Norwin notebook: Knights baseball, softball teams reflect on seasons

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Saturday, June 5, 2021 | 11:34 AM


Postseason runs that were expected to last a lot longer ended rather abruptly in the WPIAL semifinals for the Norwin baseball and softball teams.

The baseball Knights were roughed up by rival Hempfield, 12-2, while the softball team fell to Canon-McMillan, 7-4.

Both were No. 2 seeds. Neither team qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

No. 3 seed Hempfield worked out of bases-loaded jams in the fifth and sixth innings to keep the highly touted Knights at bay.

“If we get a big hit in either of those innings, we’re right back in the game,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “But that’s not how it worked out. They jumped on us early, kept adding on and by far were the better team. There’s not much more to say about it.”

Norwin and Hempfield tied for the section title and split their two-game season series. The rubber match was one-sided, and while Hempfield advanced to the finals for the first time, the Knights went home quietly after a 14-4 season.

Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard has endless respect for Norwin’s program and its coaching staff.

“We were never at ease,” Buzzard said. “Our guys were good offensively all night.”

The Norwin softball team, meanwhile, rallied to tie Canon-McMillan twice before falling to end the season at 14-3. The Knights had a seven-game winning streak end and have now lost three straight semifinals.

Senior Bailee Bertani and sophomore Madie Kessler hit solo homers to make it 2-2, and senior Liz Waszkiewicz added a two-run single in the sixth to help the Knights pull even at 4-4.

But pinch-hitter Taylor Eckles delivered a three-run double in the seventh for the difference.

“We got in a hole, came back; got in a hole, came back,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “(Canon-McMillan) hit the ball exactly when they needed to hit the ball. We have a resilient group. This is only our third loss, so it hurts.

“I am super proud of what the girls accomplished.”

Junior center fielder Olivia Mastrilli had a memorable final game of 2021. She had a couple of key catches, including a diving grab in the seventh. And she nearly made a third to rob Eckles, but could not corral the drive and crashed into the fence at West Mifflin.

Mesich was not surprised to see Mastrilli put her body on the line.

“We say she is military strong,” he said. “She is ROTC.”

Waszkiewicz, a Fairmont State commit, said the loss was tough to absorb.

“We came to play and they came to play,” she said. “They found gaps. Olivia Mastrilli is a tough girl. She gives 120% and you don’t have to ask her to do it.

“This was a year for the record books. I was happy to be part of it.”

Norwin won its first outright section title this season.

Driscoll nominees

Norwin seniors Alex Gabauer and Katlynn Kauffman were nominees for the Westmoreland County Scholar-Athlete Award.

The 65th annual banquet, hosted by Judge John J. Driscoll, was held May 25 at Ferrante’s Lakeview.

The winners were Mt. Pleasant’s Haylie Brunson and Burrell’s Ian Oswalt.

Gabauer, a baseball standout who will play at Penn, ranked 42nd out of 426 seniors at Norwin with a 96.625 grade percentage.

Kauffman stood out on the soccer team. She is a Pitt commit who ranked 32nd in the senior class with a 4.0 GPA.

Willig earns scholarship

The Kaitlyn “Moe” Rosensteel Scholarship Foundation planned to award one scholarship to a deserving WPIAL girls soccer player in the name of the late Ringgold and travel soccer standout and West Virginia Wesleyan recruit who was killed in June 2019 by a lightning strike at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township.

The idea is to recognize those who display Rosensteel’s traits — leadership and a passion for the game among them.

Some of the entry essays and interviews were so good, the foundation decided to choose two winners.

Both seniors dealt with setbacks in their lives but have shown resilience and a love for soccer and its close-knit community.

Hannah Nelson of Greensburg Central Catholic and Sydney Willig of Norwin are the inaugural recipients. They were honored last month at a ceremony at Gato Taco & Tequila in Irwin.

The girls will receive $2,000 apiece.

Ed Rosensteel, Moe’s father who runs the foundation with his wife, Shelley, said he received essays from across Western Pennsylvania and one from Maryland. They left the entries open to any senior player who plans to play college soccer.

“As we were going through this process, we realized we had a pretty unique couple of young ladies,” Ed Rosensteel said. “They have both dealt with adversity and how it affected them in their day-to-day life but also on the soccer field. When we interviewed both Hannah and Sydney, it was for sure that the decision to offer them both a scholarship was the right decision, despite the fact we only budgeted for one.”

Nelson, a Pitt-Greensburg commit, won a WPIAL title at GCC last season along with a PIAA runner-up. She is the sister of former GCC baseball player Josh Nelson, who died suddenly in 2017.

Willig, who has learned to cope with cystic fibrosis while spreading awareness of the disease and new treatments, is known for being an energetic and loyal teammate and friend. She is headed to Geneva to play soccer.

“There are several principles that we hold on to as part of who Moe was and how she lived,” Ed Rosensteel said. “One of those principles is helping others get to where they want to go. Awarding Hannah and Sydney with the scholarships is helping two great young ladies get where they want to go.”

College scene

Youngstown State senior baseball pitcher Chad Coles (Norwin) finished 2-2 with a 4.33 ERA this season for the Penguins (32-24), who went 0-2 in the Horizon League Tournament. Coles had 23 appearances and struck out 47 over 3513 innings.

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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