Fun-loving Norwin softball team blanks Hempfield to clinch section title

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021 | 9:36 PM


When Norwin softball players were told by their coach, Brian Mesich, that an umpire wanted them to “tone it down” on the field, they seemed taken aback.

They weren’t sure what that meant, exactly.

“They don’t want us to have fun, I guess,” one player said.

“So let’s have extra fun,” another added, and the rest of the team cheered with slightly peeved glee as they headed back to the dugout.

Extra fun came in the form of home runs, stellar pitching and some earned Class 6A clout – their first section championship since 2014 – as the third-ranked Knights wiped out No. 2 Hempfield, 10-0, in five innings to pull a season split with the five-time defending WPIAL champions Wednesday in North Huntingdon.

It wasn’t that the Knights were trying to be contrary or ornery. They just come across that way sometimes.

“We get up when we play Hempfield,” Mesich said. “Our girls came to play.”

Senior Sydney Lokay pitched a gem of a one-hitter, striking out 10 as the Knights (11-2, 8-1 Section 2) avenged a 10-5 loss to the Spartans, who had won four in a row.

Hempfield moved to 8-4, 4-3.

Sophomore Madie Kessler belted two home runs and drove in three runs, senior Liz Waszkiewicz doubled twice with three RBIs, senior Bailee Bertani had two RBIs, and junior Mallory Wensel went 3 for 3 for the Knights, who hit Spartans’ ace Callie Sowers and tightened their stranglehold on first place.

Lokay also homered, the second of back-to-back shots to follow Kessler’s moon shot in the first inning with two outs. The Knights also hit back-to-back homers in the first game against Hempfield, but the Spartans hit Lokay and rallied back.

“She started so many games for us this season with a home run like that,” Lokay said of Kessler. “We needed that spark. She lights that fire and we all follow.”

Lokay was coming off a 150-pitch game before the Knights played Hempfield the first time and worked on little rest. This time, she was charged up.

“I was on my game,” Lokay said. “I walked in there with confidence. The mindset is a big part of being in the circle, and I felt like my mindset was very strong today, and I knew what I had to get done.

“We were a fresher, sharper team today.”

Kessler, who now has nine of Norwin’s 16 homers, launched a two-run blast in a five-run second inning after Bertani’s RBI single and a two-run double from Waszkiewicz.

“I can’t say enough about Syd and Madie,” Mesich said. “Syd is just such a competitor. We moved her up to the No. 4 spot. Madie is an even better person.”

That made it 7-0 and the Knights were focused on the mercy rule. All of the fifth-inning runs again came with two outs.

“I walked out there thinking, we need to win this game,” Kessler said. “We are going to do this. We’re all going to put our best foot forward and do this. I was hoping for it, wishing for it and praying for it.”

Lokay walked leadoff hitter Kelsi Terzolino to start the third but then struck out three in a row and fanned two more in the fourth. In the home half of the frame, Bailey Snowberger led off with a single, and Waszkiewicz doubled again to make it 8-0, before junior Angelina Pepe’s run-scoring single gave the Knights a nine-run lead.

“We never got started,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “And we fell apart from there. Give credit to Norwin. They have a really good team, especially offensively.”

Norwin finished the walk-off win in the fifth when Bertani singled with two on and no outs, scoring the 10th run. The Knights bunted a runner up to second after Wensel singled and Elly Stodolsky was hit by a pitch.

“We came in knowing how we can play, and we executed very well,” Lokay said. “It’s a very exciting moment for us (to win the section).”

Hempfield still has work to do to lock up a playoff spot.

“We need to wash this one off quick,” Kalp said. “There were no opportunities for us to put pressure on them.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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