The Hempfield softball team is undefeated this season and has won 39 games in a row over the last two years. But maybe the most impressive streak of this team has to do with nothing.
As in nothing allowed in the state playoffs.
Hempfield has not given up a run in two years of PIAA postseason play. The Spartans won a PIAA championship a year ago and did not allow a run in four games. In two state games this year, Hempfield has defeated Central York, 1-0, and McDowell, 5-0, in eight innings.
Hempfield plays Chambersburg in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals Monday. The No. 1 objective, obviously, is to win. Chambersburg’s objective will be to somehow crack Hempfield’s scoreless streak.
Hempfield star pitcher Morgan Ryan gets most of the credit for the Spartans’ shutouts. She is one of the best pitchers in the state and a Notre Dame recruit. But if you listen to Bob Kalp, the Spartans’ defense also has been huge, even if underappreciated.
“Overall, the last couple of years, our defense has been phenomenal,” said Kalp. “Morgan is real appreciative. She’s a neat kid. She gets the majority of the ink and accolades. But she does a good of deflecting the praise because she knows she has good players behind her. She makes people put it in play, and we make the plays.”
Kalp had high praise for senior second baseman Ali Belgiovane and senior shortstop Jenna Osikowicz.
“Our middle infield is as good we have ever had,” said Kalp. “Our second baseman [Belgiovane] might be the best second baseman we’ve had. When she was a freshman, she made five errors. The last three years, she has made one error. Osikowicz is good. Our defense makes plays and you just say, huh.?”
Last year, Hempfield became only the second team from the WPIAL to go through a PIAA postseason without giving up a run. The other was North Allegheny in 2002. But no team from the WPIAL or anywhere else in the state has ever gone through two consecutive PIAA tournaments without giving up a run. Hempfield has a chance.
“Comparing it to last year’s defense, maybe this year’s is not quite as good,” said Kalp. “Last year, we made only nine errors the entire season. This year, we’ve made close to twice as many, but this defense is still pretty good.”
If you go by how many teams are still left in the state playoffs, it wasn’t a good year for WPIAL baseball. Only four WPIAL teams are alive in the semifinals – Latrobe in 5A, Blackhawk and South Park in 4A and Greensburg Central Catholic in 1A.
Meanwhile, eight WPIAL softball teams are alive – Hempfield in 6A, West Allegheny in 5A, Yough and Mount Pleasant in 4A, South Park in 3A, Chartiers-Houston and South Side Beaver in 2A and West Greene in 1A.
Sweeping State Players of Year
Gatorade picks a high school player of the year for every state in many sports. The WPIAL swept the baseball and softball awards this spring.
A week ago, Latrobe outfielder Zach Kokoska was selected the Gatorade Pennsylvania Baseball Player of the Year. Then this week, Hempfield’s Ryan was named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Softball Player of the Year.
While Ryan has helped Hempfield to the PIAA semifinals, Kokoska has helped Latrobe to the PIAA baseball semifinals.
The Major League Baseball draft begins Monday. No seniors at WPIAL high schools are expected to go very high in the draft. In Baseball America’s top 500 players for the draft, the only current WPIAL player ranked is Peters Township’s Tor Sehnert at No. 483.
But former WPIAL player Brendan McKay (Blackhawk High School) is expected to go in the top five picks overall. McKay is at the University of Louisville. Also, former Norwin star J.J. Matijevic, now at the University of Arizona, could go in the first few rounds.
Two for Volleyball
Two WPIAL boys volleyball teams will play for PIAA championships Saturday at Penn State. North Allegheny meets Central York for the 3A title at 1 p.m., while Beaver County Christian meets Northeastern York for the 2A title at 11 a.m.
Since the PIAA went from one to two classifications in 2007, the WPIAL has never won both 2A and 3A titles in the same year. North Allegheny was the only 3A champ in 2013. Ambridge (2009) and Deer Lakes (2011) won 2A titles.
But history says Beaver County Christian is a definite underdog. Northeastern has won four consecutive PIAA titles.
Where Are They Now?
Former Shaler star basketball player Geno Thorpe will finish his college career playing for the Syracuse Orange. It was reported Friday that Thorpe has decided to attend Syracuse. He left South Florida after this past season and decided to use his final year of eligibility elsewhere.
It is the final move for Thorpe in a high school and college career filled with moves. As a freshman, he attended Shady Side Academy. He lived in Shaler and transferred to Shaler for his sophomore and junior years. In the summer of 2012, before his senior year, Thorpe moved to Florida and enrolled at West Oaks High School. But he came back to Shaler in September of his senior year and played his final high school season for the Titans.
In college, Thorpe played at Penn State for two years before leaving and transferring to South Florida. But he left South Florida after this season. He is eligible to play immediately at Syracuse because he has graduated.