Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Leading the Way Hempfield Relies on Sophomore Pitching Ace

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Leading the Way Hempfield Relies on Sophomore Pitching Ace

Article excerpt

Things did not bode well for the Hempfield Area High School softball team as it prepared for the 2015 season.

Not only were the Spartans coming off a season in which they missed the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in 31 years, they had no idea if sophomore pitcher Morgan Ryan would be ready for the start of the campaign.

"The beginning of the year, she was in a walking boot up until the first week of practice because she had some kind of fracture in her foot and, all through conditioning, she was in a walking boot," Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said.

"She couldn't do any throwing, but we had her doing some arm exercises and throwing the ball off her knees and so forth, and I was really concerned early on that, when the season started, she wasn't going to be ready . . . and she wasn't."

She certainly is now.

Ryan, who was named first team all-state on Tuesday, has been the stabilizing force for Hempfield's run to the school's first WPIAL Class AAAA championship since 2009 and the third in school history.

She is also a huge factor why the Spartans were playing District 3 third-place team Cumberland Valley on Wednesday for the opportunity to earn a spot in the state championship game at 12:30 p.m. today against District 11 champion Parkland at Penn State.

Parkland (28-1) qualified for the championship game by defeating Daniel Boone, 4-1, Monday in the other semifinal.

The Spartans were hoping to get there behind Ryan's pitching. Not only has she won 19 games this season, her ERA of 0.98 is even more impressive when considering that she's not a pure power pitcher who relies solely on strikeouts.

Her performance this season is also a marked improvement from 2014, when Ryan won only nine games and had a 2.60 ERA.

"There's a lot of kids who have all the accolades coming out of travel ball, but Quad-A softball is like having the best of 14-U, 16-U and 18-U and taking all the better players and putting them all on one team," Kalp said. …

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