Pieces in place for Hempfield softball’s quest for 6th straight WPIAL crown

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020 | 7:08 PM


Even by Hempfield’s lofty standards, last year was somewhat of a surprise.

The Lady Spartans started slow, took a pair of haymakers to the chin from North Allegheny and Penn-Trafford and looked like they might be in for a slow climb to get into playoff form again, let alone title-winning form.

But this was Hempfield, arguably the premier softball program in the state for the last half-decade — a dynasty by all accounts. This was Hempfield, a program that performs at its lethal best in the playoffs.

All the Spartans did was rally to win their fifth consecutive WPIAL title, the second straight in Class 6A, and reach the PIAA semifinals.

“Last year was probably the best of my career,” said Kalp, 74, who is set to begin his 24th season leading the program. “I didn’t know what would happen after we started like that. I didn’t know how good we’d be. We ket getting better.”

Hempfield dismantled top-seeded North Allegheny, 15-0, in four innings, in the WPIAL final. Sowers did not allow a hit, while the Spartans batted around on the way to tying Sto-Rox for the most WPIAL titles in a row.

A record sixth straight title looks attainable, especially with the junior battery of Callie Sowers and Emma Hoffner back.

Hempfield just restocks the shelves.

Sowers, a hard-throwing righthander who was outstanding in the postseason, was 18-6 with a 2.29 ERA and 121 strikeouts in her first year in the circle.

Hoffner, a clutch hitter and stealthy catcher, batted .519 with a team-best 41 hits — including 10 doubles — and 27 RBIs.

“I think we exceeded a lot of expectations last year,” said Hoffner, an Ohio commit. “But we didn’t exceed our expectations. We really wanted a state championship. I am sure people won’t expect as much from us again, but we’re going to be ready. Like Coach Kalp says, ‘Commit to the process.’”

Kalp said both players have worked hard in the offseason and can be a formidable pair for opponents. He thinks Sowers also can be a force with a bat.

“It really is a process,” Sowers said. “We started slow last year but kept getting better. I feel like I learned a lot from last year.”

Hempfield, which finished 18-7 last season, has an amazing record since its championship reign began in 2015. The Spartans are 114-15 with four 20-win seasons and three PIAA titles in the last four years.

They also have five straight section titles.

The program has seven WPIAL titles overall — four in Class 4A and one in 3A.

“Like always, if I can get them to play as well as they can, I have done my job,” Kalp said. “We have the potential to be pretty good, but a lot of things have to go our way. We have to be sharp with the fundamentals and I will make sure we work on those things (repeatedly).”

Replacing center fielder Laura Fox, who now is at Pitt-Johnstown, and dependable second baseman Jessica Persin (Saint Vincent) will be the Spartans’ biggest challenge.

“At Hempfield, there is always someone ready to compete,” Hoffner said. “Our younger girls are working hard to make an impact.”

Senior Emma Glossner is back at first base, junior Kelsi Terzolino will move to second base – pending her return from an injury – and sure-handed senior Olivia Persin is the shortstop.

Senior Ansley Simmen is the third baseman.

The Spartans are looking for full-timers in the outfield, although Kalp said senior Ashley Orischak is the likely replacement for Fox in center. She could, however, be a fill-in at second for Terzolino, who had the game-winning hit in a 2-1 WPIAL first-round win against Baldwin.

Sophomore Sydney Mitchell could make her mark in the outfield and Kalp said he has some sophomores who could make a difference.

“We have six spots filled out,” Kalp said, “unless someone falls on their face.”

Not likely at Hempfield.

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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