Joe Smith, Local Sports, Sports, University

Autumn Stemple leads University past Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — University freshman Autumn Stemple may be young, but she knows a thing or two about how to handle pressure on the field.
“In softball, you’re up sometimes and you’re down sometimes. You can’t allow that to let you get too high or too low mentally,” she said. “You just have to stay strong and not let people get to you. If you do, then at that point, you break down and you’re not at your full potential.”
The Hawks were down early as they hosted cross-town rival Morgantown on Friday, but were fortunate enough to have Stemple leading the charge from the mound. The Hawks rallied behind their young pitcher to claw back into the lead, with Stemple shutting down the Mohigans at the plate to seal a 6-2 victory for the Hawks.
“I knew they wouldn’t get many hits off Autumn. I know they have a good hitting team, but I didn’t think they could get hits off her top to bottom. I knew that we had to hit, and I wasn’t worried,” Hawks coach Mindy Parks said. “I think the team plays well with her on the mound. She gives us that confidence. She’s the dominant pitcher. We went down to Huntington and Charleston and played well with teams we couldn’t compete with before. We’re catching them with Autumn pitching.”
The Mohigans (11-3) found their rhythm quickly at the plate and established momentum, but as Stemple adjusted to the lineup, they failed to match their early efforts. The game entered the fifth inning with Morgantown holding a 2-1 edge. The Hawks (5-8) would close the bottom of the inning by driving home a pair of runs to capture the lead, and as they battled back into the game, the typically lively Morgantown dugout fell flat.
“In the beginning, our energy was up, but when they started coming back, we didn’t manage to get back up. We just kind of lost our edge today,” MHS coach Lorri Lipscomb said. “We have to believe we can come back and win, and play to win – we can’t play not to lose. I think when they started coming back, there’s also that MHS versus UHS factor to it. Any other team, I felt like they would have been more confident and able to battle back a bit more.”
The Hawks were relentless in finishing the Mohigans once gaining the lead. With momentum firmly in their favor, they quickly put runners on base in the sixth inning, with a Layne Assif single driving home two runs, and Assif reaching home herself shortly after following a Carly Herring double.
“The hitting late was the difference in the game. Hitting is contagious — that’s our thing. The kids were staying up, one hit after another. That sixth inning was big for us,” Parks said.
Most dominant late in the game was Stemple. She struck out five batters in seven at-bats, while giving up just one hit in the final two innings after regaining the lead.
She said the key to the performance was the trust she had in the defense behind her, as well as trust in her own skill.
“I had confidence in my defense, and I knew my riseball was working pretty well. It was getting batters out all night, so I was confident that I could keep going with those pitches when I needed to,” she said.