Hempfield softball responds in big way after falling behind early, downs Norwin

Friday, April 23, 2021 | 9:58 PM

With its first three hitters, Norwin began the day double, home run, home run in its Section 2-6A softball clash Friday at Hempfield.

The Knights had a three-run lead before some fans beyond the outfield fence got settled into their lawn chairs and covered themselves with blankets.

It looked like the No. 2-ranked Knights were going to have their way, but the Spartans had other ideas, rallying from a pair of early deficits and using some home run pop to earn a 10-5 victory.

Senior catcher Emma Hoffner belted two home runs, the second coming in the fifth moments after senior pitcher Callie Sowers homered, to push the lead to 7-4.

The Spartans (7-3, 3-2) have won four of five, and Norwin (7-2, 4-1) had a four-game winning streak stopped.

“We’re getting more confidence as a hitting team,” said Hoffner, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs. “Everyone is doing their job.”

With Hempfield down early, coach Bob Kalp reminded his team of some recent program folklore.

“In the (2018) state championship, we were down 3-0 (to Parkland) in the first,” Kalp said. “Only our seniors probably remember that. What happened there? We kept playing and got it done. It can happen.”

Norwin jumped out to a 3-0 lead as senior Bailee Bertani, playing her first game since an injury, led off with a double, and senior Liz Waszkiewicz and sophomore Madie Kessler sent back-to-back homers out of Robert D. Kalp Field.

But Hempfield quickly answered with three runs in the second to tie it. Freshman Hannah Uhrinek singled in a run, and freshman Olivia Grimmer followed with a two-run double to deep left.

“That was a big one,” Kalp said. “It could have been easy to quit after a start like that. But they kept going after it.”

The Knights went ahead 4-3 on a run-scoring single by senior Sydney Lokay, who went 4 for 4.

Hoffner’s solo shot in the third cleared the scoreboard in center to make it 4-4.

“She’s been hot the last seven games,” Kalp said of Hoffner.

In the fourth, senior Kelsi Terzolino lined a single to center to put the Spartans ahead 5-4 before the home team put up three more runs in the fifth on the homers from Sowers and Hoffner. Suddenly, a home run derby broke out.

Sophomore Olivia Orischak, Hoffner and Uhrinek drove in insurance runs to make it 10-4.

“That’s two games in a row like that for us,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. We have to be able to reset and take care of business.”

Hoffner also homered Thursday against Baldwin.

“I have been working on hitting more than I could possibly imagine,” Hoffner said. “I needed a game like that. When we’re down … yeah, that hurts. But there’s not other team that I think does anything better when we’re down like that.”

Uhrinek, who had handled the brunt of the pitching duties before Sowers returned recently from broken thumb, had two hits and two RBIs.

“Lot of pressure on her as a freshman,” Kalp said. “But she has handled it well.”

Sowers settled in after the rough opening inning. She gave up 12 hits but struck out six and allowed only one Norwin baserunner to reach third after Hempfield took the lead for good.

“After we got out of that inning, we pumped each other up in the dugout,” Sowers said. “Once we got some hits on the board, it was a new ball game, and we were ready to play again.

“You have to dial back in. It is a big confidence booster when we’re hitting home runs, for everyone in the lineup. Hitting is contagious.”

Norwin played without junior Angelina Pepe, who was unavailable for the game and could miss more playing time. Lokay pitched a complete game Thursday in a win over Seneca Valley and worked all seven innings Friday. Pepe often shares time in the circle but was not available out of the bullpen.

“We usually have that 1-2 punch, but we don’t have that now,” Mesich said. “Sydney threw a lot of pitches (Thursday), and she’s been great. She’s playing all-state right now. (Pepe) helps us with the bat, too, so it’s like a double whammy. We’ll have to adapt and adjust.”

Junior Mallory Wensel had two hits, including a double, for the Knights.

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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