Hempfield softball stays unbeaten in victory over North Allegheny
Thursday, April 28, 2022 | 9:05 PM
A day after moving into the state softball rankings, Hempfield was out to show it belonged there again.
The Spartans looked the part in an efficient, 1 hour, 20-minute victory against visiting North Allegheny.
The top-ranked team in WPIAL Class 6A and fourth-ranked team in the state got a lift from the bottom of its batting order and strong work from its freshman pitcher and defense to come out ahead 4-2 on Thursday in Section 2-6A action at Kalp Field.
The first-place Spartans moved to 9-0 overall and 7-0 in section. The win was their 10th straight at home.
Riley Miller earned the complete-game win, striking out six and walking two, while helping her cause with a solo home run and two RBIs.
Working ahead in counts and pounding the strike zone, she forced nine groundouts and five flyouts against a potent Tigers lineup that was limited to five hits, the same number Hempfield had, only the Spartans produced three doubles and Miller’s homer.
Hempfield first-year coach Tina Madison will take the win, but she wasn’t altogether pleased with the production of her team. While the Spartans only left three on base — a far cry from the 16 they left stranded in a 3-2 win over Butler — she wanted more from the brow of the order.
“Usually the top of our lineup is fire,” Madison said. “It wasn’t as good today, but the back end was really good. And so was our defense.”
But isn’t that the mark of a good team: one part of the order picking up another?
“I knew our girls were going to get up for a team like NA. They’re NA,” Madison said. “They’re a big rival for us and such a good program. I want to teach them to finish. This is 6A. You let a couple girls on base, and you’re a swing away from giving up the lead.”
Spartans senior Sydney Mitchell tied it 1-1 with a run-scoring double off the fence in the bottom of the first.
Miller, who hits eighth, ripped an opposite-field solo shot to right center with two outs in the second for a 2-1 lead.
The Spartans then worked out of trouble in the third when North Allegheny (7-4, 3-3), which has dropped 4 of its last 6, put two on with two outs. The runners reached on an error and a walk.
But freshman Sammy Plotsko, who had an RBI earlier, lined out to sophomore Sarah Podkul, who made a leaping grab at second.
The Tigers tied it 2-2 in the fourth, though, as freshman McKenna Rowlands singled, senior Reagan Dietrick walked and junior Sadie Kelly singled.
Kelly’s hit took an odd bounce off the infield dirt, which disrupted sophomore shortstop Olivia Grimmer from fielding the ball cleanly.
A two-run fourth put Hempfield in front to stay. Sophomore Hannah Uhrinek walked and moved to second on a sacrifice.
Freshman catcher Allie Cervola then singled to left before Grimmer, the No. 7 hitter, roped a double to the base of the fence in left center for an RBI.
Miller’s sacrifice fly to center made it 4-2.
Uhrinek also had a double but was left on base.
North Allegheny didn’t get a runner to second the rest of the game.
“They’re a good team, and they have a quality program,” North Allegheny coach Morgan Vescovi said. “We fell short, but we know we could have played a better game with them. We’re starting to learn our opponents as we go. That is the first time we saw them. We didn’t know (Miller), and now we do. We have to make adjustments for the next game against them.”
While it did have one error, Hempfield was mostly sound defensively.
“Our defense was really good,” Miller said. “We’re all there for each other. If (the top of the order isn’t producing), we’re there to step up and do the job.”
Junior Meghan McDonough had two hits, and senior Alaina Whipkey tripled for the Tigers.
Hempfield has clinched its seventh straight playoff berth. Third-place North Allegheny is closing in on a postseason spot.
“We have only seen one team in our section twice,” Vescovi said. “We have a lot of games left to play. We have four section games next week.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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