Hot-hitting Hempfield softball begins state title defense with mercy-rule win

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Monday, June 3, 2019 | 9:24 PM


Hempfield’s softball lineup, and the team’s offense in general, has been a steady progression from the start of the season through the state playoffs.

It may just be 23-year veteran coach Bob Kalp’s greatest work in progress, and it’s rounding into form at just the right time.

With each win, it seems, more hitters get into the act and contribute to the team’s run scoring and breakout innings.

The WPIAL title-game win over North Allegheny proved that, but Monday’s PIAA Class 6A playoff opener was even more validation.

The Spartans got at least one hit from nine batters and racked up 18 hits for a busy boxscore, in a 13-3, six-inning victory over Chambersburg at Seton Hill.

That makes back-to-back mercy-ruled wins in the playoffs. Hempfield beat North Allegheny, 15-0, in four innings to claim its fifth consecutive WPIAL title and seventh overall. This is a team that had gotten used to winning with late drama. Now, it’s run-ruling teams.

“We’ve been stringing a lot of hits together,” said senior second baseman Jessica Persin, who blasted a three-run home run to break Monday’s game open. “We’ve had more girls step up.”

Hempfield (17-6) took a step toward an unprecedented fourth consecutive state title. The Spartans will face District 10 champion McDowell (18-5) on Thursday in the quarterfinals at a time and site to be determined.

A state opener that looked somewhat foggy early after Chambersburg, the third-place team from District 3, tied it 3-3, turned into clear sailing after the offense figured out Trojans sophomore pitcher Mackenzie Stake.

“We work hard every day to be able to hit like that,” Spartans junior designated player Taylor LaVale, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs. “We put in the time in practice.”

Chambersburg was primed to snap a two-game losing streak against Hempfield — the teams have played three times in the last four years in the state bracket — and the Trojans began to warm up to Hempfield sophomore ace Callie Sowers after the Spartans built a 3-1 lead after two innings.

After RBI singles by sophomore catcher Emma Hoffner and LaVale gave Hempfield early control, Chambersburg senior Alyssa Wegner ripped an RBI double before freshman teammate Alyssa Brechbill tied it with a single to right.

The Trojans, though, left the bases jammed in the third.

“Toward the end of the game, (Sowers) got more of a grip on things,” Kalp said. “We needed to give her some help.” The third inning was the turbo boost Sowers needed. The Spartans put up six runs, including a double by LaVale, a squeeze-bunt RBI by sophomore left fielder Kelsi Terzolino and Persin’s blast to deep left, her second homer of the season.

Suddenly, it was 9-3.

“That was big because it gave us that cushion,” Kalp said of the homer. “Callie was struggling with her control a little bit, but that big lead helped her settle in. That gave us some room.”

Terzolino and junior shortstop Olivia Persin each had three hits. Terzolino scored three times.

“(The home run) have us more momentum,” Jessica Persin said. “It gave us more confidence to finish the game. We knew it was in the bag at that point.”

Chamberburg, which forced an uncharacteristic three Hempfield errors, turned a double play in the fifth. Hempfield had one thanks to junior right fielder Ashley Orischak in the first. But the momentum did not follow the offense as the Trojans struggled to move runners into scoring position over the last three innings. Chambersburg lost to Hempfield in the 2016 and ‘17 semifinals.

Hempfield extended the margin to seven with a run-scoring double by LaVale, and senior third baseman Hanna Pavsek made it 11-3 with an RBI single in the home half of the sixth off reliever Erin Patillo.

The Trojans had a tough go playing on turf for the first time this season, committing six errors and handing the Spartans seven unearned runs.

Laura Fox singled with the bases loaded and Persin lined a shot back to Patillo for an infield single to cap the run-ruled, 13-3 score with one out in the sixth.

Persin finished with four RBIs, and Orischak and Pavsek each had two hits.

“Our hitting has come along,” Kalp said. “I don’t know if it’s all us or some bad pitching too. We’ll go on to the next one.”

Sowers struck out six and gave up six hits while improving to 4-0 in the postseason.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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