Norwin shuts out North Allegheny to earn spot in WPIAL softball playoffs

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | 8:13 PM


There was a WPIAL “last chance” track and field meet going on Tuesday at Norwin.

Simultaneously, on the upper part of the campus, there also was a “last chance” softball game.

With its season hanging in the balance, Norwin took care of business in the Section 2-6A finale, delivering a clean, crisp 6-0 shutout of No. 5 North Allegheny at the Norwin Middle School field to clinch a WPIAL playoff berth.

“Win and we’re in,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “That’s all I had to tell them. All the ups and downs of this year didn’t matter.”

The game was moved from the varsity field because the outfield there still has standing water and is unplayable.

Norwin played back-to-back games at the middle school and won both. It defeated Butler, 9-1, on Monday. That was the first piece of the three-piece puzzle.

“It hasn’t been pretty, and it’s not ideal, but the girls played well today,” Mesich said. “Sometimes, things off the field can motivate you.”

The Knights also needed Hempfield to beat North Allegheny, which occurred Monday. All that was left for Norwin was to beat North Allegheny to join the 10-team playoff field.

No problem.

Senior pitcher Angelina Pepe tossed a three-hit shutout behind a leak-proof defense, and five Norwin starters had two hits apiece as the Knights (4-8, 4-6) beat North Allegheny for the fourth time in their last five meetings.

Sophomores Bailey Snowberger and Josey Michalski had triples — Snowberger on Norwin’s first at-bat — and both also singled.

Pepe helped her cause with two hits, including a double, and junior catcher Madie Kessler added a double.

North Allegheny (10-7, 4-6) came back to force extra innings and win 8-7 in the teams’ earlier meeting this season.

The Tigers, already in the playoffs, didn’t get a runner to third in the one-sided rematch as Norwin earned a split.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Pepe, who had three strikeouts, one walk and hit a batter but forced 11 flyouts and six groundouts. “Last time, they hit me, and they came back. We kept them under control this time from the start.”

The defense didn’t bat an eye, scooping up grounders with certainty, particularly Michalski at third and Snowberger at short.

“It builds confidence when you know your defense has your back,” Pepe said.

Mesich said it was his team’s best defensive effort of the year.

“And it’s not even close,” he said.

After Norwin’s first run scored on an error after Snowberger’s legged-out triple — on a still-recovering knee she dislocated during basketball, no less — the Knights scored four times in the second.

“That gave us some oomph,” Snowberger said of her triple.

She added her team was ready to extend its season.

“It’s been a rough go,” Snowberger said of a start-and-stop season. “It was nice to see everybody come together and get this win. (Pepe) was lights out, and we backed her up. We were very prepared for this game. It was all or nothing.”

After a single by junior first baseman Emma Novotnak, a wild pitch, walk and error, Norwin added a second run, which preceded a two-run triple by Michalski.

Kessler followed with a deep double to make it 5-0 and chase Tigers ace Sammy Plotsko.

Snowberger opened the fourth with a bunt single, and Kessler walked. That brought up Pepe, who singled for a 6-0 advantage.

Norwin left the bases loaded in the sixth before North Allegheny went 1-2-3 in the seventh on two swift groundouts and a line drive back to Pepe.

Snowberger, Pepe and Kessler reached base three times, Michalski was 2 for 4, and Novotnak 2 for 3.

Senior Alaina Whipkey doubled for the Tigers, who are 5-7 since a 5-0 start.

Norwin continued to play without senior center fielder Olivia Mastrili, who is out with an injury. Mastrili helped Mesich coach by directing the outfielders into position.

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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