Talented Norwin softball squad still figuring out where pieces fit

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 | 4:58 PM

This installment of the Norwin softball team has coach Brian Mesich scratching his head — and scratching his lineup card often with an eraser.

It’s like he know the answers to a crossword puzzle, but they won’t fit in the little squares.

“I couldn’t name a starting lineup right now,” the coach said after a recent scrimmage against Elizabeth Forward. “We have girls who can play positions. I am just looking for girls to take advantage of their opportunities. We need more consistency. You have to hit to play the field.”

So, the early part of the schedule might be a trial process, a fluid time that allows a lineup to form almost organically.

The Knights are 2-0 after a pair of tight wins over Burrell (2-1) and Latrobe (8-7 in nine innings).

“We’re going to have a strong lineup and strong pitchers,” senior catcher Bailee Bertani said. “We want to build around (the pitchers). We’re just still figuring out where to put some people.”

Senior Sidney Lokay and junior Angelina Pepe were a formidable one-two pitching punch two years ago and should continue to flourish together.

Lokay is a Westminster commit.

“We’re hopefully optimistic with them,” Mesich said. “They have been hitting their spots, but we need to get them to throw less pitches.”

Bertani brings experience and know-how behind the plate. She will be a catcher at Robert Morris next year.

“I haven’t played catcher yet (at Norwin) because I had a concussion my freshman year, played right field (as a sophomore) and we didn’t play last year,” she said. “It’s nice to be back there. I think we’ll have other girls playing (unnatural positions) to help the team.”

Bertani batted .408 as a sophomore with a team-best 28 RBIs, five doubles, two triples, four home runs and 22 runs.

“It’s so great to be playing again,” Bertani said. “With what happened last year, everything is just weird. But we’re cherishing every moment.”

Norwin shared a section title in ’19 with perennial power Hempfield and North Allegheny. It swept five-time defending WPIAL champion Hempfield but lost three times to North Allegheny, including 8-4 in the WPIAL semifinals.

Other players figuring into the mix include sophomore Madie Kessler (OF), junior Mallory Wensel (IF), junior Olivia Mastrilli (OF) and senior Liz Waszkiewicz (IF), a Fairmont State commit.

Junior Juliana Shimko also could pitch for the Knights. A small crop of freshmen also might make an impact.

The coaching staff has a new look. Three new assistants are on board in Paul Graham, former Lady Knight Erin Linhart and Breanna Mesich, the head coach’s daughter.

The change will likely elevate Brian Mesich’s duties to include overseeing the pitchers more.

“It’s always something I wanted to do,” he said. “Other coaches do it, but I haven’t had to. Coaching the pitchers will be a work in progress for me, but I am looking forward to it.”

Norwin will finally get to debut its new turf infield and, eventually, a turf hitting area behind home plate that Brian Mesich has been hammering away at for months. He works for a local turf subcontractor.

The turf behind the backstop is left over from the new turf project at Knights Stadium in the summer of ‘19.

Class 6A was reduced to 11 teams in two sections. Norwin is in with Hempfield, North Allegheny, Butler, Pine-Richand and Seneca Valley.

“The thing is, after last year, you have no idea what teams have,” Brian Mesich said. “We’re excited to be playing again but also nervous. We feel like we’re a day away (from a shutdown). A 10-day (shutdown) could mean six games. We have to stay safe.”

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


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