Mistakes prove difference as Norwin baseball tops Latrobe

Monday, April 8, 2019 | 8:45 PM

As a scoreless game meandered into the third inning, Norwin figured it might need a fortunate bounce, a break to go its way, if it was going to get a handle on its Section 2-6A baseball opener.

Visiting Latrobe obliged.

A topsy-turvy third for the Wildcats aided Norwin’s 6-1 victory Monday in North Huntingdon.

Norwin (5-1) took advantage of three walks and three errors in the third and scored five runs.

Latrobe (4-4), which has lost four of five after a 3-0 start in its first run through Class 6A, left six on base and managed four hits against Knights pitchers Jake Bazala and lefty Aidan Shephard.

Sophomores Nick Fleming and Alex Gabauer had two hits each for the Knights, who added a run in the fifth on a single by Fleming that scored sophomore Jayden Walker, who doubled.

Norwin did not commit an error and turned two early double plays.

“That’s high school baseball,” Liebdzinski said. “People are going to make mistakes. If you don’t make any and they do, if you walk fewer guys than they walk, then you have a good chance to win. We didn’t hit the ball great today, but we only had four walks and no errors. Pretty clean.”

The win was the 200th of Liebdzinski’s career. In 16 years at Norwin, he is 200-102 with 14 playoff trips, a WPIAL title and two runner-ups. He has more wins than any coach in program history.

Liebdzinski not only was surprised by the milestone but also with the small ceremony to recognize it moments after the game. He was presented a portrait of himself and sons, Logan and Ryan, by one of his former players, speed-painter extraordinaire Cody Sabol.

“It was very nice,” Liebdzinski said. “I know how many wins I have at the end of the year when they want to update the program, but I had no idea it was the 200th. It’s nice that they recognize me and appreciate the fact I have been here for awhile and been fortunate enough to have some good enough teams and players to get those 200 wins.”

Norwin was coming off a 6-3 win over Class 5A No. 1 Moon, which served as a primer for the Knights. Their only loss is to No. 5 Pine-Richland, 8-7.

“That was our best game offensively,” Liebdzinski said of the Moon win. “We walked too many guys, but we had a clean game defensively and we swung the bats quite well. That helped us get some confidence with some young guys coming in. It didn’t work quite the same today, but we’ll take the win in section all the time.”

Senior Justin Stott took the loss for Latrobe. He allowed a single to Fleming and proceeded to walk the bases loaded before issuing a free pass to senior Owen Sabol for the first run in the third.

Junior Cam Dominick came on in relief, but a harmless grounder to second was mishandled by senior Matt Henderson and his throw to first got away from junior Ben Rafferty and rolled to the fence, allowing three runs to score.

Another error, on Rafferty, brought in the fifth run.

“We’re having some growing pains,” said Latrobe coach Matt Basciano, also in his 16th season. “Norwin is a good team, but if you take away those errors it’s a much different game. They made the plays, and we didn’t.”

Latrobe made it 6-1 on a sacrifice fly by Rafferty with the bases loaded in the fourth. Senior Connor Mondock had two hits, including a double, for Latrobe.

Norwin did strand nine runners, including leaving the bases full in the fourth and sixth.

“We (also) had some opportunities that they gave us and didn’t capitalize,” Liebdzinski said. “We got the bases loaded a couple times. We need to be able to get something going there.”

Bazala worked six innings to earn the win, on 84 pitches. Shephard tossed a 1-2-3 seventh.

Sophomore Tucker Knupp later pitched for the Wildcats. Three of their losses are by 10 runs, but they also have two wins by 10.

“We have to learn from our mistakes and get better,” Basciano said. “We’re learning to play together. It’s taking some time.”

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

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