Hempfield softball team reaches state final behind 14-hit attack
CRESSON — Morgan Ryan was giving up hits, but the Hempfield star pitcher never gave up hope.
With a cold treat in her hand — a makeshift snow cone made from ice and Gatorade — the state's Gatorade Player of the Year calmly gave props to her team's potent batting order, which ultimately gave the Spartans a chance to repeat as state champions.
“This year's team is a completely different dynamic,” Ryan said. “Last year we had slap-hitters. This year, it's more power. One through nine can hit.”
With Chambersburg making hay against the Notre Dame-bound Ryan, Hempfield's bats came to the rescue, pounding out 14 hits and carrying the Spartans to an 11-4 victory in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals Monday at Mt. Aloysius College.
And with that, three-time defending WPIAL champion Hempfield (26-0) takes a 40-game winning streak into its second consecutive state championship game. The 4A champs last year, Hempfield will play Hazleton (22-3) at 4 p.m. Thursday at Penn State's Nittany Lion Softball Park.
Hempfield beat Chambersburg, 2-0, in last year's semifinals at the same venue. Offense was on the menu this time, and Hempfield fired up the grill.
“If I give up runs, I know they will come through for me,” said Ryan (21-0). “And I don't want to let them down. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves.”
Senior outfielder Jordan Bernard went 3 for 4 with three RBIs, senior shortstop Ali Belgiovane drove in a pair, Ryan had two hits and two RBIs, and senior first baseman Stacey Walling singled, tripled and drove in two for the Spartans.
Ryan struck out four and gave up nine hits.
“Morgan knew we had her back,” Walling said.
To Bernard, Hempfield's run production are just the means to an end: potentially another title.
“Nobody is here for themselves. We all are supposed to put runs on the board, and that's exactly what we do,” Bernard said. “Even if Morgan isn't on her game ... the whole team is responsible for what we do.”
Hempfield jumped to a 4-0 lead with five first-inning hits, only one of which left the infield. Bernard had a two-run single with the bases loaded.
“I'm thinking we're going to bunt and sacrifice people over,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “We got hits out of them. We had our leadoff hitter on in six of seven innings.”
Chambersburg (20-6) scored three times in the second on a double by Caeley Etter and a single by Maggie Myers.
“When we went up 4-1, I think we all kind of relaxed,” Kalp said. “But we stayed focused and got a big lead, then learned from (earlier in the game). We have to think about scoring one run at a time, not in bunches.”
Hempfield made it 8-3 with four more runs in the third, with Belgiovane delivering a two-run hit and ending up at third after an error. Laura Fox added a sacrifice fly to score Belgiovane, and Ryan knocked in Jenna Osikowicz, who reached on an error.
Autumn Beasley made it 9-3 in the fourth when she knocked in Walling, who hustled out her first triple of the season.
“I legged that puppy out,” she said. “Coach Kalp told me to slow down, but when I looked and saw the ball, I took third. I know I'm not that quick, but I wanted that triple.”
After singles by Osikowicz and Madi Stoner in the fifth, a run scored on an error, and Bernard knocked in a run for an 11-3 advantage and Hempfield started to think about returning to Penn State.
“The thing with our lineup is that it's like one of those bottomless cups of coffee,” Kalp said. “You just keep filling it up. It's nice to get back (to the final). We're not worried about any more streaks. We're worried about one more game. If we win one more game, this team might make some others slide over on the mantle.”
Sam Bender, the third pitcher Chambersburg brought in against the Spartans, gave the Trojans their fourth run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Hempfield turned a pair of double plays.
Alexis Estep went 3 for 3 for Chambersburg.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .