Kelly sparks 5-run inning that carries Central Catholic over Norwin, into Class 6A semis

Monday, May 23, 2022 | 8:47 PM

Central Catholic sophomore Gavin Kelly is glad there is a quick turnaround from the WPIAL Class 6A baseball quarterfinals to the semifinals.

Quick as in, be ready to play again in less than 24 hours.

“That’s good. We want to keep playing because we’re hot,” the West Virginia commit said. “We’re like hot butter.”

The fifth-seeded Vikings rallied past No. 4 Norwin, 5-2, for a quarterfinal win Monday afternoon at Plum. Now, they will play top-seeded Mt. Lebanon (14-7) on Tuesday in the semis.

The Vikings overcame a 2-0 deficit to take down the Knights (10-9), who made the semifinals last year.

Junior pitcher Nick Robertson registered a complete game, striking out eight, walking one and allowing five hits.

“This is my first year as the head coach, but I was an assistant (in 2018) the last time we made the semifinals,” Vikings coach John Rende said. “This team reminds me a lot of those guys. They play as a team, as a family.”

Kelly, the leadoff hitter, reached base three times and broke the game open with a three-run, two-out double in the sixth with the score tied, 2-2.

He was the third batter to face Norwin senior reliever Sebastian Rosado-Guindin, who replaced junior starter Ryan Orosz.

“I was sitting on a fast ball, and that is what I got on the first pitch,” Kelly said.

A five-run sixth fueled Central, which lost to Norwin, 8-0, earlier in the season.

Two singles and an error got the Vikings started. A throw to second on a steal attempt allowed their first run to score.

Senior Nick Chirumbolo followed with a run-scoring single to left center to make it 2-2.

After a hit-by-pitch, Orosz was pulled despite solid work early. He earned the win against Central earlier.

Junior David Farrell singled to right past a diving senior EJ Dunn, and, two batters later, Kelly ripped a deep double over Dunn’s head. The ball bounced off the fence, allowing the Vikings to surge ahead 5-2.

“He’s at the top of our order and gets a lot of clean RBIs,” Rende said of Kelly.

Added Kelly: “There is something special brewing here. We have a saying, ‘Kill or be killed.’ We strive to be the best.”

Robertson, who struck out the side in the first — a good sign, Rende said — set down nine of the next 10 hitters after Norwin’s fourth inning.

“He was on the first two innings,” Rende said. “I’d put him up there with any (pitcher) in the WPIAL. We needed to give him some run support, and we did that.”

Norwin scored both of its runs in the fourth. Senior shortstop Jake Kendro singled, and Dunn ripped a shot to right center that one-hopped over the fence for a ground-rule double.

Junior Chris Slatt followed with a sacrifice fly for the first run, and sophomore catcher Tyler Cupp knocked a single into left to make it 2-0.

“I thought we did some good things early,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “Our approach was better. Ryan had a good game and deserved better. They hit a couple bleeders. We didn’t have a strong game defensively.

“My wife asked me, ‘Is (Central) any good?’ I told her, we’re in 6A. They are all good.”

Liebdzinski credited Robertson for how he worked around some of Norwin’s better hitters.

“He is one of the top strikeout pitchers around,” the coach said. “I knew we weren’t going to put a lot of runs up on him. We thought we’d have to hold them to two or less to win.”

Senior Mario Misiti had two hits for Central. Jack Whalen was 2 for 3 for Norwin.

Neither coach said a long layoff affected their team’s play. Because of the smaller, eight-team bracket in 6A, Norwin had not played since May 11, and Central had been off since May 13.

“We didn’t change what we did or who we are,” Rende said. “We tried to stay consistent.”

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

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