Former Yough coach Spisak set for new challenge leading Norwin baseball team
Thursday, March 23, 2023 | 5:02 PM
He wears navy blue and gold now instead of orange and green, but Craig Spisak still looks the part as a baseball coach preparing for a new season.
Uniform day was slightly more hectic this year, however.
“It’s still baseball,” he said. “It’s just baseball … with a lot more kids.”
Spisak left Yough after six seasons to take over at Norwin after well-regarded coach Mike Liebdzinski resigned after 19 seasons leading the perennially strong Knights.
Spisak put in a lot of thought before he applied at Norwin and took the job. He said he tossed and turned for a week before finding clarity and a vision for the program.
After a full fall with his players, he feels like he is a part of the program, welcomed and ready to uphold tradition.
“I knew what I was getting into here,” Spisak said. “There is a reputation at Norwin, and I want to uphold it. ‘Liebs’ and (assistant) Tom Quealy did a great job here. Kids love baseball here, and they play it all year round, nonstop.”
The difference is in the numbers. When Spisak coached Yough, he was fortunate to have 40 players in the whole program.
Norwin has more than 70, including a crop of 34 freshmen.
The Knights will have 18 varsity players, 18 on the junior varsity, and two 15-player freshman teams.
“The kids at Yough worked hard, and the kids at Norwin work hard,” Spisak said. “I see a lot of similarities. They are willing to do anything to become better baseball players, and they’re coachable. There are just a lot more to pick from here.”
Norwin (0-2) was 10-9 last year and lost to Central Catholic, 5-2, in the WPIAL quarterfinals in Liebdzinski’s final game. He finished with 233 wins, eight section titles and a WPIAL title in 2016.
Spisak was 56-48 with four playoff trips at Yough.
The new Knights coach likes his bevy of pitchers. In fact, he said the staff could go nine deep if needed.
“Three or four section games in a week, we might have to,” he said.
Three starters return: seniors Ryan Orosz, a pitcher and outfielder; first baseman Chris Slatt; and junior catcher Ty Cupp.
Orosz is in line to be the top pitcher. A long list of arms includes senior Mike Sincak, senior Mason Lisovich, sophomore Matt Rivera, junior Nate Helphenstine and senior Ryan Mesco.
“Coach Spisak has done a lot to help prepare us for the season,” Orosz said. “I believe the program is in really good hands.”
Slatt, a Seton Hill commit, might even see mound time. He threw 86 mph in practice.
“Ryan has the experience and is ready to take the torch,” Spisak said. “I like our pitching depth. And I think our defense will be solid. I like our chemistry.”
Mesko likely will see time at shortstop, and several players are in line to play the middle infield spots. Auld, senior Steve Rodgers and junior Will Griffiths are in that mix.
Senior Ryan Weaver, Orosz and Lisovich look to be the outfield trio.
“I want them to be focused on winning baseball games over any (individual) accomplishments,” Spisak said. “This is high level baseball in 6A, and the kids know that.”
Said Orosz: “I believe one of our greatest strengths as a team is our chemistry. I also believe we are a very well-rounded team but excel on the defensive side of things.”
Spisak is set to retire after 25 years with the Pennsylvania State Police. He will continue to work as a PIAA basketball official, something he started in 1997, and give the majority of his remaining time to Norwin baseball.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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