Norwin baseball team blanks Hempfield, clinches tie for section title

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 | 9:18 PM

The Norwin baseball team clinched at least a tie for the Section 2-6A title Wednesday behind a strong pitching performance from Jake Bazala and timely hitting.

Bazala blanked Hempfield into the sixth inning, and Zach Potthoff came in for a save as Norwin won 3-0 on a cool, damp day.

No. 1 ranked Norwin (11-1, 7-1) is scheduled to play Thursday at Upper St. Clair and turn around for the rematch with Hempfield on Friday. Hempfield (10-6, 6-3) hopes Friday’s rematch is for a chance to tie for the section title.

Bazala survived a shaky start. He walked Jayson Jacobs on four pitches, and Phil Fox ripped a line drive that carried out to left fielder Eric Chorba. Jacobs then was caught stealing by catcher Landon DiBeradin to end the threat.

“That was a key play,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “You never know how momentum would have gone.”

After that, Bazala settled down. He allowed three hits, walked two, hit two batters and struck out five.

“I had three pitches working well,” Bazala said. “I was able use my fastball to set up my curveball and splitter. Getting an early lead took pressure off me.”

Norwin took a 1-0 lead in the second inning against Hempfield starter Fox, who wasn’t sharp. He hit a batter and walked six. He worked out of a few jams, limiting the Knights to three runs.

Ty Stecko, who reached on an infield single, scored on a single by Jack Whalen.

“Jake had a nice game,” Liebdzinski said. “He threw a lot of strikes. He seemed to tire late, but we have all the faith in Zach.”

The Knights grabbed a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when Alex Gabauer, who hit a double in the first inning, lined a two-run single to right field that scored Nick Fleming and courtesy runner Ryan Scavnicky.

“We got some big hits, but we had a chance to put the game away,” Liebdzinski said. “It was a good baseball game. Both teams played well. It was playoff type of intensity.”

Hempfield had three hits, including doubles by Aiden Dunlap and Brandon Coughlin.

“They did everything a little better than we did,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “Their pitcher threw a great game. He was throwing three pitches for strikes. We had to hold ourselves accountable.”

Hempfield didn’t get a runner past second base. The Spartans had two runners on with fewer than two outs in the fifth and seventh innings but failed to get a key hit.

“When you play here against that team, you have to play your best game,” Buzzard said. “We didn’t play badly. But we certainly didn’t play our best game.”

Hempfield chased Bazala in the top of the seventh inning when Ryan Firmstone was hit with a pitch, and Lucas Anderson drew a walk. But Potthoff retired the next three batters to end the game.

Now Norwin turns its focus on Upper St. Clair.

“We have to keep things rolling,” Liebdzinski said. “It’s the time of the year, and we have to keep things going in the right direction.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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