Sowers throws no-hitter as Hempfield wins 5th straight WPIAL softball championship
Thursday, May 30, 2019 | 4:53 PM
Laura Fox fell asleep on the bus ride to Peters Township on Thursday before the WPIAL Class 6A softball championship game.
The Hempfield senior said she dreamed she hit a home run, and the Spartans won the title.
Fox’s dream came true.
Hempfield captured its seventh WPIAL title and fifth consecutive, and Fox played a key role.
She hit a two-run homer in the top of the second inning and added an RBI double to help Hempfield whitewash No. 1 North Allegheny, 15-0, in four innings.
The victory put the Spartans in a tie with Sto-Rox (2000-04) for most consecutive softball championships.
“I knew we were capable of winning again,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t expect us to win. I felt it would be closely contested, and we’d come out on top.”
The Spartans (16-6) advance to the PIAA tournament, which begins 5 p.m. Monday at Seton Hill against the District 3 third-place team, either Dallastown (15-7) or Chambersburg (16-6).
North Allegheny (15-7) will face the District 3 champion, either Warwick (18-3) or Central Dauphin (20-2). The Tigers, after starting the season 9-0, are 6-7 in their past 13 games.
The Tigers defeated the Spartans, 11-6, on March 28 and 4-3 at North Allegheny on April 17. Hempfield has won 10 of its past 11 games after starting the season 6-5.
Since that last loss to NA, Hempfield has been a different team.
“We’ve been improving week-by-week since the middle of the season and since we last played them,” Kalp said. “The last time it was a 4-3 game and we made a couple of mistakes, and I knew we’d have a shot at them if we continued to work.”
Fox and her teammates were wide awake while facing North Allegheny senior pitcher Ashley Adams in the opening innings.
Fox was awarded first base on catcher’s interference and Jessica Person reached when NA failed to make a play on her bunt.
Emma Hoffner, who drove in the game-winning run in the state title game last year, laced a single to score Fox. Ashley Orischak, whose home run defeated Nazareth in the PIAA semifinals a year ago, lined a two-run single to make it 3-0 in the top of the first.
Hoffner had three hits and two RBIs.
The Hempfield offense provided the runs, and sophomore pitcher Callie Sowers did her job quieting the North Allegheny bats. She didn’t allow a hit while striking out five and walking one — Rachel Martindale to lead off the fourth inning.
She then got Regan Brodine to hit into a double play and forced Kristen Chomes to fly out to end the game. North Allegheny didn’t get a ball into the outfield.
“We needed to get Laura on base to begin the game, and we did. We ended up scoring three runs,” Kalp said. “That was huge. I thought it was really important that we got the lead in the game, and then Callie did her job.”
The Spartans batted around in the second inning and scored seven times to extend the lead to 10-0. Sowers got things started with a triple.
Fox then stepped up and launched a home run over the left-field fence to make it 5-0. Fox hit a three-run homer in the ninth to defeat Seneca Valley in the semifinals.
“They beat us earlier this season, so we had to take this game seriously and get in the right mental state and then do what we do every day,” Orischak said. “Our mindset was good.”
The hits continued to come as Olivia Persin singled home two runs, and Taylor LaVale doubled home two more as Hempfield built a 10-0 lead.
“Once Laura hit the home run, it was all downhill from there,” Kalp said. “Then we got some key hits and started hitting the ball really hard. It makes a difference.”
Fox said she was looking for a single and made good contact.
A starter for the past three seasons, Fox said believing in the system and listening to the coaches plays a key role in Hempfield’s success.
“At the beginning of the season, Coach Kalp told us keep working hard in practice every day,” Fox said. “Keep taking the reps, focus and preparation and don’t get ahead of yourself.”
Hempfield batted around in the fourth inning, scoring five times on four hits and two North Allegheny errors. The Tigers committed four errors in the game. Kelsi Terzolino, Fox and Hoffner had RBIs in the inning and two more scored on a throwing error by Martindale.
Now the Spartans can try to win a fourth straight state title.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .