Howard sisters lead Hempfield softball past Mifflin County in PIAA opener

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Monday, June 5, 2023 | 4:02 PM


Sisters Maggie and Lauren Howard are a couple of years apart in age and class, but they look alike, talk alike and, to Hempfield’s delight, play alike.

The Hempfield siblings had a key impact on Monday morning’s PIAA Class 6A playoff opener against visiting Mifflin County, combining to go 4 for 5 with an RBI and three runs scored as the WPIAL champion Spartans won 5-0 at Robert D. Kalp Field.

Lauren Howard, a freshman third baseman, went 2 for 2 with a double and three runs, and Maggie Howard, a junior outfielder, had two hits as the Spartans (19-3) moved into the quarterfinals Thursday to play either Central Dauphin (20-2) or Downington East (21-3) at a time and site to be determined.

“We did a pretty good job today,” said Maggie Howard, a Georgetown commit. “We play everyone in our section twice, but we didn’t know much about this team. It was great to be able to play at home.”

The win was Hempfield’s first in the state tournament since 2019.

“We tried to just treat this as a normal game,” Lauren Howard said. “Just a regular Monday game.”

Hempfield had 10 hits against pitcher Madison Wolfgang, who helped the Huskies (12-9) win the District 6 title.

Hempfield was looking to stay sharp and avoid a WPIAL hangover after capturing its eighth WPIAL title Wednesday with a 2-1 win over defending champion Seneca Valley.

After playing deep into the night Wednesday, the Spartans were up early for the state opener, which started at 11 a.m. because Mifflin County had graduation.

“It was tough to come out and play today after we won (the WPIAL title),” Hempfield coach Tina Madison said. “We weren’t as sharp as I wanted, but we took care of business. It took some of the pressure off playing at home.”

The Spartans scored in four of the first five innings.

An error brought in the first run in the first, and Maggie Howard made it 2-0 with an RBI single in the second.

Junior Sarah Podkul singled to lead off the frame.

Junior Emily Griffith grounded into a fielder’s choice with two on in the third for a 3-0 advantage.

Lauren Howard doubled, and junior Peyton Heisler singled with one out in the fifth to produce another run in, and Griffith’s chopper down the third-base line made it 5-0.

Mifflin County had three hits but left seven on base, including runners at second and third in the fifth.

Spartans pitcher Riley Miller induced a groundout to quell that threat, and she struck out Faylyn Reinard with two on in the sixth.

Miller (17-3) struck out eight and walked three in the complete-game shutout.

“We want to keep winning and go for the state title,” Maggie Howard said. “We had fire trucks welcome us back the night we won, and we had ice cream at Frosty Shack, but we’re kind of waiting to celebrate winning the championship.”

Sophia McCurdy had two hits to lead the Huskies.

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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