The game: PIAA Class 6A championship
The teams: Hempfield vs. Hazleton
Where and when: Nittany Lion Softball Park, Penn State, Thursday, 4 p.m.
District finish: WPIAL champion
How they got here: (First round) Central York, 1-0; (Quarterfinals) Erie McDowell, 5-0; (Semifinals) Chambersburg, 11-4.
PIAA titles: 2 (1999, 2016)
Last time in final: 2016
What you should know: Hempfield is a win away from becoming the first WPIAL team to win back-to-back PIAA titles. And really, you have to like its chances. It's not that Hazleton is a pushover -- the District 2 champs certainly aren't -- it's that Hempfield has won 40 games in a row. It's hard to bet against a team with a perfect record and just as hard to bet against Hempfield pitcher Morgan Ryan, who is looking for a second state title to go along with three WPIAL titles. It's been an interesting PIAA playoff run for the Spartans, who edged Central York in a low-scoring affair, scored five runs in the eighth inning to beat McDowell, and erupted for 11 runs against a Chambersburg team it also beat in last year's semifinals.
Player to watch: Morgan Ryan. The "Ryan Express" has been unstoppable this season. A Notre Dame recruit, Ryan was named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year. She went 15-0 and was fourth in the WPIAL in strikeouts during the regular season and has been exceptional in the postseason. Ryan has been a menace at the plate, too. She had two RBIs against Chambersburg.
District finish: District 2 champion
How they got here: (First round) Coatesville, 7-1; (Quarterfinals) Council Rock North, 6-5; (Semifinals) Spring-Ford, 8-5.
PIAA titles: None
Last time in final: First appearance
What you should know: While most of the Hempfield players are playing in the title game for the second year in a row, this is a whole new experience for Hazleton, which is making its first appearance. In fact, this is the first time a Hazleton team in any sport has advanced to the PIAA final since the boys basketball team finished as the state runner-up in 1993. The District 2 champions have dropped only three games and boast an excellent offense that includes sisters Megan and Marissa Trivelpiece. Megan, a senior, is batting .417 with a team-best 35 RBIs. Marissa, a freshman, is batting .403 with 24 RBIs.
Player to watch: As strong as Hazleton is offensively, the Cougars would have not gotten to this point without junior pitcher Erika Book. A first-year starter on the mound, Book isn't overpowering, but she's extremely effective. Book is 22-3 with a 2.14 ERA. She's also hitting .358 with 16 RBIs.