Trojans use underdog status as motivation in PIAA semifinal
The Chambersburg softball team believes it has been overlooked all season, yet the Lady Trojans continue to prove everyone wrong.
But Monday at 2:30 p.m. at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Chambersburg will face its biggest challenge yet in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal game against the Hempfield Area Spartans - the No. 1 seed out of District 7 - which has been making headlines all season.
And for good reason.
Like several other matchups this season, the Trojans enter Monday's game being looked as the underdog. Hempfield (23-2) is riding three straight shutouts dating back to the district championship.
But that's how Chambersburg likes it.
"We've been overlooked and overshadowed and I think these girls are taking it to heart that they are not being taken seriously," Chambersburg coach Chris Skultety said. "We put a chip on our shoulder and we use it as motivation. It's how it's been since districts, and here we are still winning. We have to stay humble, and hopefully finish this thing."
A main contributor to Hempfield's success is Morgan Ryan, who will likely start in the circle for the Spartans. In the PIAA quarterfinals, Ryan, just a sophomore, allowed only two hits through six innings, with neither runner making it past first base, and struck out nine batters.
She also had four RBIs and a solo home run in Hempfield's 8-0 shutout over Erie McDowell on Thursday. Ryan, who is already committed to play softball at Notre Dame, is joined by four senior starters who have all committed to Division I schools.
"I think our conference really prepares us (for a pitcher like Ryan)," Skultety said. "We see good pitching all the time and she's not going to be a 10-mph difference. We are used to fastball pitchers, so we are going to do the same thing we did against those previous great pitchers - have good, quality at-bats, and hit it hard."
Chambersburg (24-4) can take a deep breath with leadoff hitter and starting catcher Caeley Etter back in the lineup full-time, and with a healthy starting lineup, there should be no surprises for the Trojans.
It is still unclear if Laken Myers or Sammie Bender will start, but if a closer is needed, Chambersburg will likely turn to Leah "The Goose" Hunt.
"We have to remain comfortable and confident with the same game plan," Skultety said. "We have to play our game. It sounds so plain, but we've done it so far and its been working. We are who we are and that's why we are where we are at."
Hempfield and Chambersburg played familiar opponents this season, as the Spartans took down Mifflin County (1-0) and Cumberland Valley (5-0). Meanwhile, the Trojans went 3-0 vs. Mifflin County, including the 11-4 state quarterfinal victory, and 2-1 against Cumberland Valley.
Last year, Cumberland Valley ended Hempfield's bid for a state title in the semifinals of the tournament, which the Spartans, no doubt, have in the back of their mind.
Chambersburg will travel to Mount Aloysius in style thanks to the VFW, which donated funds for a charter bus and a post-game meal for the team. While the game site is about 2 1/2 hours from Chambersburg, Skultety expects a home-like atmosphere, courtesy of the "boat load" of fans the team has acquired this year.
"Our boat is getting pretty big, with a lot of people hanging on the edge," Skultety said. "When we started winning people started to jump on and they're willing to drive two hours. Each family is supporting their kids, and in the Chambersburg community, people are excited to be a part of a winning program. The girls are being recognized in the grocery store. We have to try to stay focused and humbled to be here."
Trojans-Spartans at a glance
Game data: Chambersburg Trojans vs. Hempfield Area Spartans ... Monday, 2:30 at Mount Aloysius College ... PIAA Class AAAA softball semifinal.
Media: Follow @liziarbogast on Twitter ... A webcast will be available on midpennbroadcasting.com.
Teams: Chambersburg is 24-4 after beating Mifflin County, 11-4, in the quarterfinals ... Hempfield (23-2) is coming off an 8-0 shutout over Erie McDowell.
At stake: The winner will move on to the PIAA State Championship game against the winner of Hazleton vs. Avon Grove ... The final is Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Penn State.
P.O. Pick: Chambersburg by 1.