Norwin baseball batters Class 5A No. 1 Franklin Regional, 18-2

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021 | 8:25 PM


Norwin had lost two section games in a row and was looking to recharge its battery – and its bats — against Franklin Regional in a nonsection baseball game that had some extra shine to it.

It’s not often teams of this ilk get to meet just before the WPIAL playoffs. Both are expected to draw top-3 seeds when the pairings come out Friday.

The shine, though, wore off quickly.

Class 6A No. 3 Norwin piled on the offense with a performance to beat the band, smothering 5A No. 1 Franklin Regional, 18-2, in a run-ruled finish before dozens of spectators in North Huntingdon.

Norwin (12-3) took advantage of 10 walks and hit for the cycle as a team. It was the first loss for Franklin Regional (14-1), the top-ranked 5A team in the state, which had allowed 23 runs all season before the one-sided defeat.

“We haven’t been swinging the bats well,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “We needed this. We took advantage of a lot of walks but we got some big hits, too. This is one of the more (lopsided) wins we have had here, and it was against a good team.”

Junior Ty Stecko belted a tape-measure grand slam in the bottom of the fourth as the Knights walked it off and put the Panthers out of their misery.

The mercy rule comes into play when a team is up by 15 after three innings.

The Knights touched up Panthers’ senior ace Brian Pirone for four runs in the second and eventually chased him during a four-run third. Pirone struggled to get comfortable and find the strike zone.

Four walks and two wild pitches – all with no outs — allowed the Knights to increase their lead.

Senior Landon DiBeradin ripped a two-run double off of junior reliever Kyle Morgan, and junior Jack Whalen followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 9-1.

A nine-run fourth that also included a three-run homer from senior Eric Chorba allowed them to clock out early.

“This game certainly is not indicative of the type of baseball we can play,” Franklin Regional coach Bobby Saddler said. “I don’t think we came out flat. We just didn’t play our best baseball. It starts with me. I needed to do a better job of getting us ready.”

By all accounts, Norwin is quite playoff ready. The Section 2-6A co-champions (with Hempfield) had 10 hits, but six went for extra bases.

“We came out with energy after those two losses,” Stecko said. “We were looking at fastballs. We made (Pirone) come to us.”

DiBeradin doubled, tripled and drove in three runs, while Whalen had two hits and three RBIs, senior Jayden Walker doubled in two runs and senior Nick Fleming tripled. Senior Alex Gabauer also doubled and drove in a run.

“It was nice to see us knock out one of the supposed elite pitchers in 5A,” Liebdzinski said. “He lost some control there and our guys hit him. We needed a performance like this.”

Stecko’s towering blast disappeared deep into the woods beyond the center-field fence.

“That’s one of the farthest balls I have ever seen hit here,” Liebdzinski said.

Franklin Regional, which won Section 1-5A by four games over Penn-Trafford and Gateway, had six hits, including doubles by senior Luke Treloar and junior Jack Bridges, against Norwin senior ace Jake Bazala, who picked up his seventh win.

Liebdzinski said he planned to get Walker some work on the mound, but the proper time never materialized. Walker has not pitched in a couple of years.

The Knights improved to 9-0 at home this season.

The game featured at least seven future PSAC college players. Walker, Bazala, DiBerabin, and Franklin Regional’s Timmy Quinn, who had a RBI, are headed to Mercyhurst. Norwin’s Justin Turcovski is a Pitt-Johnstown commit, while Pirone and Treloar will play at Seton Hill and Cal U.

Franklin Regional finishes the regular season at home Thursday against North Catholic, while Norwin hosts Gateway.

“Today was just an avalanche,” Saddler said. “I take full responsibility for not having our guys better prepared. This was an anomaly. Baseball is a game where anyone can beat you. Norwin is not just anybody. They are an elite team.”

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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