Hempfield knocks off rival Norwin for 2nd time this season
For a decade Norwin and Hempfield were only baseball rivals by proximity.
To say the Knights owned the series would be an understatement. Entering the season, the Spartans had won two of the last 20 meetings and had lost nine straight.
My, how the tables have turned.
Nathan Mori picked up the win in relief and also drove in the winning run with a walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh, as Hempfield (9-2, 6-1) solidified its hold on first place in Section 2-AAAA with a 4-3 victory over Norwin (5-5, 4-3), completing a two-game regular-season series sweep over the Knights.
“We like where we're at, but we still have a tough week ahead of us because Wednesday (at Kiski Area) is a tough game and Friday's (at Penn-Trafford) is a tough game, so we don't have anything locked up by any means,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “It was good to get a second win against Norwin and to put ourselves in a good position for the next couple games.”
Norwin had won the Section 2 title each of the last four years, but a rough start to the year, including a 10-0 loss to Hempfield in the season opener, now has the team scrambling to make the playoffs. Though the Knights could have moved into a first-place tie with a win, they are now in a third-place tie with Latrobe for the section's final WPIAL Class AAAA playoff berth.
“Hopefully, we carry this game over and know that it's a tough loss and learn from it,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “(The players are) down a little bit, but I hope they take away from it that they're right there and they're good enough to compete against good teams and good pitchers as long as they do what they're supposed to do.”
The Knights offense was stymied by Mori and starter Zack Martinelli, who held them to three hits and struck out 10. The Knights looked at called third strikes five times, each time with a runner in scoring position.
“(Martinelli's) a hood pitcher, but I think in those situations we were tentative, and we didn't attack the ball,” Liebdzinski said. “We had the guys up that we wanted with guys in scoring position, but I thought they were a little bit tentative and got behind in the count and, once he gets you behind, he throws that changeup and throws the breaking ball for strikes.”
Norwin scored two of its runs on errors in the second inning and tied the game in the top of the sixth when Martinelli uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Jake Pribanic to score from third. Hempfield led, 1-0, in the second after Jon Shafer doubled in a run, then went ahead 3-2 in the third when Knights starter Nick Amendola balked home Joey DeFloria.
Hempfield finished it off though when Luke Fox singled off Norwin reliever Noah Smith, then stole second. Mori then lined a 1-2 pitch that one-hopped the left-field fence for a double to plate Fox and end the game.
“I had struck out in a big situation earlier in the game, and I wanted to come through and pick myself up,” Mori said. “The big win with the hit, that was a good part about it.”