Norwin softball aims to repeat section championship behind deep pitching staff

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020 | 5:24 PM


(Editor’s note: The PIAA has postponed the start of the spring sports season because of concerns over the covid-19 pandemic.)

With uncertainty looming about the resumption of practices and the start of the WPIAL softball season — if there is one — Norwin is trying to stay upbeat and focused.

Who isn’t, right?

“Everyone is going through it,” senior outfielder Alexandra Dillner said. “It’s tough for a lot of us. Some girls cried (at the end of the most recent practice March 13). I just pray they don’t take away my senior season. I want to end it with a WPIAL championship, not a loss (from last year).”

Pennsylvania K-12 schools are closed until March 30 so that means practices and games aren’t happening for spring sports teams, including softball and baseball.

When Norwin does get back to business, it hopes to build off a section title it shared last season with Hempfield and North Allegheny, the latter team beating Norwin three times, including 8-4 in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals.

The Knights, who finished 13-8 overall and 10-4 in section, swept five-time defending WPIAL champion Hempfield in two games during the regular season.

“North Allegheny got under our skin,” said Dillner, who plans to play at Saint Vincent. “It was kind of a mental thing. We’re looking forward to playing them again.”

Coach Brian Mesich said he is far from knowing who will play where in his lineup. And with the hiatus from practice, he is even farther from particulars.

“It’s wide open as far as positions go,” Mesich said. “We have a couple girls injured and that has changed some of our plans. It’s like a chain-reaction. I have probably gone through four or five lineup combos already.”

Five starters are due back, but they may play in different spots.

The one-two pitching punch of junior Sydney Lokay and sophomore Angelina Pepe returns, giving the Knights stability in the circle.

“Our young gun pitchers have been amazing,” Dillner said. “We all learned so much from last season.”

Senior Leah Yoder, an Alderson Broaddus recruit, will likely play shortstop, while power-hitting senior Victoria Shimko, who is headed to Edinboro, should return to third base.

Senior Carly Cook, who is dealing with an injury, would join Yoder and Shimko as four-year starters.

Junior Bailee Bertani, who stood out as an outfielder last year, is moving to catcher. Bertani verbally committed to Robert Morris. She hit .408 last season with a team-high 28 RBIs. She had five doubles, two triples, four home runs and 22 runs.

Sophomore Juliana Shimko is a third pitching option.

Other potential starters include sophomores Mallory Wensel and Olivia Mastrilli.

“We have had a great offseason conditioning,” Mesich said. “I think we’re in the best shape we could be in right now.”

Norwin will eventually debut a new turf infield at home games. Mesich, who helps install turf locally, cut and tailored a 14-foot “N” positioned between the pitcher’s circle and second base.

While the field construction continues, the team had practiced at the middle school and on the campus baseball and football fields.

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

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