Hempfield’s Uschock named Tribune-Review’s Westmoreland Softball Player of the Year
Maddie Uschock’s answer was a fairly succinct, “Nope.”
“When talent, hard work and the drive to win are put together that’s the result you get,” the Hempfield senior pitcher said. “Even then, winning both of those titles is extremely difficult … my teammates are amazing.”
Ushock stepped into the limelight with the confidence and ease of someone who had been there before, leading the Spartans to an unprecedented third consecutive PIAA championship and a four-peat of WPIAL titles in the state’s largest classification.
The calming voice in a rally cap-wearing lineup that turned the postseason into a series of thrill rides, Uschock made sure Hempfield (24-3) remained at the top.
She was simply clutch in the circle, rarely giving opponents much to work with while seeming to help recharge the Spartans late in playoff games.
Hempfield doesn’t raise trophies without her. And for that reason, she is the Tribune-Review’s Westmoreland Softball Player of the Year.
Belle Vernon’s Bailey Parshall also was considered.
Uschock, a Division II Dominican (N.Y.) recruit and all-state pick, finished 21-3, tossing 24 complete games. She struck out 187, walked 39 and posted a 1.10 ERA.
Hempfield won four of its seven playoff games by one run, including extra-inning victories in the WPIAL championship, the PIAA quarterfinals and the state final — 4-3 over Parkland in 8 innings.
A primed defense backed Uschock, known for getting out of tight jams, often with a change-up that stopped hitters in their tracks.
“She has been the key cog in the team’s success,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “She delivered time and time again in all the high-leverage games.”
Uschock waited in the wings for her chance to shine as she played behind Notre Dame recruit Morgan Ryan. Once she got her opportunity, she emerged with poise and patience and helped this group take its own unique place in the proud program’s history.
Despite the talent your team possessed there still was an underdog label attached. Why was that?
Everyone assumed we “graduated our good players,” without seeing who was waiting their turn behind them.
Did you have a nickname for yourselves as a team?
All I can think of is, the “sixth sense” team.
When did you realize the team still had the ability and drive to win championships?
After our loss to Penn Trafford, because we didn’t let the loss, or the breaking of the winning streak, take our season into a downward spiral. We came out and beat Latrobe the next day. I knew this team had the heart to win championships.
Where did all of those late-inning rallies come from?
There was something about us and the sixth inning; that was our inning to rally. No matter what the score was, we would come back and win or tie it up in the sixth and we all like to joke about it and pretend like it was our plan the whole time — just to make the game more interesting. But if we could have chosen to score in the first (inning) we would have.
How trying was it to wait your turn to take the pitching circle while playing behind Morgan Ryan?
I was of course happy for the team’s success no matter who was pitching, but it was tough; only because I’m the type of player that always wants to have the ball in my hand and be in that circle. But I learned a lot, while waiting my turn, and it pushed me to be better and do better. The climb was really tough, but the view from the top is worth it.
What was it like playing with standout freshman catcher Emma Hoffner and how good can she be?
Playing with Emma was an awesome experience. We clicked so well — I swear we could be telepathic during games. She has talent to burn, a strong work ethic, and the heart of a champion. I can only imagine how good she will be in three years.
How will Hempfield fans and teammates remember Maddie Uschock years from now?
I hope they remember me as a hard worker and a good teammate.
What has veteran coach Bob Kalp and his staff meant to you and the program?
You can’t have a successful program without talented players, but there’s a lot of programs with talented players that aren’t successful. You have to have a good coaching staff. We have the most committed and dedicated coaching staff around. They push us every day to be the best players we can be, and I think it shows.
Who taught you that freeze-frame change-up and why is it so effective for you?
Rick Shaheen was my first pitching coach when I was little, and he taught me that change-up because my other change-up was way too fast. I think most girls give up on that pitch when it doesn’t work for them, but I kept with it, and it has certainly paid off in some tight situations.
Do you see yourself contributing right away at Dominican College?
I hope so. My recruiting process was really tough, so as long as I am given an opportunity I will do everything I can to prove that I should be there and that my coach didn’t make a mistake.
First team all-stars
Mt. Pleasant, Fr., OF
Brunson shined for the Vikings (19-2), who reached the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals. The Lousiana-Lafayette recruit and all-state selection led the team in batting average (.474) and RBIs (35) and had 13 extra-base hits, including four home runs.
Hempfield, Fr., C
Hoffner had an immediate impact for the Spartans (24-3), who made it four straight WPIAL championships and three consecutive PIAA titles in Class 6A. She teamed with pitcher Maddie Uschock to make an all-state battery. She also batted .432 with 20 RBIs and stopped 10 would-be base-stealers.
Latrobe, Jr., p
One of area’s top power pitchers, Myers led the Wildcats to a WPIAL Class 6A runner-up finish for the second year in a row. The Marist recruit finished with a 9-5 record and 0.93 ERA and struck out 142 in 90 innings. She struck out 15 in a 1-0 win over Hempfield.
Penn-Trafford, Sr., OF
The Penn recruit helped power a potent lineup. She batted .448 with 11 doubles, three home runs and 24 RBIs. Of her 26 hits, 14 went for extra bases. She also scored 26 runs for the WPIAL Class 5A playoff team.
Belle Vernon, Sr., p
Parshall led the Leopards to a WPIAL Class 4A championship after leading the league in strikeouts for the second consecutive season, with 311 (984 career). The Penn State recruit was 20-3 with a 0.44 ERA, and had three no-hitters to go with three playoff shutouts.
Ligonier Valley, Sr., 2B/P
The Akron recruit was one of top hitter/pitcher combos in District 6. She hit .485 (33 for 68) with 31 runs scored, 20 RBIs, 10 doubles and four home runs. In the circle, she finished 5-1 with a 0.93 ERA and 50 strikeouts with seven walks.
Mt. Pleasant, Sr., 3B
The team leader and Towson recruit batted .463, delivering 17 extra-base hits, including nine triples, for the Vikings (19-2). She added four home runs and scored a team-best 29 runs and also drove in 35 runs.
Monessen, Sr., P
Another all-state player from the county, the Robert Morris recruit led the Greyhounds to the PIAA Class A final four. In the circle, she went 17-4 with 263 strikeouts and 24 walks, with a 1.11 ERA. She also hit .541 with 11 doubles, 28 RBIs and 24 runs.
Yough, Jr., P
Waywood helped propel the Cougars (16-5) to a fourth straight section title and return trip to the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals. She tossed a no-hitter against WPIAL champ Belle Vernon. She finished 14-4 and struck out 110 in as many innings while allowing a .181 average to opponents.
Carolyn Alincic, Mt. Pleasant, Jr., P
Bethany Bunner, Southmoreland. Sr., OF
Hailee Culbertson, Norwin, Jr., SS
Laura Fox, Hempfield, Jr., OF
Chrissy Kemerer, Franklin Reg., Sr., OF
Aubrie Mance, Yough, Sr., 2B
Megan Monzo, Hempfield, Sr., 1B
Makayla Munchinski, Latrobe, Jr., C
Morgan Nedley, Penn-Trafford, Jr., SS
Ashley Orischak, Hempfield, So., DH