Norwin notebook: Ex-Knights standout Jack Whalen wraps up big freshman year at Seton Hill

Saturday, June 10, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Not many freshmen in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference had a better debut season than Seton Hill’s Jack Whalen, a Norwin alum.

The outfielder broke a school record for stolen bases in a season and led the team in a couple of offensive categories, finding his place in the lineup from the jump.

You could almost fill out a lineup card with the Griffins’ all-region players.

A program-record seven players were selected to the American Baseball Coaches Association All-Region teams, including three on the first team, including senior third baseman Jack Oberdorf (Greensburg Salem), senior catcher Vincenzo Rauso and sophomore designated hitter Braden Durham.

Whalen, senior pitcher Kevin Vaupel, and junior pitcher Brandon Bergert were second-team selections.

Whalen has a breakthrough rookie season, hitting .332 while leading the team with 64 runs and a school-record 52 stolen bases.

Oberdorf led the team with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs, while Rauso had a team-best .413 batting average, and Barker was 4-1 with four saves as the closer.

The Griffins (48-13) had a memorable season as they set a program record for wins, won the PSAC West and the Atlantic Regional, and reached the Super Regional.

One and done

WPIAL Class 6A softball coaches think something needs to change next year.

Only the champion, Hempfield (18-3) moved on to the PIAA playoffs, meaning the semifinal and title-game losers were done for the year.

Norwin lost to Hempfield in the semifinals, 8-5, leaving the Knights wondering what could have been.

In other classifications, the top three or four finishers advanced to the state playoffs. Normally, teams that meet in the WPIAL finals play each other again the state tournament.

But not in 6A. Not this year.

With so few 6A teams in certain districts, the PIAA only has so many pre-slotted spots in the bracket.

Last year, the WPIAL champion and runner-up advanced.

“There needs to be more qualifiers. One team makes no sense,” said Seneca Valley coach Marlesse Hames, whose team went 17-2 and was the PIAA runner-up last year but did not qualify this year after losing to Hempfield, 2-1, in the WPIAL final. “They went to this super section. It should at least be two teams. You come this far, and you’re done? We should still be playing.”

Hempfield coach Tina Madison, whose Spartans missed the state tournament last year after a loss in the WPIAL semifinals, agrees with Hames.

“It’s heartbreaking to see teams like Seneca Valley not move on,” Madison said. “A pitcher like (Lexie Hames) shouldn’t be done after the WPIAL final. I understand it’s because of the numbers, but for one team’s season to end like that, it’s tough.”

For perspective, District 1 has six qualifiers because it has a lot more teams. District 3 has four state playoff teams.

Districts 2, 4 and 12 have one qualifier, while districts 6, 8 and 10 potentially have one apiece.

Districts 5 and 9 have none.

Longtime Hempfield coach Bob Kalp has an opinion on the matter.

“The idea is to get the best teams in the tournament,” he said. “Just assigning a number of qualifiers according to size doesn’t accomplish that. Seneca Valley should be in the tournament.”

Kalp recalled his teams in the past often facing North Allegheny or Shaler after playing those teams in the finals.

“They should have two at-large bids to take care of that type of situation,” Kalp said.

Lacrosse stars

The top girls lacrosse players in the WPIAL were recognized with postseason plaudits.

Ava Wilson of Norwin was selected to the Class 3A All-WPIAL team.

Franklin Regional’s Gwen Shilling made the Class 2A team.

Wilson also made the All-Section 1-3A First Team, while teammate Ray Mamas was named to the second team.

Other Westmoreland County second-team picks were Raina Slater and Heather Harshman of Hempfield.

Section 1-2A first-teamers included Schilling, Kate Lowe and Katelyn Pitts of Franklin Regional, Sophia Green of Penn-Trafford and Ryley Quinn of Latrobe.

Annabelle Aquino and Georgia Vislocky of Penn-Trafford, Kayla Wright of Greensburg Salem and Taylor Desko of Latrobe made the second team.

Shigo commits

Norwin hockey player Ty Shigo will continue his hockey career at Saint Vincent. Shigo is a forward for the Knights.

Youth football camp

Norwin will host a football camp from noon to 2 p.m. June 29 for players in grades 1-6 at Norwin Knights Stadium. Cost is $50 per player. For more information, contact Mike Brown at

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


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