With PIAA three-peat complete, Hempfield softball looks ahead
Sunday, June 17, 2018 | 7:54 PM
It's been a couple of days since the Hempfield softball team celebrated the program's third consecutive PIAA title and fourth overall.
The parade with fire trucks from every department in Hempfield and its communities and celebratory stops at Penn State's Creamery and Champs Sports Grill is over. It's time to reflect on what happened.
“It's going to take a day or so for this to sink in,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said after his team's 4-3 win against Parkland in eight innings in the PIAA Class 6A championship game Friday.
It marked Kalp's 500th game as Hempfield's coach, and his career record is 401-98-1.
Then, with a smile, he said, “It was a great run. These girls worked extremely hard. They did what it takes to win. I guess what we coach still works.”
The Spartans (24-3) became the first PIAA school to win three consecutive titles, and their fourth consecutive WPIAL title (sixth overall) is tied for second with several schools. Sto-Rox won five in a row from 2000-04.
Throughout the playoffs, Hempfield found ways to win. Different heroes emerged.
“We're fighters,” senior pitcher Maddie Uschock said. “This team never gives up and is unselfish. We played almost every game with a deficit. It never scared us away. It brought us together.”
Kalp said he saw the team come together midway through the season, and he said it started with Uschock.
“I knew she'd be solid for us,” Kalp said. “She was a rock and kept us in games. Then Emma (Hoffner) continued to get better behind the plate and solidified that position.
“I told the team before the game that this isn't magic that's taking place. People were saying this is a team of destiny. It's magical, and the magic is going to run out. No, it's the reps you take in practice, plays you make in practice, the batting cage work that's producing when the game in on the line.”
The string of rallies started with a come-from-behind win against Canon-McMillan, then in the WPIAL final against Latrobe, followed by a PIAA quarterfinal win against Baldwin, the late-inning home run against Nazareth and the big rally against Parkland.
The Spartans trailed Parkland, 3-0, in the finals, and the Trojans looked poised to add it their lead. Uschock steadied, and, in the sixth inning, the Spartans tied the score on a single by Hoffner and a two-run double by sophomore Ashley Orischak.
“No one gave a chance,” Hoffner said. “We've been underdogs all season. That was OK.”
It was Hoffner who delivered in the eighth inning. After Megan Monzo, who won the Baldwin game with a home run, singled, Kelsey Tobin laid down a perfect bunt. That setup Hoffner's winning double.
“Game, set, match,” Kalp said of the eighth inning. “I'm sure Parkland thought they had it won. After the first inning, it was pretty much over.”
So can Hempfield do it again?
“We lose some really good seniors,” Kalp said. “But we have some good players waiting in the wings. Plus we have Lauren Fox, Jessica Persin, Orischak and Hoffner back. We also have a couple talented pitchers coming up. We'll just need to work with them.”
Olivia Persin and Hanna Pavsek will be returning starters.
After this unpredictable season at Hempfield, anything seems possible.