Laura Fox’s homer lifts Hempfield past Seneca Valley in Class 6A semifinals

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | 8:30 PM

Laura Fox saved the game then won it for Hempfield on Wednesday.

The senior center fielder’s diving catch preserved a scoreless tie in the bottom of the eighth, and her three-run homer in the top of the ninth was the difference in the Spartans’ 3-0 win over Seneca Valley in a WPIAL Class 6A softball semifinal at Fox Chapel.

The win kept the Spartans’ drive for a fifth straight WPIAL title alive and secured a PIAA tournament berth. No. 3 Hempfield (15-6) plays No. 1 North Allegheny (15-6) for the WPIAL crown next Wednesday or Thursday at Peterswood Park.

“It’s amazing,” Fox said. “It’s such a good feeling.”

Fox’s homer came with two outs.

“I was kind of on (pitcher Claire Zimmerman) the whole game, and I just wanted to hit something hard and at least let the runners, hopefully, try to move up,” Fox said.

However, Fox said her favorite play came in the bottom of the eighth. The Raiders’ Julia Ehrman singled with two outs. Pinch hitter Izzy Roule ripped a sinking liner to center, but Fox dived to snag the ball to end the inning.

“Diving catches are my favorite things,” Fox said. “I count on my other teammates to score runs. I like making defensive plays better.”

Hempfield had runners on base in six of the first eight innings but failed to come through with the clutch hit.

“It is frustrating, but it happens. It’s been happening all year,” Fox said. “We just have to have one good inning.”

That happened in the ninth. Hannah Pavsek drew a one-out walk. After a flyout, Callie Sowers drew a walk, as well. Then, Fox drilled the homer to left.

“She delivered. I was just hoping for a base hit that we could score a run on, and she drives in three,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said.

“I am happy for the kids. They have been working real hard. At the beginning of the year, we didn’t know what we were. People were saying we weren’t going to be that good. I told the girls to stay with it and go to work every day and we’ll get better and better and, when it really counts, we might be able to cause people some problems.”

Sowers earned the win after striking out 12 and walking one.

She limited the Raiders (15-6) to four hits.

“I think the part we were worried about the most was pitching. We’re not worried about that anymore,” Kalp said. “We have to do some more hitting. We’ll see how it goes.”

Zimmerman took the loss for Seneca Valley, which fell to Hempfield twice in section play. She struck out four and scattered six hits.

“I didn’t expect it to be 0-0 through eight innings. They can hit. We can hit,” Seneca Valley coach George Trew said. “Both pitchers just pitched extremely well.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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