Unbeaten, top-ranked Hempfield overpowers Norwin in slugfest

Wednesday, April 13, 2022 | 8:19 PM

Hempfield softball players kept barking like dogs from the dugout, a unique rallying cry implemented by first-year coach Tina Madison.

Turns out, their bark was not louder than their bite.

The top-ranked Spartans kept snarling, even as they watched three Norwin home runs sail over the fence Wednesday, and ended up outslugging the No. 5 Knights, 10-7, to remain the only undefeated team in WPIAL Class 6A.

The home win moves Hempfield to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Section 2-6A.

“We came out attacking the ball,” Madison said. “We knew Norwin had some big sticks, and they showed it. We knew this was going to be a tough game.”

Senior Sydney Mitchell had three hits, including a double. Sophomore Emily Griffith had two doubles and two RBIs, and sophomore Hannah Uhrinek added two hits and two RBIs, delivering some insurance with a solo home run in the sixth.

Hempfield led 9-3 after three innings on the strength of a six-run first.

Senior Mallory Wensel blasted two home runs and drove in four, while senior Angelina Pepe added a three-run homer for Norwin (1-4, 1-3), which has dropped three straight in a start-and-stop season plagued by unplayable conditions on its home field, which has a turf infield but a swampy, grass outfield that won’t dry up.

The game was supposed to be played at Norwin but was moved Wednesday afternoon.

Norwin was up 3-0 on one swing of the bat, a three-run blast from Wensel with two outs in the top of the first.

But Hempfield, which had seven of its 12 hits in the first, doubled that run total in the home half of the frame, batting around and getting at least one RBI or hit from every starter.

Sophomore Peyton Heisler doubled in a run, Uhrinek added a run-scoring single and freshman Allie Cervola gave the Spartans a sacrifice fly to tie it 3-3.

Griffith then ripped a two-run double and sophomore Sarah Podkul knocked in another run to make it 6-3.

Cervola added an RBI single in the second, and one of three Norwin errors allowed Hempfield to extend the lead to 8-3.

In the third, Heisler drove in another run with a groundout, following a double by Mitchell.

“We went from thinking we’re going to 10-run them to letting them back in the game,” Madison said. “That has been an issue this year. We get up and get the lead, then we get comfortable. We talk a lot about not taking our foot off the gas.”

Norwin did not go quietly.

The Knights only had five hits but three of them were mashed.Wensel’s second homer led off the fourth to get Norwin within 9-4.

After Hempfield freshman pitcher Riley Miller opened an 0-2 count against Pepe, her pitching counterpart, she missed the zone from there and reached a full count — with two outs in the fifth.

Pepe turned on a 3-2 offering and launched it well over the scoreboard in left center to cut the deficit to 9-7.

“We’ve been struggling to hit the ball,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “We hit some today. … We need to clean it up in the field. That was unfortunate. (Pepe) pitched her tail off. Mallory had a great day.”

To Miller’s credit, she retired six straight after the homer, and got some surety heading to the seventh when Uhrinek homered down the third base line for a 10-7 advantage.

Uhrinek said: “I knew our defense was playing well and we were up two. I was just trying to get a hit.”

“They got their runs from home runs,” Madison said. “Riley only gave up five hits. It’s just that she gave up the long ball. Norwin is the best-hitting team we have seen. The score doesn’t reflect how well Riley pitched.”

Miller struck out five and walked three.

Norwin had to deal with injuries to sophomore shortstop Bailey Snowberger, senior center fielder Olivia Mastrilli and junior catcher Maddie Kessler. Snowberger, who appeared to tweak her knee (she sustained a knee injury during basketball season), returned, as did Kessler, who took a scrape to the chin on a slide.

Mastrilli (ankle) left the game and did not come back.

“Hempfield is a machine that keeps going,” Mesich said. We looked like a wounded deer in headlights at times today.”

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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