Westmoreland high school notebook: Hempfield softball looks to join elite club

Sunday, May 26, 2019 | 9:27 PM

As if Hempfield wasn’t already considered to be among the elite of WPIAL softball, the Spartans can hit a high point this week if they pull off another WPIAL championship.

If Hempfield (15-6) wins the Class 6A final Thursday it will tie Sto-Rox’s district record with five consecutive titles. Hempfield, the No. 3 seed, faces No. 1 North Allegheny (15-6) at 4:30 p.m. at Peterswood Park in Peters Township.

Sto-Rox won five straight titles in Class A from 2000-04.

Baldwin and Sto-Rox are tied for the most WPIAL titles in the sport, with 10. Chartiers-Houston has eight, and Hempfield and Riverside have six apiece.

Hempfield won one championship in 3A and three in 4A.

Baldwin won four Class 3A titles in a row from 1993-96 and nine in a 12-year span. And Swissvale took home four consecutive Class 2A titles from 1979-82.

Hempfield showed more late-game heroics in the postseason to get past Seneca Valley, 3-0, in the semifinals Wednesday.

All it took was one swing this time. No small ball necessary.

Senior Laura Fox hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning for the Spartans, who needed a walk-off hit from sophomore Kelsi Terzolino to defeat Baldwin in the quarterfinals, 2-1.

“We all know the feeling of winning the championship, and we will do anything to get that feeling back,” sophomore catcher Emma Hoffner said. “We’re always finding a way.”

As for veteran coach Bob Kalp, tying the record for consecutive titles is several bullet points down on his priority list.

Getting prepared for one game, the next game, and taking care of North Allegheny is all that matters to the 74-year-old coach.

“I will worry about (the record) when I’m retired and in my 80s,” Kalp said.

All relative

Steve Scorpion thinks he could be better at golf if he played more. Basketball is Scorpion’s game and is what occupies much of the Franklin Regional boys coach’s time.

But golf, a natural athletic ability, is in his blood. Not only is Scorpion the grandson of Pirates legend Dick Groat, but he also is a second cousin to four-time major winner and No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, Brooks Koepka.

Groat and Koepka’s grandmother are brother and sister. Admittedly, Scorpion has not had interactions with Koepka in several years.

“When we were younger they would come to family functions and come up in the summer,” Scorpion said of Koepka and his family. “I bought his grandma’s car from them and Brooks and his dad drove it up and met me.”

That distance between the cousins has not stopped Scorpion from supporting a family member, especially around major championship time. Koepka recently won his second straight PGA Championship and last year repeated as U.S. Open champion.

“Everyone in our family always roots for him, and we always talk about how well he’s doing,” Scorpion said. “A few years ago when the U.S. Open was at Oakmont, Brooks’ dad and step-mom stayed with me at my grandpa’s house and I was living there at the time.”

Ultimate warrior

Franklin Regional senior Thomas Merante was an efficient shooter last season for the Franklin Regional basketball team. He also has been pretty good at throwing a frisbee.

Merante was named MVP of the Pittsburgh High School Ultimate Frisbee League championship, which Franklin Regional won, 12-6, over Pine-Richland at Highmark Stadium. Merante had seven assists and six blocks for the Panthers, who finished 13-0 after their third title.

Recruiting buzz

Greensburg Central Catholic senior Bryce Kurpiel initially planned to take a preferred walk-on offer to play football at St. Francis (Pa.). He still will attend the college but he has redirected his athletic efforts to track.

Kurpiel, who is from Ligonier, accepted a preferred walk-on for that sport instead.

“I talked to the coaches a few weeks back,” he said.

Kurpiel battled injuries throughout his three-sport career at GCC. He missed seven games last football season and did not play baseball this year so he could focus on track as a sprinter.

• Franklin Regional senior Jordan Yaniga committed to play at Point Park. She was one of the top players in Class 5A last season as she helped the Panthers post their first playoff win since 2013 and finish 17-7.

• Fintan Brose continues to pull in the Division I football offers. Ohio, Richmond and Villanova are the latest suitors looking to snag the 6-foot-3, 280-pound two-way lineman from Hempfield.

• Ligonier Valley junior lineman Wylie Spiker has his first Division I FCS offer, from Duquesne. Spiker is a 6-foot-3, 260-pound two-way tackle. Teammate Michael Petrof, who is nearing a dozen Division I offers, also drew one from the Dukes.

• Norwin senior baseball player Owen Sabol ended an on-again-off-again deal with Seton Hill by signing a letter of intent to play for the Griffins. Sabol had switched his commitment to Penn State Greater Allegheny before recommitting to Seton Hill.

• Southmoreland volleyball player Justyne Howell will continue her playing career at Bethany.

• Lane Vance, a football player from Southmoreland, is headed to Thiel.

• A pair of local players picked up football offers from Seton Hill and new coach Daniel Day: Hempfield lineman Paul Newill and Yough tight end Russell Pytlak.

He said it

“It’s like Austin Powers. They took our mojo. We lost it.” — Penn-Trafford softball coach Denny Little after his team’s 10-4 loss to Connellsville in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals.

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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