Ligonier Valley softball rallies to upset Hopewell

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Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | 10:42 PM


For five-plus innings, it was an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel that seemed to set the game back to a time when the circle was 40 feet away from home plate instead of 43.

A time when hits were sparse and foul tips were an accomplishment.

But when offense finally showed up in the sixth and seventh Tuesday, Ligonier Valley showed it didn’t just come to play, it came to win.

After flailing and chasing pitches all afternoon and barely getting the bat on the ball against Hopewell junior pitcher Mya Parish, the No. 11-seeded Rams erupted for four runs in the top of the seventh to stun the No. 6 Vikings, 4-2, in a WPIAL Class 3A first-round matchup Tuesday at Plum.

With momentum, the Rams (9-7) advance to play No. 3 Waynesburg (15-3) in the quarterfinals Thursday.

Hopewell (10-7) had just cracked the code against Rams’ junior ace Cheyenne Piper as junior Ava Compton laced a two-run homer to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead heading to the seventh.

Piper, who took a no-hitter into the sixth but settled for the no-way win, struck out 16 and Parish 14 in a defensive struggle that was turned on its ear in the seventh.

“We went back to basics,” said Piper, who pitched a two-hitter and did not walk anyone in her first playoff win. “We were up in our heads (after the home run), but we settled down. I said, ‘I want it. Do you?’”

Sophomore Sydnee Foust, Piper’s battery mate, led off the seventh with a single. Junior Neve Dowden followed with another one. Then came a hit from senior Payton LaValle to make it 2-1 with no outs.

Suddenly, here came the Rams.

“I kept telling them, stay in the zone and maybe get a couple walks,” Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman said. “We ended up getting a couple singles. That’s how it worked. We didn’t know much about Hopewell or their pitcher, but I knew we weren’t coming in here expecting a slugfest.”

Freshman Abigail Springer stepped in next and grounded out to score courtesy runner Allison Heffelfinger to tie it 2-2.

Hopewell continued to unravel.

Freshman Adelynn Witcoski reached on an infield single and stole second, but Parish issued a walk to freshman Maggie Peters to load the bases with two outs.

Another walk followed to senior Ruby Wallace and the Rams took a 3-2 lead.

Piper then singled to increase the advantage to 4-2.

“I thought we needed to keep our foot on the gas,” Hopewell coach Ronda Koblek said. “We let down a little and didn’t finish it. Once we hit two runs … we can’t just be happy with that.”

The home half of the seventh remained, but Piper struck out the side with confidence.

“It’s a mental game,” Piper said. “We had muscle memory to get to them. We kept after it.”

Said Zimmerman: “Cheyenne hits her spots. She got down after the home run but came right back.”

Hopewell has never won a playoff game. The Vikings shared a section title with Mohawk and Central Valley, their first title since 1988.

They had not been to the playoffs since 2017.

“The girls are growing and learning,” Koblek said. “We’ll come back stronger next year.”

Parish allowed six hits and walked three.

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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