FAYETTEVILLE — It was Ashley Orischak’s turn to be the hero.
The Hempfield sophomore hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, and senior pitcher Maddie Uschock tossed a four-hit shutout as the Spartans defeated Nazareth, 2-0, in a PIAA Class 6A semifinal game Tuesday at Norlo Park.
The win puts the two-time defending state champion Spartans (23-3) back in the title game for the third consecutive season against District 11 champion Parkland at 4 p.m. Friday at Penn State.
The win also gave Hempfield coach Bob Kalp his 400th career victory. He is 400-98.
Uschock and catcher Emma Hoffner dumped a bucket of ice water over Kalp’s head in honor of his milestone.
“Wow. It’s been a long road and a lot of hard work,” Uschock said. “There have been some nerve-racking but exciting moments. This season has been fun because we’ve had some exciting games like that.”
The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when Kelsey Tobin opened the frame with a single. An out later, Orischak hit a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for her third home run of the season.
“I just tried to do whatever I could for my team,” Orischak said. “The home run is what we needed and gave us the momentum. I wasn’t looking for anything except to help the team. I didn’t look at it, I just started running.”
Kalp added: “We just seem to have a way of hanging around and scratching out wins. We don’t have a lot of big bat fire power. We have to do small-ball, scratch and claw. Today we got the home run from Orischak, No. 7 on the season from a power-laden club.”
Nazareth (21-5), the District 11 runner-up which defeated Latrobe, got a runner on base with two outs in the seventh inning, but Uschock got leadoff hitter Daphney Adams to pop out to end the game.
“I really like this team because you never know who it’s going to be, be the hero. Everyone contributed to the win,” Uschock said. “Today it was Ashley. Last week it was Megan, next game it could be Emma. You just never know.”
Kalp agreed: “That’s the advantage we have. Who are you going to key on? They all contribute in their own way.”
Uschock worked out of some early trouble. Adams opened the game with a double but was stranded at third.
Sky Esterly reached third base with two outs in the third inning, and Uschock struck out opposing pitcher Samantha Gorkos to end the threat.
Hempfield’s defense turned a double play in the fourth inning, and Uschock stranded a leadoff single at first in the sixth inning.
Uschock controlled the Nazareth bats with her change-up. She struck out eight, walked three and hit a batter. She said the change-up is her best pitch.
“Getting out of the first inning was big,” Kalp said. “I thought ‘Oh, no’ when they got the double, but Maddie got big outs. A lot of people thought we were in trouble on the mound after last year, but I knew Maddie was going to be solid, and I was confident she’d do the job.
“The Nazareth coach made a comment about liking to hit hard throwers. I told Maddie on the way out, let’s see if they like a 49 mph change-up. I don’t think they liked it.”
Now the Spartans will head back to a place that has been quite kind to them: Penn State.
The only question is: Who will be the hero next time?