WPIAL 6A Softball Championship Preview: Norwin vs. Seneca Valley

Knights softball seeks second straight upset, first WPIAL crown Friday

Thu May 30, 2024 - 6:40PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Norwin is riding high following a massive upset of Hempfield Area in the WPIAL semifinals. (photo by www.westernpasports.com)Norwin is riding high following a massive upset of Hempfield Area in the WPIAL semifinals. (photo by www.westernpasports.com)

Last Updated: Thu May 30, 2024 - 7:28PM

Norwin Knights (10-10) vs Seneca Valley Raiders (20-1)

Date: Friday, May 31st

Location: Lilley Field at California University of PA

First Pitch: 1:00 p.m.

Live WSN Broadcast: LISTEN LIVE

After years of coming up just shy of the WPIAL softball championship game, Norwin’s 5-2 semifinals victory against Hempfield Area last week tasted even sweeter. In upsetting their rival and the top-seeded Spartans, Norwin advanced to the WPIAL Class 6A Championship for the first time in program history.

Now, the Knights turn their attention to another heavyweight, as second-seeded Seneca Valley looms on Friday at 1 p.m. at Lilley Field at California University of Pennsylvania.

Norwin entered the WPIAL postseason with a losing record, but the Knights edged No. 4 Pine-Richland 3-1 in the quarterfinals at Gateway High School on May 15. At the same venue one week later, the Knights stunned defending champion Hempfield Area.

“It was like an elephant coming off my shoulders,” said Mesich, whose teams were eliminated from the playoffs by the Spartans each of the previous two seasons.

In the triumph, senior pitcher Brookelyn Kotch limited the Spartans to two runs on six hits, striking out four. Offensively, third baseman Josey Michalski set the tone with a two-run homer in the first inning, while first baseman Rachel Minteer went 3-for-4 with an RBI.

“We made key plays at key times,” Mesich detailed. “I think we just kept getting better, kept believing, doing little things that make a difference in trying to execute what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Fifth-seeded Norwin (10-10) will face a similar challenge in the title game, as the Raiders (20-1) have overwhelmed the competition for most of the season, including a 7-1 win against sixth seed Canon-McMillan in the semifinals last week. In that victory, junior hurler Lexie Hames spun a one-hitter with 18 strikeouts. Meanwhile, outfielder Kara Pasquale had three hits and catcher Abby Kolkowski added a pair of runs batted in.

For the season, Norwin senior shortstop Bailey Snowberger, a Holy Cross commit, has compiled a .400 average along with 21 runs scored and 18 stolen bases, while Michalski boasts a .360 average with five homers and 19 RBIs. In the circle, Kotch, who will continue on the diamond at Penn State New Kensington, has thrown 86 innings with a 4.39 ERA.

On the Raiders’ side, Hames, a Clemson pledge, possesses a microscopic ERA of 0.38 in 92.2 innings of work, racking up 222 strikeouts, while she’s batting .385 with eight home runs, 25 RBIs, and 25 walks. Pasquale has an average of .369 with 23 runs, while Kalkowski, a Seton Hill commit, is hitting .299 with 11 RBIs.

Hames, the daughter of SV head coach Marlesse Hames, has ranked among the best players in the state since her freshman year, when she guided the Raiders to their third WPIAL title in team history.

In the first meeting this season between the squads, Hames tossed a one-hit shutout, while she combined with Abby Kalkowski on another shutout in the second meeting.

“It’s putting the ball in play. She throws hard enough - it’ll go,” Mesich said of the key for his hitters against Hames.

While the Raiders are playing in their third WPIAL title game in a row, the environment at Lilley Field will be new for the Knights. Despite the atmosphere, Mesich hopes that his team will be able to maintain the level of play that led them to success thus far in the postseason.

“Pressure is only pressure if you allow it to be,” he said.

Only the WPIAL champion will advance to the PIAA Class 6A bracket.