Hempfield avoids letdown, dispatches Gateway in softball playoffs
Hempfield pitcher Hope Pehrson never had hit a home run before Tuesday's WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
The senior enjoyed her first so much, she hit a second.
Michaela LeDonne and Pehrson hit back-to-back home runs in a four-run first inning, and No. 4 Hempfield (16-5) breezed to a 14-0 victory against a young Gateway (7-10) squad in a first-round game at Woodland Hills.
Hempfield will play No. 5 Shaler, which defeated Woodland Hills, 11-0, on May 21 at a site and time to be determined.
Pehrson, who allowed a one-out single to opposing pitcher Madison Lewis in the first inning, had bad memories of the game she pitched in 2011 at Woodland Hills when Seneca Valley upset the Spartans. Those memories quickly were erased as she retired the final 14 batters she faced, striking out six.
“I was a little nervous in the first inning,” Pehrson said. “But when we scored four runs in the first inning, it relaxed me. It was exciting to finally hit a home run. It didn't seem like I hit it.
“I was jogging to first base, and my coach told me to run. I was shocked when it went over the fence. It was nice to see everyone hit the ball well for us.”
Pehrson's solo home run followed a three-run blast over the left-field fence by LeDonne, giving Hempfield a 4-0 lead.
Hempfield continued to tack on runs over the next three innings, scoring once each in the second and fourth innings and putting the game out of reach with a seven-run third. Pehrson hit a three-run homer, and Taylor Kusma had a two-run single in the big inning.
“First-round games are tough,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “We lost here two years ago, and I reminded the girls what happened in baseball Monday when No. 14 Trinity took out No. 3 Hampton.
“I'll remind them every game if we're playing an opponent that doesn't have the talent we do. Our saying is, ‘Remember the Vikings.' ”
Hempfield opened the season by dropping a 2-0 decision to Mt. Pleasant.
But Hempfield wasn't about to let Gateway stay in the game. The Spartans pounded out 12 hits and took advantage of every Gators mistake.
“We hadn't made the WPIAL playoffs since 2008,” Gateway coach Chuck Myers said. “We just hung a few pitches, and you see what happened.
“I tried to prepare the team for what to expect. We knew where Hempfield liked the ball, and Pehrson did a good job keeping the ball down and away.”
Kalp had to adjust the lineup because of injury to left fielder Kasey Kolick, who was hurt in practice Monday. Kalp said he hopes Kolick will return for the quarterfinals.
The adjustments worked better than he expected, as four players collected two hits.
“Hope hit a home run at practice last year,” Kalp said. “I got the ball and printed first varsity home run and presented it to her at the banquet as a joke. Now she has two legit home runs to be proud of.”