Senior Spotlight: Norwin slugger missed chance to lace line drives on school’s new field

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Sunday, May 17, 2020 | 8:00 AM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Who knew?

One of Norwin’s top softball players used to kick a soccer ball around and had big dreams in that sport.

Alex Dillner took a lot enjoyment out of soccer.

“I played beginning at age 4,” she said. “I played for multiple travel teams. I thought I was going to be the next Alex Morgan and play in college.”

But then softball came along and everything changed.

“When I was in fifth grade, I played my last year of soccer and made the transition to softball,” Dillner said. “It was the best decision I have ever made.

“I remember playing my first-ever softball game and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do the rest of my life.’”

A senior outfielder who, like all spring sport athletes in the PIAA, had her final season stripped away because of covid-19 safety restrictions, she wasn’t able to display her home run power in her final prep season.

This is, after all, a girl who once broke a car windshield with a towering home run into a parking lot and chipped a piece off a scoreboard on another deep blast. Same game, by the way.

Dillner, who last season batted .377 with a team-best six home runs, 16 RBIs and 16 runs, will continue her playing career at Saint Vincent.

She said the down time has allowed her to think about college and what she’ll need to do to be successful at the next level.

“I have been meeting new people through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and filling out my enrollment portfolios for my future,” she said. “I am really just trying to cherish the time I am spending with my family. And I hope that I will be able to move in this fall.”

Dillner, who also led the Knights with a .754 slugging percentage on the way to a WPIAL Class 6A semifinal appearance, values the team’s only scrimmage of 2020.

“The last memory I have of Norwin softball is the bus ride home from our only scrimmage,” she said. “It is a tradition for the team to sing the Norwin alma mater on the hill when we are about to arrive at the school. I remember that we were so terrible and off key and I said, ‘Don’t worry, we will get better throughout the season.’

“Little did we know at the time (there wouldn’t be one).”

How have you transitioned to the new normal, as they say?

The idea that I have worked incredibly hard for the past six years, counting middle school, and I won’t get to play my last season with my best friends is just painful. It hurts my heart to think about it. … I have been spending time with friends, in separate cars, hiking, getting take out, meeting in our cars with the windows down and talking to each other. During the quarantine, that is one of the only ways I can see some of my friends.

What are you going to bring to the Saint Vincent program?

A great attitude, a big bat and a strong arm. All of these characteristics have been present my entire life, between high school and travel ball, so I plan to continue them when I play for the Lady Bearcats.

What was the toughest question on coach Brian Mesich’s unique, preseason softball IQ test?

The IQ test is always the most dreaded part of tryouts. Coach Mesich had never gone over the correct answers of the tests throughout my four years of taking it, so I never knew if I was right or wrong all along. The hardest question to me was true or false: If you are the pitcher and you have an 0-2 count on the batter, you throw a change-up. Being the over-thinker I am, I always said false.

Do you have a most memorable game from playing at Norwin?

It is difficult to pick just one. Either the game where I hit a two-run home run off of (Hempfield’s) Callie Sowers that tied the game, which set up Alex Brentzel to hit the solo walk-off to win the second game that season against the Spartans in 2019, or against Pine-Richland (2019), when I hit back-to-back home runs in each game we played.

How good would this year’s Norwin team have been?

After preseason practices, we believed that we would be WPIAL champions, but now we will never have the satisfaction of playing another playoff game, and possibly playing for the championship.

How disappointing is it knowing you won’t get to play on the new turf infield at Norwin?

It is very upsetting. We all looked forward to having our first practice on the turf, and we never got that. I feel so terrible considering that Coach Mesich himself worked so incredibly hard on the dugouts and (stitched) the “N” in the center of the turf all by himself.

Where you go for a dream vacation?

I have always wanted to go to the Caribbean. I have always wanted to vacation there and tan on sandy beaches, swim in clear ocean water, all under the hot Caribbean sun.

Favorite movie?

“Mamma Mia.” I grew up listening to ABBA music and all of the songs I grew up on are in the soundtrack to the movie.

Last concert you attended?

Luke Bryan.

Favorite pro athlete?

Sidney Crosby

Who was the toughest pitcher you have faced?

Morgan Ryan (of Hempfield), my freshman year. I went 0 for 2 but I was so proud of myself that I even made contact with the ball. The next summer I played her travel team and went 2 for 2 with two line drives.

Any unique hobbies or talents?

I really enjoy singing. I have been in two select choirs for Norwin. I was a part of the Westmoreland County Choir and was the only student to represent Norwin for the District 1 Choir Festival.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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