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Hempfield headed to PIAA tournament after edging Peters Township

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 8:51 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Justyne Falbo is greeted by teammates at home plate after hitting a solo homer in the first inning of the WPIAL Class AAAA consolation game Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at California (Pa.) University.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Hope Pehrson delivers a pitch to a Peters Township batter during the WPIAL Class AAAA consolation game Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at California (Pa.) University of Pennsylvania.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Hope Pehrson delivers a pitch to a Peters Township batter during the WPIAL Class AAAA consolation game Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at California (Pa.) University.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Taylor Kusma (right) congratulates Justyne Falbo after Falbo belted a home run in the first inning against Peters Township during the WPIAL Class AAAA consolation game Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at California (Pa.) University of Pennsylvania.

With Hempfield, there's Hope.

Fatigued right-hander Hope Pehrson survived eight hits and a hit batsman, struck out seven and walked none, and fourth-seeded Hempfield took advantage of sloppy defense by seventh-seeded Peters Township to post a 9-5 victory in the WPIAL Class AAAA consolation final Wednesday at California (Pa.) University, advancing the Spartans to the PIAA softball playoffs.

“Hope's arm was bothering her,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said, “but when you get a seven-run lead, you can breathe a little easier. Hope did enough for us and our defense helped her out. We didn't make an error.”

Not so for youthful Peters Township, the Section 4 runner-up that was fighting for the final state playoffs berth, despite no seniors on its roster.

Hempfield (18-6) erased a one-run deficit by scoring six runs on just three hits in the fourth inning, when Peters Township committed six of its season-high eight errors.

The Indians (18-6), who were eliminated from the playoffs, made seven errors in their previous game, a 7-4 loss to North Allegheny in the WPIAL semifinals.

Peters Township coach Bob Bowers, instead, focused on the Indians' fine record.

“We didn't play that way for most of the season. When we've been errorless, we're tough to beat,” he said.

“I can't be more proud of these girls for what they did all season. It didn't end like we wanted it to, but you can't give a team that many outs and expect to win. You can't make eight errors. Hempfield is very good, very well-coached. I was impressed.”

The Spartans will play either Canon-McMillan or North Allegheny to open the PIAA playoffs Tuesday. Pehrson and the Spartans rebounded from a 5-0 loss to top-seeded Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL semifinals.

“My arm was sore today. I just tried to tough it out,” said Pehrson, a senior, who stood in the dugout afterward with a heavy ice pack taped to her shoulder. “I think I just overdid it out there. Luckily, my defense backed me up.”

Peters Township nicked Pehrson for a single run in the sixth and two more in the seventh after Hempfield staked her to a 9-2 lead.

“I'm not going to complain,” Kalp said. “That six-run inning was the ballgame. We needed that because they tried to come back.”

Justyne Falbo homered to give Hempfield a 1-0 lead in the first against hard-luck loser Carly Konopka, a sophomore, who gave up seven hits and one earned run. Lindsay McKnight's two-run homer off Pehrson in the fourth put Peters Township ahead, 2-1, before Hempfield's big inning in the fourth vaulted the Spartans to a 7-2 lead.

“I didn't pitch well,” Pehrson said. “At times, I was just throwing it down the middle.”

Falbo and Alaina Montgomery had two RBI for Hempfield, which added its final two runs in the fifth.

Kelly Mahoney scored on Konopka's throwing error, and Maddie Knizner scored on Montgomery's fielders' choice grounder to second base.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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