June 22, 2018
By: Steve Degler
The Lehigh Valley, specifically the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, came so close to sending three teams to the PIAA softball championship round. The Nazareth Blue Eagles' run ended in the semifinals but Bethlehem Catholic and Parkland advanced to Penn State to represent the EPC and play in the 4A and 6A title games, respectively.
Both teams had been there before in the same season and had success. In 2015, Beca won the 3A championship over Trinity (District 7) and Parkland toppled Cumberland Valley to claim the 4A trophy. Parkland has won five state titles, including the first championship game played in 1975. Entering this season, the Trojans were 5-0 in the finals.
Early on, it looked like title number six was on its way to Orefield. The first four Trojan batters of the game reached base with three scoring. Pitcher Kelly Dulaney made that lead hold until the sixth. That's when Hempfield Area (District 7) saw its bats come alive. The Spartans, the team that ended Nazareth's championship hopes, scored three times to tie the game. Neither team produced a run in the seventh so it was time for extra innings. Freshman Emma Hoffner delivered a two-out, game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the eighth to give Hempfield a 4-3 win. The Spartans have won state titles in three straight years. Parkland finished a fantastic season at 24-4.
In addition to its 2015 title, Bethlehem Catholic had lost state championship games in 2009 and 2014. The Golden Hawks faced a tough challenge this year in Kylee Lingenfelter, the Penn State-bound pitcher for Punxsutawney. Lingenfelter looked very comfortable in the circle at her future collegiate home with a four-hit, 15-strikeout performance. Beca had some chances but stranded eight runners on base. The Chucks scored twice in the third and went on to win 2-0. Jess Indelicato had two of the four hits for the Golden Hawks.
Congratulations to both the Parkland and Bethlehem Catholic softball teams on fantastic seasons!