Norwin softball hangs on for nervous win over Canon-McMillan, reaches semifinals

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | 10:12 PM


Bailey Snowberger said softball is a game of failure.

Her Norwin teammate, Alyssa McCormick, mentioned how the sport hinges on teammates picking each other up.

“One day you can go 0 for 4, the next you might go 4 for 4,” said Snowberger, a junior shortstop. “You never know what’s going to happen, but you always have that next at-bat, that next game.”

Games such as the one Norwin played Wednesday strengthen those players’ arguments.

Third-seeded Norwin felt relieved and fortunate to have another game to play after escaping No. 6 Canon-McMillan with a nerve-racking 8-7 victory in a WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal at Gateway.

“It took a team effort,” said McCormick, the winning pitcher who battled leg cramps late in the game and lost some sharpness but still finished the complete game. “I told them, ‘OK girls, I am going to need you to back me up here,’ and they did.”

Norwin (15-5) returns to the semifinals for the third time since 2017 and will take on rival Hempfield (16-3), the No. 2 seed, next Wednesday.

Canon-McMillan (7-12), which lost to Norwin in two section games by scores of 15-5 and 14-5, made the Knights’ third victory much more labor intensive.

There is a reason they say it is hard to beat a team three times in a season.

The Big Macs rallied from a five-run deficit with a four-run seventh inning in a game that lasted two-and-a-half hours. At-bats were lengthy, counts went deep and dozens of foul tips made it to the road behind the field.

“I knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “This is why I was up at 2 a.m. nervous. It’s how you handle pressure. We played defense just well enough. Fortunately, we hit the ball early. I knew Canon-Mac was going to score some runs.”

Norwin built an 8-3 lead on the strength of three home runs:y sophomore Rachel Minteer, Snowberger and Madie Kessler.

But the Big Macs used the long ball to come back. Sophomore Kiersten Williams, who they call “Curly,” blasted a two-run shot in the seventh, before senior Sam Booher sent one out for another two-run blast to make it 8-7 with two outs.

McCormick, who allowed 10 hits and struck out eight, cramped up at the start of the fifth and was stretched out by trainer Angie Snowberger.

“It’s about picking each other up,” McCormick said. “I was cramping in the fourth and fifth innings. I don’t know what happened.

“I wasn’t coming out of that game. I didn’t want to go down that way. We all had determination to get the win.”

Snowberger agreed: “After we allowed a home run, made an error or struck out, we had to be there for each other.”

The Knights scored in every inning, except the seventh, of course, which they were glad to X-out.

Senior Emma Novotnak had an RBI single in the first, and a bases-loaded walk off of Brooke Bumer made it 2-0 in the second.

Norwin took a 4-0 lead in the third on Minteer’s homer to center. Minteer went 2 for 3.

After a bunt single by junior Sam Merkle, Junior Olivia Ford cracked a two-run double in the fourth for Canon-McMillan, but Snowberger, who was hit by a pitch in her first two plate trips, lined one over the fence in center to make it 5-2 in the fourth.

Merkle knocked in a run in the fifth for the Big Macs, but Norwin answered with a ground-rule double by sophomore Isabella Deering and an RBI infield single by freshman pinch-hitter Miley Harrison to make it 7-3.

In the sixth, Kessler led off with a line-drive homer for an 8-3 lead, and junior Josey Michalski singled to chase Bumer from the circle.

Senior Gabby Lucia singled to open the seventh for the Big Macs, who wouldn’t go quietly.

Eventually, after a few head shakes and shoulder shrugs, Norwin got out of trouble.

“This was the definition of a team win,” Snowberger said. “Home runs really created momentum, but you can’t depend on them. We knew it would be a close game. Canon-Mac is a gritty team.

“Softball is a game of failure. You have to put things behind you and move on.”

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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