Hempfield softball team rights ship, beats North Allegheny

Wednesday, April 19, 2023 | 8:37 PM

Hempfield is back on track.

Though the Spartans are not out to assign blame for a loss to Norwin earlier this week that could strip them of their No. 1 ranking — more credit goes to Norwin’s hitters — they were willing to shake things up a bit to right a wrong.

With a number of defensive changes in place, Hempfield rebounded Wednesday with a 9-2 victory over No. 4 North Allegheny in a Class 6A softball game at Robert D. Kalp Field.

The error-free result was a reset for the Spartans (10-2, 7-2).

“We washed it away,” Hempfield coach Tina Madison said of Monday’s 10-8 loss to Norwin, which saw the Spartans score five times in the seventh before their comeback finally flamed out. “The thing is, the kids who have success take losses to heart. What makes you a champion is how you come back. We came back ready to play.”

Junior Emily Griffith, freshman Clair Mitchell and senior Mia Bandieramonte had two hits each, with Griffith, Bandieramonte and junior Peyton Heisler driving in two runs each for Hempfield, winners of 8 of 9.

North Allegheny, which fell to 8-4, 5-3, has lost 3 of 4.

The game was scoreless into the third, but North Allegheny lost two popups in the glaring sun, and the errors allowed Hempfield to build a 3-0 lead.

Heisler lofted a two-run single to shallow left, and Griffith was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

The big inning for Hempfield was the fourth, when it racked up six runs.

After junior Maggie Howard knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice, freshman Lauren Howard ripped a run-scoring double. That built up to Bandieramonte’s pinch-hit smash: a two-run homer to deep center to make it 7-0.

“This is a really important win,” Bandieramonte said. “It sets up the rest of the season for us. This was a lot better than the first NA game.”

Bandieramonte, who was 2 for 2, was one of the defensive changes after Hempfield made four errors against Norwin.

Madison went with freshman Ella Berkebile at catcher, moved sophomore Alli Cervola to shortstop and played Lauren Howard at third, where Bandieramonte played last game.

The new-look starting lineup did not commit an error.

“Look at what Mia did,” Madison said. “She’s pulled off the field, she doesn’t start and is asked to pinch hit. What does that say about the kid?”

Bandieramonte agreed with the fielding changes.

“It wasn’t bad at all,” she said. “I wanted to be able to help in other ways. They tell me I swing too hard sometimes. I swung hard at (the home run).”

North Allegheny edged Hempfield earlier in the season 1-0 in a game called after six innings because of inclement weather and field conditions in McCandless.

Fundamentals helped Hempfield start up the offense.

“We had to bunt today, and we did that,” Madison said. “I thought that kind of got us going. We’re going to need to be able to do that.”

A sacrifice bunt by Cervola and a bunt single by junior Maggie Howard led to the first two runs.

“We had better at-bats,” Bandieramonte said.

The Tigers went to a new pitcher in the fourth, swapping Sammy Plotsko for Anne Melle. But Hempfield wasn’t done scoring in the inning.

Griffith followed a wild pitch with an RBI single to right, and Mitchell singled to make it 9-0.

“This is a game you have to be up for,” North Allegheny coach Morgan Vescovi said. “I don’t think Hempfield is ever going to be vulnerable, no matter what happens. We needed to make those plays in the field and make better contact.”

The Tigers managed seven hits, six of them singles.

Hempfield used two pitchers for the second straight game. Sophomore Riley Miller went five innings, allowing four hits and striking out six, before freshman Julia Verhola came on to finish.

Verhola allowed three hits and two runs in the seventh — both scores came on groundouts — but worked out of trouble to close it out.

“It’s a long season. We’re playing three games a week,” Madison said. “If something happens, you have to have (backups) ready to go. Julia is going to be a big part of the program in the future. There are a lot of moving parts. We were sharper today. Our defense was more precise.”

Junior Caitlin Logan went 2 for 3, and Plotsko doubled for the Tigers.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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