Norwin takes advantage of miscues, beats Mt. Lebanon in Class 6A playoff game

Thursday, May 16, 2019 | 9:04 PM

The hits column from the Norwin versus Mt. Lebanon game didn’t tell the whole story.

The Blue Devils had three more hits than the Knights (10-7), but it didn’t matter as Norwin left West Mifflin with an impressive 10-2 victory in the first round of the WPIAL Class 6A baseball playoffs.

Norwin was aided by six Mt. Lebanon walks, two hit batsmen and three Blue Devils errors.

“I thought we took advantage of some of their mistakes,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “They had some walks, a misplayed fly ball in left field, and we capitalized on that.”

The Knights scored four runs in the first inning on only one hit.

After two walks and an error loaded the bases, freshman Jake Kendro drew a bases-loaded walk for a one-run lead. Then, junior Aidan Shephard cleared the bases with a double down the right-field line.

After the Blue Devils chipped into Norwin’s lead in the second inning, the Knights answered with four more runs.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Kendro lifted a fly ball to deep left field that was misplayed and ruled a bases-clearing double. Kendro then scored on a passed ball that gave Norwin an 8-2 lead.

The benefactor was senior pitcher Billy Kerston, who had no trouble with focus once Norwin built a big lead.

“I always play like it’s a 0-0 game,” Kerston said. “It doesn’t matter the lead. I pretend the game is still scoreless and pitch like it.”

Kerston was not dominant, but he was effective in allowing two earned runs on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts over six innings.

“Tremendous,” Liebdzinski said of his starting pitcher’s performance. “He just goes out there and does the same thing every time out. He was pretty sharp today. He throws his changeup in hitter’s counts and keeps them off-balance.”

Sophomore Jayden Walker had two hits for Norwin, and Kendro and Shephard combined for seven RBIs.

Sophomore Logan Divald pitched the final inning for the Knights, who improve to 14-6 with a team that starts five sophomores and a freshman.

“The expectation is to win every game we play,” Liebdzinski said. “We’re getting better, and we’re peaking at the right time.”

Junior starting pitcher Cam Knox did not finish the second inning for Mt. Lebanon, as its season ends at 10-11.

Norwin picks up its first WPIAL playoff victory since beating Plum in the 2016 WPIAL Class 4A championship game. Up next is No. 2-seed Pine-Richland next week.

“Obviously, Pine-Richland is a very good baseball team,” Liebdzinski said. “We’re going to go out there and try to win a baseball game. We’re not here for any moral victories.”

Check out an archived video stream broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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