Hempfield softball team looks to win first title since 2019
Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | 5:06 PM
Despite its championship pedigree and reoccurring reign at the top — seven WPIAL titles, including five in a row from 2015-19 — Hempfield hasn’t won one in a while.
In fact, none of the current players have been to the WPIAL finals. They don’t know what it is like to play at Lilley Field in California.
But the Spartans (17-3) will get their first look at the title game and its pageantry at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday when they take on top-seeded Seneca Valley (17-1) for the Class 6A title.
“I have been waiting since I started playing high school softball for the chance to get to the finals,” junior outfielder Peyton Heisler said. “To have the chance to win a title is amazing.”
The Spartans fell behind 5-1 against Norwin as the Knights clubbed three home runs.
But it was tied 5-5 by the third inning as the Spartans scored seven unanswered runs, including a three-run homer by Heisler that got the Spartans to within 5-4.
Sophomore pitcher Riley Miller struck out 13 in the win and allowed only one hit after the second inning.
“Peyton’s homer got us back in the game,” Miller said. “We knew it would be a rough game, but we never got down on ourselves. We wanted to get to the championship.”
Hempfield edged Seneca Valley earlier in the season, 3-2, before falling to the Raiders, 3-0, in a section finale that decided the section title.
Sophomore pitcher Lexie Hames can be overpowering, as Hempfield found out when it fanned 18 times against Hames in the second meeting.
“We played competitively with them,” Heisler said. “We just have to have the right mindset and do what we’ve been doing. I don’t think we need to change anything. (Hames) is very good. But it’s just softball.”
“We have to learn how to hit a riseball,” she said. “It usually comes down to which team makes a mistake. We don’t want it to be us.”
Madison, a 2001 Hempfield graduate, made the WPIAL finals twice as a player, so she can provide some sense of what is to come.
“You have to be well prepared,” Madison said. “It’s like anything else: an exam, an event in your life. You feel better about it when you’re prepared.”
More recently, Hempfield assistant coach Ali Belgiovane won three WPIAL titles with the Spartans from 2015-17.
Hempfield tweaked its lineup against Norwin, moving freshman Claire Mitchell to the leadoff spot and batting Heisler third. The moves were based on past performances against Norwin.
Mitchell delivered a triple, and Heisler had four RBIs.
That means there could be moving parts going into the final. Whatever gives the Spartans their best chance to win.
“My husband and I were up all night talking about what we should do,” Madison said. “We have some options, which is nice.”
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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