Hempfield Area shuts out Warwick in State opener

By on June 6, 2018

Warwick’s infield gathers around pitcher Amanda Herr heading into the top of the seventh inning in a District playoff game. Photo by Mike Shull

For the long bus ride to the Pittsburgh area on Monday, Warwick’s softball team turned to a good source of motivation.

The movie, Miracle on Ice — the story of the 1980 U.S. ice hockey club’s run to the gold medal — played on the video screens of their coach bus.

“We watched the movie to kinda get them focused,” Warwick coach Mark Hough said.

Back in the State playoffs for the first time since 2010, the Lady Warriors were indeed dialed in against District Seven champ Hempfield Area, the two-time reigning PIAA 6A champs.

Through five innings, Warwick trailed just 1-0, with lefty pitcher Amanda Herr matching Lady Spartan senior Maddie Uschock in a pitchers duel.

But Hempfield Area broke things open with a six-run sixth-inning rally and went on to beat Warwick in a State 6A first-round game at Latrobe High School on Monday night.

“One of the things I really took away from the game was that the score really isn’t indicative of how we played,” Hough said. “I can’t be proud enough for these kids and the way they played.”

During a first-inning at-bat in a recent District playoff game, Warwick center fielder Kate Seibert grimaces as a pitch hits her fingers. Seibert responded with three hits and two runs scored in the win. Photo by Mike Shull

The victory sent the Lady Spartans to the PIAA quarterfinals to face District Seven bronze-medalist Baldwin, a 9-6 winner over Mifflin County, while Warwick ended its season with a 17-6 record.

Playing at Latrobe meant the Lady Warriors had to acclimate themselves to an unfamiliar field. Even Hough was in new territory for the final hour of the trip out west — and home — while watching Pitch Perfect 1 and 2.

“Pitch Perfect was not the baseball movie I thought was coming onto the video screen,” Warwick’s coach laughed. “I don’t ever need to rent, buy or borrow those movies.”

The field, itself, was not perfect for the Lady Warriors, as they found themselves playing on a quicker, all-turf surface, and Herr had to adapt to a pitching rubber raised a couple inches from the playing surface.

“It was like Amanda was standing in heels when she’s getting ready to pitch,” Hough said. “But one of the things I was so impressed with her was when she came in after the first inning, I said, ‘How is the pitching mound?,’ and her response was just, ‘It is what it is and I can’t change it.’ I thought that was a really professional, mature way of looking at it.”

Hempfield Area broke on top with a run in the bottom of the first, as leadoff batter Laura Fox (2-for-4, 2 runs) doubled to left, went to third on Margaret Monzo’s (2-for-3) ground out and scored on a passed ball.

Warwick put its leadoff batter on board in the second on a Lady Spartan fielding error, but Hempfield Area catcher Emma Hoffner, a freshman phenom, picked her off base. That was the first of Hoffner’s two pickoffs in the game.

“They really are a good team. The catcher’s unbelievable,” Hough said. “There’s no question that she’s a heck of a prospect.”

In the fourth, Herr — batting .508 with eight home runs and 37 RBI this spring — got what Hough described as an “unintentional intentional walk” leading off against Uschock.

“They were not going to have Amanda beat them,” Hough said.

Next was cleanup hitter Danielle Jones (.429, 25 RBI), who lined a sharp single to right field. But on the turf, Hempfield Area right fielder Kelsey Tobin fielded the ball on one hop and came up firing to get the out at second base.

“Jones just hit a shot to right field, but it was pretty much similar to Manny Trillo standing at the Vet deep in the hole and fielding it and then throwing,” Hough said. “That’s kinda what the turf took away from us.”

In the meantime, Herr — who K’d two, walked one, and scattered nine hits — retired nine in a row after Fox’s double leading off the game.

Then in the fourth inning, she pitched out of trouble following Monzo’s leadoff triple, and she stranded Uschock at second on a two-out double.

“I thought Amanda was spot-on,” Hough said.

So was Hoffner for Hempfield Area. After Marissa Treibley (.343) smashed a one-out single off the glove of Lady Spartan first baseman Monzo in the fifth, Kenzie Stewart bunted, but Hoffner was able to scoop it up and start a 2-4-3 double play.

“It kinda hovered right over the plate,” Hough said, “so Kenzie thought it was foul and the plate umpire ruled it fair. (Monzo) fired down to second and they got the double play.”

One inning later, Katelyn Minney reached on a Hempfield area throwing error. She was initially ruled out, but Hough argued his case and the call was overturned.

“I saw (Monzo) went up in the air to get the throw, but I didn’t feel she came down on the bag, and also she didn’t give Minney a clear lane,” Hough recalled. “That’s why they have the second bag there for safety. I felt there was obstruction on the way to the bag and that’s what the home-plate umpire saw as well.”

Next, Herr — who was on base all three times with walks — received an intentional pass with two outs, putting two runners on. But Uschock got out of it with her seventh and final strikeout. She finished the game with a three-hitter, while walking five.

“I really felt she was hittable and it was kinda one of those games that the bats went a little cold,” Hough said. “She fooled about three or four of our hitters with her change-up. She had a really good change-up and we were leaning out in front of it. She was very effective.”

Unfortunately for the Lady Warriors, Hempfield Area was then able to break it open in the sixth while sending 10 batters to the plate. Tobin had a two-run single over second base, Jessica Person added a two-run double to right-center, and Olivia Person tripled home a pair of runs to make it 7-0.

“For the most part, they just started stringing some hits together up the middle, “ Hough said, “and I think again, the turf creates a faster infield.”

Warwick again put two runners on base in their final at-bats in the seventh, as Treibley walked and Stewart singled to right, but they couldn’t capitalize.

“The one thing I told the girls after the game,” Hough said, “was, ‘I don’t think this was a 7-0 loss. This was a 1-0 loss. We played this team extremely well in unfamiliar territory and I’m really proud of how you came through.’”

***

Last Wednesday, May 30, Warwick pounded out 12 hits off of Penn Manor ace Brittany Hook and punched their ticket to States with a 4-2 victory in the District Three 6A third-place game at Millersville University.

In the final meeting between Lady Warrior ace Amanda Herr and Hook, Warwick’s lefty evened the all-time series between the two at 4-4.

“I just tried to play it off,” Herr said. “Inside, I was nervous. Britt is a good pitcher. I played her all four of my years so I knew what I was up against. I knew if we played our game we could come out with a win.”

The game was a pitchers duel through three scoreless innings before Warwick broke through for a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. Danielle Jones (2-for-4) singled to left with one out, Julia Forsythe reached on an error, and Marissa Treibley mashed a two-out, two-run double to center field.

“Honestly, it just came right across the plate,” Treibley said of the pitch. “I saw the two outs on the board and the girl at third and I was like, ‘All right, I got to let her score. I can’t leave her on.’”

They added another in the sixth as Forsythe (2-for-4) singled to right-center, Catie Brubaker (2-for-4) legged out an infield hit, and Forsythe scored on Kenzie Stewart’s squeeze bunt. Katelyn Minney also went 2-for-4 in the game for Warwick.

Penn Manor got two runs back in the bottom of that inning on RBI doubles by Hook and Madison Trout, making it 3-2.

But Warwick added a key insurance run in the seventh on Jones’ double and Forsythe’s RBI single.

That looked big in the bottom of that inning when the Lady Comets put two runners in scoring position with two outs, courtesy of Sophia Rineer reaching on an error and Julia Tappany’s base hit.

But Herr got Hook on a comebacker to end it. Herr K’d two, walked none and allowed eight hits in the complete-game victory.

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