Norwin softball suffers heartbreaking loss in WPIAL Championship

Knights squander 3-0 lead and fall to Seneca Valley in eight innings

Fri May 31, 2024 - 8:11PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Norwin came up just short playing in its first ever WPIAL championship game Friday.Norwin came up just short playing in its first ever WPIAL championship game Friday.

Last Updated: Sat Jun 01, 2024 - 1:33PM

For the first two innings of Friday’s WPIAL Class 6A Softball Championship, Norwin appeared to be a team of destiny. Facing one of the most dominant pitchers in recent memory, the fifth-seeded Knights scored three times to take command against Seneca Valley. Norwin ultimately needed one more run, however, as No. 2 Seneca Valley rallied to claim a 4-3 victory in eight innings, capturing WPIAL gold at Lilley Field at California University of Pennsylvania.

The Knights (10-11) were denied their first WPIAL softball title in their initial title game appearance, while the Raiders (21-1) claimed the fourth district title in program history, and the second in three seasons.

Playing as the visitors, the Knights scored a run in the opening inning, the first run they scored against the Raiders in three games this season. Leadoff hitter Bailey Snowberger ripped a double to center field, the 100th hit of her career. She advanced to third on a passed ball by Seneca Valley catcher Anna Kalkowski, and Snowberger scored later in the inning on another passed ball. Josey Michalski and Rachel Minteer also reached in the inning on a hit by pitch and walk, respectively, but they were stranded when SV junior pitcher Lexie Hames struck out consecutive batters.

Norwin added to its lead in the second, scoring twice against Hames, who entered the contest with a microscopic earned run average of 0.38. Addy Grimes opened the stanza with an infield single off of Hames’ glove, and she later advanced on a wild pitch. After Hames, a Clemson commit, struck out two more batters, the Raiders opted to intentionally walk Snowberger. Another wild pitch put two Knights in scoring position, and freshman Diem Wardzinski delivered with a two-run single to right field, putting the upset-minded Knights ahead 3-0.

After Hames limited Norwin to just one hit in a 20-strikeout shutout in April, the Knights displayed a much-improved approach at that plate that has been evident during their postseason run.

“It was a ton of reps trying to shorten things up and just put the bat on the ball,” explained Norwin head coach Brian Mesich. “It’s a mindset, so when you’re confident, good things happen.”

Hames found her rhythm in the circle from that point forward, though, limiting Norwin to just one hit over the final six innings.


Conversely, the Raiders’ offense struck in the bottom of the third, scoring a run against Norwin pitcher Brookelyn Kotch. In that frame, Rylee Kratochvil opened with an infield single. After a fielders’ choice put Abby Kalkowski at first, Kara Pasquale ripped a triple to center field to make it 3-1. However, Kotch limited the damage, as she intentionally walked Hames and then retired Bella Gross and Neve Miller to keep the lead at two runs.

Although Kotch stranded two more runners in the fifth, the Raiders pulled even in the sixth. Miller opened the stanza with a single, and Kylie Staudt delivered a one-out triple to plate Miller. The subsequent batter, freshman Liv Herrem, produced a single to right to deadlock the score at 3-3.

Neither team scored in the seventh inning, forcing extra innings for the second year in a row in the Class 6A title game. Last year, the Raiders were on the wrong end of the outcome in eight innings, a 2-1 loss against Hempfield Area.

This year, though, the Raiders would not be denied. Hames retired the Knights in order in the top of the inning, racking up two more strikeouts to finish with 19.

In the bottom of the inning, Anna Kalkowski delivered a one-out double, and her courtesy runner, Julia Valasek, scored the winning run on a single to right by Staudt.

As a result, Seneca Valley advances to play District 10 champion McDowell in the PIAA Class 6A first round on Monday, while the season concludes in heartbreaking fashion for the Knights.

“How can you have the top two teams in the state supposedly and you can’t represent anybody else? That’s a shame,” Mesich said of just one WPIAL 6A team advancing to the state bracket.

In the setback, Norwin was led by Snowberger, who had a double, a walk, two runs scored, and made a spectacular play defensively on a Raiders’ stolen base attempt to force extra innings.

“Our team goes through her, and that’s how we made it as far as we did,” Mesich added.

Furthermore, Wardzinski notched a single and drew a walk, compiling a pair of RBIs, while Grimes singled and scored. In the circle, Kotch worked six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, issuing three walks (all intentional), while striking out five. Abbie Telli took the loss, as she worked 1.1 innings in relief, permitting a run on two hits and one walk.

Hames went the distance for Seneca Valley, allowing two earned runs on four hits, with four walks. At the plate, she drew four intentional walks. Staudt, meanwhile, went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and a run, while Pasquale had a pair of hits and a run batted in.

While the Knights came up just shy of their ultimate goal, Mesich acknowledge that this year’s team will always be remembered in Norwin softball history.

“I’m as proud as you can be for effort. They were all in. They were all invested,” he detailed. “That’s a team.”