was a great game, great atmosphere, lot of fun. That's what we expect. This game is not kind to you. You have to step up when there is failure.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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