Norwin softball team holds strong to topple No. 1 Hempfield

Monday, April 17, 2023 | 9:28 PM

Norwin took it personally last year when Hempfield issued four intentional walks in a WPIAL Class 6A softball quarterfinal loss.

The Knights made Hempfield pay for it when the Spartans tried it again.

In the teams’ first meeting since the playoffs, Alyssa McCormick launched a grand slam in the third inning, Rachel Minteer followed with a solo shot and No. 3 Norwin rode the momentum of the back-to-back homers to a big lead before finally holding back No. 1 Hempfield, 10-8, on a cold and dreary day at Robert D. Kalp Field.

Maybe this victory that took over two-and-a-half hours to complete wasn’t an upset. Norwin (9-2, 7-1) moved into sole possession of first place in the classification’s single nine-team section.

“That is one of the better hitting teams in the all of the WPIAL,” Hempfield coach Tina Madison said. “We knew today we had to keep the ball in the park to beat them.

“I (intentionally) walked them again, and it burned me today.”

Hempfield (9-2, 6-2) put clean-up hitter Emma Novotnak on base in her first two at-bats to pitch to McCormick.

McCormick, who flew out and struck out last year in the playoff loss, both times with the bases loaded, was itching for a chance at redemption.

She grounded out in her first at-bat but then lined the Spartans’ second gamble over the fence in center to clear the bases and spring the Knights.

Minteer followed with a shot into a jet stream to deep right to give the Knights a 5-2 lead.

“It fuels the fire,” McCormick said of the free passes. “We weren’t going to let it happen again. I was just thinking ‘Put the ball in play,’ not home run. I thought it was a line drive off the fence. We can all hit the ball.”

Madison was playing the percentages because McCormick had not hit Riley Miller well in the past.

“Who do you pitch to?” Madison said of the Knights’ potent order. “Their offensive power is scary.”

Norwin, which extended its winning streak to five while ending Hempfield’s at seven, pulled ahead 10-3 before the Spartans came back in the seventh.

“We knew even seven (runs ahead) could still be interesting,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “We knew they were going to hit us. I was pleasantly surprised with how well we hit the ball. Kudos to (McCormick). She changed the game.”

McCormick — oh, by the way — also pitched a complete game and struck out a season-high nine against a strong lineup in its own right.

With Hempfield advancing on them, the Knights tried to remain calm and limit the damage.

“I was surprised we got up so much,” McCormick said. “We were ready for this game. It was nerve-racking at the end. I was throwing strikes so I knew they were going to hit me. We had to stay focused and make plays.”

An error to open Hempfield’s seventh gave the Spartans hope.

Hempfield beat Norwin three times last year: by 10-7 scores in two section wins, and 5-4 in the playoffs.

Six straight hitters reached base in the seventh before the Knights managed three straight outs. Hannah Uhrinek ripped a two-run single to cut the deficit to 10-5.

Hempfield had five of its 11 hits in the final frame, with Ella Berkebile driving in a run, another scoring on a bases-loaded walk and one more crossing the plate on a groundout to cut it to 10-8.

“This was a long game so I told the girls to be patient and keep working,” Madison said. “I was pleased with the way they kept fighting.”

Norwin’s Bailey Snowberger and Josey Michalski had two hits apiece, with Snowberger driving in a pair.

Snowberger’s two-run single in the fifth gave the Knights a 9-3 lead.

“Snowberger is just a great player,” Madison said. “I told her that after the game.”

Said Mesich: “When Bailey gets on base, we score runs and win games.”

Madie Kessler added a double and an RBI on a sacrifice fly for the Knights.

For Hempfield, Peyton Heisler went 3 for 4 with a home run. Mia Bandieramonte, Emily Griffith and Berkebile had two hits apiece.

Bandieramonte and Miller doubled. Griffith had a solo homer.

Miller, who was pulled after five innings for Julia Varhola, a freshman, took the loss. Miller later re-entered to hit. She struck out five and walked four while allowing nine hits.

Hempfield made four errors, and Norwin had three.

“We have to tighten our defense up and move past this one,” Madison said. “We’ll see them again.”

Norwin rallied from seven runs down to knock off No. 2 North Allegheny, 10-7, last Wednesday.

“We want to be the team nobody wants to play,” Mesich said. “This is a solid win for the girls.”

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

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