Power-hitting Hampton softball squad cools down at inopportune time

Saturday, May 22, 2021 | 11:01 AM

The most prolific home run-hitting Hampton softball team in at least two decades picked a lousy time to go quiet.

The Talbots, who this season hit a “mind-boggling” number of home runs, struggled down the stretch and saw their year end with a 10-0 five-inning loss to top-seeded Penn-Trafford (15-4) last Tuesday at Gateway in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

Hampton (7-10) dropped five of its final six games in a season that sandwiched an impressive midseason surge with a tepid start and a muted finish.

“We were humming along, humming along,” coach Ron Fedell said, “and then, all of a sudden…”

Hampton scored a total of three runs in its final four games after averaging nearly 13 runs in its seven previous games. The late-season skid dropped the Talbots to the No. 16 seed and a date with perennial power Penn-Trafford. The Talbots committed two errors in a four-run first inning and never threatened the rest of the way. They finished with only three hits against the Warriors, the 2019 PIAA Class 5A champion.

“It happens to all teams and to all players,” senior shortstop Hannah Bradfield said of the Talbots’ slump.

Cold spells were rare for Bradfield. The first-team all-Section 3-5A selection hit a school-record nine home runs this season to lead the Talbots’ long-ball barrage. Junior catcher Bella Henzler, another first-team all-section pick, was right behind, blasting six home runs.

“It was crazy to see,” Fedell said. “At any given moment, either one of them could hit one out. All the home runs this year were almost mind-boggling. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 21 years.”

Hampton assistant coach Scott Breen had predicted a big season from his two sluggers after seeing their early spring swings in the batting cages.

“Coach Breen at the beginning of the season talked to me and Bella,” Bradfield said. “He said, ‘I think you are going to hit eight or 10 home runs.’ He was being serious. I said, ‘OK, coach Breen. We need to tone it down just a bit.’ It’s crazy. It was so funny. Me and Bella would joke about it.”

Sophomore third baseman Addy Maguire and freshman first baseman Mackenzie Reese also went deep during the power-filled season. One year after the covid pandemic wiped out their season, the Talbots finished with 18 home runs as a team, believed to be a school record.

“As far as sheer number of home runs, this team hit more than any other team I coached,” Fedell said. “I don’t even have to go back and look at the records.”

For a while, the playoffs looked uncertain for the Talbots. They lost five of their first seven games before Bradfield and Henzler led a midseason rally that clinched the program’s third consecutive WPIAL postseason appearance.

“We had our bumps in the beginning, but when you see how much we improved, I was so impressed,” Bradfield said. “I was a little anxious at the beginning. But seeing us progress like that, I was so happy.”

Perhaps the most improvement came from freshman pitcher Charlotte Lomb, who shook off early-season jitters to become a reliable presence on the mound. She needed stitches on her throwing hand after being hit with a line drive in an 8-7 loss to Shaler on April 28 but returned without missing a game.

“Charlotte came on strong,” Fedell said. “I’m very optimistic about next year. I think she proved to herself that she can pitch at this level. … The sky is the limit for Charlotte if she keeps improving the way she did this year.”

The Talbots will graduate three starters — Bradfield, left fielder Arianna Erka and infielder Caitlin McCarthy.

Along with James Madison-bound Henzler, Lomb, Maguire and Reese, the Talbots also return junior right fielder Carolyn Kuzniewski, freshman designated hitter Abby Dittrich, freshman center fielder Jessica Lange and junior Shannon Shaughnessy, among others.

“We had young people in key positions, and they are only going to get better,” Fedell said. “Next year, they will know what to expect. You know, it’s hard when you have freshmen going against 18-year-olds. But I don’t think our kids were intimidated for the most part. They came to play every day. They played hard, and that’s all I can ask from them.”


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