Gateway softball ends season with first-round playoff loss to Hempfield
The Gateway varsity softball team qualified for the WPIAL playoffs this season for the first time since 2008.
The young Gators squad hoped to make the most of the program's return to the postseason.
However, Hempfield, the runner-up to Latrobe in Section 1, had other ideas on Tuesday at Woodland Hills High School.
The Spartans were powerful at the plate, and they also rode the pitching of senior Hope Pehrson.
For Gateway, it added up to a 14-0 loss in five innings and a tough first-round exit.
“Hempfield is a good, established program, and they showed it today,” Gateway head coach Chuck Myers said.
“There's no surprise they have won WPIAL championships. They are a fundamentally sound team from top to bottom.”
The Spartans won the WPIAL Quad-A title in 2009, and they are hoping to claim gold again. They lost to Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL championship game last year.
Hempfield improved to 16-5 overall and will play Shaler, a victor Tuesday over Woodland Hills, in a quarterfinal game. The date, time and location of the contest wasn't determined until after Tuesday's deadline for this edition.
Gateway, which tied Woodland Hills for third in Section 2 at 7-5, suffered six straight losses to close out its season and finished 7-10 overall.
Pehrson was dominant against the Gateway batters.
The Gators offense generated only one hit in the game. Freshman Madison Lewis singled with one out in the top of the first.
However, Pehrson got Gateway senior third baseman Laura Hudec to pop out to second and freshman designated player Jasmine Copeland on strikes to end the inning.
Pehrson didn't allow a Gateway batter to reach base after Lewis' hit.
She struck out the side in the second and ended the game with a pair of strikeouts.
“Before the game, I got a couple of phone calls and text messages about where (Pehrson) was going to throw the ball, and she threw it exactly where they said she would,” Myers said.
“But we were looking at a lot of pitches. We weren't swinging the bats the way we needed to.”
Lewis, who missed the first 12 games of the season while recovering from a broken finger, got the start and worked into the third inning before giving way to junior Danielle Kochka.
She walked a pair of Hempfield batters with one out in the first inning before surrendering back-to-back home runs as the Spartans jumped out to a 4-0 lead after one inning of play.
The Spartans collected 12 hits off of Lewis and Kochka.
Lewis gave up 11 runs, but only five were earned.
A pair of errors in the third inning led to eight runs, and all of them were unearned.
“She understands what she does when she throws a ball and they take it out of the park,” Myers said.
“She knows she hung a couple and got the ball up. But she's a 15-year-old freshman who has a lot of innings ahead of her. She's going to pitch a lot this summer, so she's going to get better. ”
Kochka gave up three hits, two walks and three earned runs in relief on Tuesday.
Gateway played Tuesday's game without freshman starting shortstop Giana Basilone, who suffered a broken finger a couple of weeks ago.
Sophomore Cali DiLucente moved to short from her normal second base spot, and freshman Brooke Bache got the start at second.
“It's disappointing when you lose one of your top three hitters and one of your better defensive players,” Myers said.
“But we had to move forward with that situation.”
Tuesday's game spelled the end of the varsity careers for Hudec and senior outfielders Lauren Henderson and Tara McCarl.
Myers got emotional after the game when talking about his senior trio.
“All three are pretty special to me,” he said
“They've done so much for this program. We need to have some people step in for all three of them.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.