Stecko taps power potential for Norwin baseball team

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Thursday, May 5, 2022 | 9:01 AM


Ty Stecko remembers when his baseball bat seemed to weigh more than he did.

“I was always tall, but I was really skinny,” the Norwin slugger said about his stature in youth baseball. “I had to put some weight on.”

Once a scrawny lamp post, Stecko has grown into a brawny pillar with the power to mash a baseball into orbit.

He went from 6-foot, 170 pounds in eighth grade to now a 6-3, 210-pound senior.

“I am trying to be a gap-to-gap hitter,” Stecko said. “I want to be able to hit for average as well. But I think I have sort of become that home run guy.”

That’s OK, too, says Norwin.

Stecko was leading the team with four homers and a WPIAL-best 20 RBIs through a dozen games.

Stecko, a Mount St. Mary’s commit and second-year starter, belted a two-run homer in a 7-3 win over Upper St. Clair that gave the Knights a section sweep and evened their record.

The Knights (9-6, 6-4) went on to clinch a spot in the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs. They have won five straight.

“The thing with Stecko is he is so good to right center,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “A lot of our guys are. That’s where I want him to hit it.”

Stecko certainly does not compare himself to Norwin great JJ Matijevic, who recently was called up from the minor leagues to play for the Houston Astros. But he respects Matijevic’s game and his impact on local baseball and has enormous pride in the former home run bomber’s rise.

“I have met him before and have seen him play at Arizona,” Stecko said. “I know he is a power-hitting lefty with a smooth swing. He also grinds out at-bats. I think it is huge that he is from Norwin and is getting the opportunity to play in the show. That is one day where I would like to end up. It shows that anything can be done if you put in the time, and JJ carved the path for the rest of us at Norwin.”

The Knights’ No. 2 hitter and third baseman, Stecko likes the right-center power alley at Norwin, where the fence ranges from 345 to 335 to 325 feet as it bends into the right-field corner.

“It’s a short porch,” Liebdzinski said. “But our guys like it. I don’t think we go up there swinging for the fences. Base hits are better.”

The players agree with that school of thought.

“Home runs are great but we’re not always looking to hit the ball out,” said senior shortstop Jake Kendro, a Tennessee commit. “We want to be a good all-around hitting team, to be able to hit for contact and power.”

Kendro was second on the team with three homers. One of his blasts banged off the scoreboard at Norwin when the Knights hosted Upper St. Clair.

Conditioning has Stecko looking the part as a Knights’ deep threat.

He also plays basketball.

“I am strength training six days a week,” he said. “It’s tough during basketball season. I do a lot of stretching.”

Back to Matijevic, arguably the most feared home run hitter to come out of Norwin, Stecko has someone to measure himself against.

It’s a case of WWJJD: What would JJ do?

“I would not say I am there yet. He obviously plays at a higher level,” he said. “But that is something that I am working to in the batting cage and in the weight room.”

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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