Tribune-Review Softball Terrific 10: Hempfield's Morgan Ryan named Player of the Year
Morgan Ryan, the Tribune-Review Softball Player of the Year, let another moment of triumph wash over her on the field at Penn State's Nittany Lion Softball Park earlier this month.
And emotion followed.
Game-face staredowns were a regular thing for Ryan, the all-everything senior from Hempfield. But so many times, like this one, those scowls behind the mask were replaced by frozen grins.
From a World Series title in Little League with West Point, to three straight WPIAL championships, to back-to-back PIAA titles, all Ryan did was win.
She capped her prep career with a season to remember. Hempfield went 27-0 and celebrated a WPIAL three-peat and PIAA repeat, becoming the first team to win consecutive state titles in the largest classification. The Spartans won 41 straight games dating to last season, barely noticing the jump from Class 4A to 6A.
Ryan went 22-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 199 strikeouts and set program records for career pitching wins (73). She had eight shutouts. She allowed 25 runs (20 earned) in 140 innings.
Ryan also finished with top career marks in home runs (16) and RBIs (100), cementing her place among the school's all-time greats.
Longtime Spartans coach Bob Kalp loosely took liberties with Ryan's assault on the record books. His daughter, Jaci, was the longtime leader in pitching wins at Hempfield. Bob Kalp joked he was going to sit Ryan near midseason when she got close to the record.
“No...I couldn't think of a better person than Mo to hold the record because she's a great role model for all of our girls in the district,” coach Kalp said.
Ryan reduced many hitters to headshakes, but she could hit, too. The Notre Dame recruit batted .452 with five homers and a team-best 37 RBIs in the clean-up spot.
Her all-around play earned her the Gatorade Player of the Year award for Pennsylvania.
“She would have won more but I didn't always pitch her against some lesser teams,” Kalp said. “She could have easily won 80 games for us.”
This year's team was the only to finish a season undefeated in Hempfield history. What was so special about it?
This team, more than the others, felt more like a family. We all enjoyed being around each other, and that chemistry definitely had a positive impact on the field.
The team finished 27-0 but like your coach (Bob Kalp), you're a perfectionist. Would you change anything about this season?
I think there were a few games where we gave up a few too many runs against teams we should have shut out. But overall I wouldn't change anything.
Now that the season is over and the pressure cooker is turned off, how impressive is what the team accomplished?
We came into this season with a mission to be the best, and we made that happen on the field. Personally, I came into my career wanting to make a name for myself and to help the team win WPIAL and state titles. To be able to accomplish that with this team and the girls who have been by my side since the beginning is unbelievable.
What will your legacy be at Hempfield?
I hope that people will remember me for being a good teammate and leader on the field and a humble person off of the field. The game is so much bigger than our personal successes and in the end the team is what really matters. If people remember me for being a great player, than that is an honor, but I want to be remembered for the person that I am.
Do you wonder what it would be like to pitch six years ago when the circle was 40 feet from the plate?
I can't imagine what the game would be like with the mound that much closer. The speed of the game would be completely different.
Why do you always wear red cleats?
When I was little, I wore red Mary Janes everywhere. I never took them off and red is my favorite color, so when it came time to buy cleats I was drawn to the red ones.
Could softball handle a pitch count like baseball?
Softball would definitely be different with pitch counts. In softball, there aren't as many pitchers as there are in baseball. I think teams with fewer players may struggle with depth, but pitch counts would help develop pitching staffs as a whole.
Why was Westmoreland County so good in softball and baseball this season?
Westmoreland County is filled with such great athletes and coaches. For a while in the softball arena, our county was overlooked because we weren't as “good” as the teams from out east. I think that our section took that to heart ... I'd say that we absolutely sent that message loud and clear and provided enough evidence to back it up.
Do you have any more room for trophies and medals?
There is always room for more medals and trophies. I am very competitive and although winning is not the only important thing, it is an awesome feeling to carry home the hardware. My goal is to win a NCAA title for Notre Dame.
What would your late father, Jeffrey, have thought about the back-to-back state championships?
Before I even entered high school, my dad told me that our team was capable of winning the state title. Going into my freshman year I didn't really buy into that idea, but he kept telling me that our team was loaded with talented girls and that we were going to do it. He would be so proud of not only me, but every single girl on the team. I know that he was watching and cheering us on and smiling from ear to ear when we won.
Will you miss hitting in college?
Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to hit in college. I love being able to help my team on both sides of the game.
So you like to play the piano? What's your favorite thing to play?
I have been playing the piano since I was in kindergarten. My favorite song to play is “Variations on the Canon” by George Winston.
Tribune-Review Terrific 10 Softball All-Stars
Hempfield, Sr., OF
A first-year starter and Shenandoah recruit, Beasley hit .437 with a team-record seven home runs and 26 RBIs for the WPIAL and PIAA Class 6A champions. Her .859 slugging percentage led all starters, and she also scored 26 runs.
Hempfield, Sr., OF
The Spartans' leadoff hitter led the unbeaten WPIAL and PIAA Class 6A champions (27-0) with 34 runs scored and 30 singles, and also drove in 16 runs. The Pitt-Johnstown recruit went 4 for 4 in the PIAA championship victory over Hazleton.
Derry, Jr., SS
One of the WPIAL's top hit-for-average players, Bisi batted a remarkable .706 (36 for 51) with 20 of those hits going for extra bases. The Penn State commit had 13 doubles, three triples and four home runs, plus 21 RBIs and 22 runs.
Penn-Trafford, Sr., 3B
Ginther helped lead the Section 1-5A Warriors to the WPIAL playoffs with a team-best 38 base hits and a .576 batting average. A Pitt-Johnstown recruit, she had a team-leading 27 RBIs and scored 29 runs.
Mt. Pleasant, Jr., CF
The leadoff hitter led the PIAA Class 4A champions with a .535 batting average and sparked the team in the postseason. She went 4 for 4 in the state title game and made a key diving catch. She had three hits and three RBIs in a quarterfinal win over Belle Vernon.
Latrobe, Jr., SS
Kovatch came up with numerous clutch hits in the postseason to help the Wildcats reach the WPIAL Class 6A title game and PIAA playoffs. She hit .483 with two home runs and a team-high 21 RBIs. The IUP recruit was named the team's offensive player of the year.
Hempfield, Sr., 2B
One of the senior leaders for the WPIAL and PIAA Class 6A champions, she batted .371, ripped seven doubles, drove in 23 runs and scored 27 runs. She also had a team-best 13 stolen bases. The Seton Hill recruit did not make an error in 27 games.
Yough, Sr., 3B
The St. Vincent recruit helped the Cougars reach the WPIAL Class 4A title game and PIAA semifinals. The infielder set school records in home runs (7) and RBIs (33).
Yough, So., P
Waywood took command of the pitching circle for the returning state champions, helping Yough to a runner-up finish in WPIAL Class 4A and a spot in the PIAA semifinals. She finished 19-3, with a 1.15 ERA and 131 strikeouts. Teams hit .192 against her.
Caroline Alincic, Mt. Pleasant, So., P
Laura Fox, Hempfield, So., OF
Johnna Karas, Norwin, Sr., 2B
Aubrie Mance, Yough, Jr., 2B
Meghan Marasti, Penn-Trafford, Sr., SS
Makayla Munchinski, Latrobe, So., 3B
Emma Nedley, Penn-Trafford Jr., OF
Lexi Petrof, Ligonier Valley, Jr., SS
Olivia Porter, Southmoreland, Sr., SS
Madi Stoner, Hempfield, Sr., C