Strong start lifts Penn-Trafford to rare mercy-rule victory over Hempfield
By: Bill Beckner Jr.
Friday, April 5, 2019 | 9:18 PM
There is something about Penn-Trafford softball and games against Hempfield at Seton Hill.
The Warriors ended the mighty Spartans’ 46-game winning streak on the college turf a year ago, and they flat out thumped the three-time defending PIAA champions in the nonsection rematch.
Using a lengthy, nine-run first inning to cast a long shadow, Penn-Trafford mercy-ruled the Spartans, 12-2, in five innings on a rainy and grey Friday afternoon in Greensburg.
Penn-Trafford, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, improved to 5-0. Hempfield, the four-time defending WPIAL champions and the fourth-ranked team in 6A, moved to 3-3.
Penn-Trafford has developed a reputation as a barrel-on-the-ball team, and did not disappoint with a no-doubter against the cross-county power.
“It’s our hitting,” Warriors coach Denny Little said. “It keeps getting better and better. We don’t over-blow an opponent or make one game bigger than another. Just go out and play.”
Little did call last year’s 7-3 win over Hempfield “The Game of the Century,” an after-the-fact label that he said helped motivate his team to play the Spartans again.
“Coach (Bob) Kalp does such a great job with that program,” Little said. “You watch, he’ll have them right back where they need to be. We want our program to be like theirs.”
It was the Spartans’ first 10-run loss since 2014, when North Allegheny beat them, 13-3.
“We’ve taken some butt-whoopings before and this one is right up there,” Kalp said. “State College 15-runned us one year. NA 10-runned us. Today, that was probably one of the worst individual innings we’ve had, and I have been doing this a lot of years.”
Hempfield took a 2-0 lead in the first on run-scoring singles from sophomore catcher Emma Hoffner and junior shortstop Olivia Persin. But the bottom of the inning brought mistakes from Hempfield and fluid offense from Penn-Trafford. Nearly 40 minutes after the home half of the inning began, the Warriors’ route was on.
They sent 14 hitters to the plate, took advantage of five walks, two wild pitches and a passed ball, and scattered five hits to take a 9-2 advantage after one.
“One of our girls said we needed to work their pitcher,” Little said. “I said, no, the first pitch you see, go after it. We don’t work pitchers, we swing.”
Hempfield sophomore pitcher Callie Sowers was pulled with no outs after her wild pitch with the bases loaded allowed the tying run to score to make it 2-2.
Sowers later returned, but was replaced for the time being by junior Kylie Saus, who gave up seven runs in the first. It was 5-2 before the first out after a bases-loaded, two-run single by junior third baseman Jess Lichota.
Sophomore center fielder Brooke Cleland added a two-run double to make it 9-2.
Hempfield finally wiggled out of the mess when senior Laura Fox made an exceptional catch in center, the ball squeezed into the tip of her glove on a shot from sophomore Emma Little.
Little, in turn, added a web gem of her own in the third with a diving grab against the fence in right.
“Even though we had the big inning we knew we had to keep at it,” Cleland said. “We knew Hempfield could come back so we had to keep hitting. We said, we’re not done.”
And they weren’t.
Junior left fielder Bailey Perin ripped an RBI double in the second for a 10-2 lead and, after a scoreless third, the Warriors added the mercy-rule stamp with two more scores in the fourth. Facing Sowers again, senior catcher Carlee Lamacz doubled and scored on a wild pitch, and senior Emma Armstrong brought home the 12th run with a one-out single.
Cleland finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs, Armstrong went 2 for 3 with two runs, and Lichota was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
Hoffner had two of the four hits Hempfield managed against Warriors’ pitcher Morgan Hilty.
“I told the kids forget about it and move on,” Kalp said. “That was quite a swing from (Thursday’s 4-0 win over Pine-Richland). We didn’t make any errors in that game. We don’t have a lot of hitting right now. We’ll work at it.”
Penn-Trafford has outscored its last three opponents, 35-7.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .