Norwin softball grateful for another shot at powerhouse Hempfield

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | 11:01 AM


To have another chance — that is all Bailey Snowberger could ask for.

The Norwin standout shortstop has longed to knock off rival Hempfield in the softball playoffs, and she and the Knights will get another chance to do it at 5 p.m. Wednesday when the teams play at Gateway in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals.

Hempfield (18-1) is the No. 1 seed and defending WPIAL champion. Norwin (9-10) is the No. 5 seed.

Hempfield has booted Norwin out of the postseason the past two years, including last year in the semis, at the same site, and two years ago in the quarterfinals.

Hempfield has won 14 in a row overall, including a pair of wins over Norwin in section play.

“It means so much, I’m not sure how to put it in words,” said Snowberger, a Holy Cross commit. “I mean, if you are a fan of sports, you know these are the kind of moments you work for. What all the offseason training is, the sacrificing, everything, and to be able to continue our season and getting to play a rival is the icing on the cake. As a competitor, you want to face the best of the best and test yourself, and that’s exactly what we plan to do (Wednesday).”

Norwin jumped out to a 5-0 lead last year with three home runs before Hempfield and ace pitcher Riley Miller stormed back.

Norwin beat Hempfield last season, 10-8, during the regular season, so it can be done. But the Spartans are loaded, with nine returning starters.

“We played Norwin twice (this season) and gave up one run each time,” Hempfield coach Tina Madison said. “We just need to take care of business offensively and execute to push runs across with minimal pop flies.”

Little has changed at the longtime softball factory that is Hempfield, where the West Point pipeline still flows with elite travel ball players and championships are the standard.

Miller (Kent State), Peyton Heisler (Penn), Maggie Howard (Georgetown) and Allie Cervola (Ohio) are Division I commits.

But this team has layers of talent. Its second- and third-stringers could start for many other teams.

“We have so many silent contributors,” Madison said. “We’re talented, 1 through 20.”

Hempfield appears to be on a collision course with No. 2 Seneca Valley (19-1) for a second straight meeting in the finals. But will there be rust?

The Spartans will not have played a game in 13 days when they take the field Wednesday, the product of a bye in a six-team bracket.

“It’s a long break, but we just played, in my opinion, one of our best games of the year in a scrimmage against Neshannock on Tuesday,” Madison said. “It was an amazing game with a lot of talent on the field.”

Norwin, fresh off a crisp, 3-1 win over No. 4 Pine-Richland in the quarterfinals, stands in the way.

Seneca Valley plays No. 6 Canon-McMillan (7-11) in the other semifinal.

Norwin has never made the WPIAL finals.

Snowberger won a WPIAL title this winter in basketball.

“Obviously, Hempfield is a very talented team, but in a game of failure like softball, you never know how the game will unfold until the third out is made in the last inning,” Snowberger said. “I think to give ourselves the best shot, we need to play with confidence, trust in one another and to play our roles, whether that is laying a bunt down or coming up with a game-changing play in the field.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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