Norwin softball hopes to continue momentum into second half of season

Friday, April 19, 2019 | 8:48 PM

Norwin’s softball team opened the season with a tough 1-0 section loss at Seneca Valley.

The Knights shook it off by winning six of their next seven, including a rousing 6-1 victory April 11 against four-time defending WPIAL champion Hempfield, which also has won three state titles in a row.

Norwin ended the first half of the season tied for second place with Hempfield with a 5-2 record in Section 2-6A, two games behind North Allegheny (7-0).

Norwin improved to 7-3 overall and 6-2 in section play with a 13-1 victory April 17 at home against Fox Chapel.

“We started out playing inconsistently,” coach Brian Mesich said. “We would be able to hit, but our gloves or defense would struggle. I hope we are continuing to improve and have finally started to play more consistently and playing a full game from beginning to end, and not just have a slow start with a strong finish or visa versa.”

Last year, the Knights put together their most successful postseason run in recent memory. They reached the WPIAL semifinals and finished one game from the state tournament. It was the first time Norwin won a playoff game in softball in more than two decades.

“Our playoff wins last year changed our expectations for this season,” Mesich said. “The team understands now that we can compete with anyone if our heads and bodies are focused on the game.”

The awe-inspiring victory against Hempfield has been the highlight of the season. The Knights are hoping it proves to be a catalyst for a successful second-half of section play.

“The Hempfield win was big for our program and our mental aspect,” Mesich said. “We had a mental block against them. They were our ‘kryptonite,’ if you know what I’m saying.”

Center fielder Alex Brentzel, shortstop Hailee Culbertson and catcher Sara Russell serve as senior co-captains. There are three other seniors on the team: Makenzie Mihalko, a designated player, and Emily Blosser and Kara Weaver, both top reserves.

Russell is a multi-year starter and an IUP recruit. Brentzel and Culbertson were all-section selections a year ago.

Rounding out the lineup are juniors Leah Yoder (1B), Carly Cook (2B), Victoria Shimko (3B) and Alex Dillner (LF); sophomores Bailee Bertani (RF) and Sydney Lokay (P); and freshman Angelina Pepe (P).

Three of the juniors, Yoder, Cook and Shimko, have been starters since their freshman season.

Bertani proved to be an impact player in the season’s first half, hitting .500, and Pepe and Lokay have provided a strong presence the circle.

“I have a great bunch of girls that have worked very hard in the offseason,” Mesich said. “I hope all the work will pay off for them in the end. They are a very caring and thoughtful group of young ladies, with an outstanding group of seniors.”

Beginning April 23, the Knights will face four long road trips in five games, traveling to Butler, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and Hempfield.

“I’m excited but nervous about the second half of the season,” Mesich said. “We played our first complete game against Hempfield. Hopefully, this will continue and build on that confidence.

“We are looking forward to the rematches and making up for some of our losses. Our goal is to compete for the section (title) and finish in the top four for the playoffs.”


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