Penn-Trafford beats Norwin, claims second place in section
Penn-Trafford baseball coach Ron Evans found out Monday how his team would respond to a disappointing section loss.
Now Norwin's Mike Liebdzinski will have to discover the same for his team.
Four days after a 7-3 loss to Latrobe snapped a nine-game winning streak, Penn-Trafford (12-5, 9-3) bounced back with a 10-5 victory over rival Norwin on Monday at Penn-Trafford High School. The victory allowed Penn-Trafford to claim second place in Section 2-AAAA, while Norwin (9-6, 8-4) finished in third.
“We were pretty flat at Latrobe, and you're going to have one of those games,” said Evans, whose team qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the fourth straight season. “You win (nine) in a row, and all of a sudden you run out of gas a little bit. The question was how are they going to respond, and they responded.”
Norwin saw its four-year streak as section champion end, though the Knights will advance to the WPIAL playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Before Monday's game, Norwin had won four straight contests since a 4-3 loss to section champion Hempfield on April 22.
“We had been playing better as of late, starting with the Hempfield game,” Liebdzinski said. “We played well against them and lost a close one. (We) really had been more solid defensively and thrown more strikes, and (Monday) we kind of reverted back.”
Things did look good for the Knights early, as Penn-Trafford ace Tyler Smith left the game in the top of the first inning after feeling a twinge in his arm after releasing a pitch. Evans said he didn't know the extent of Smith's injury but hoped it wasn't anything serious.
Senior Ross Orgera relieved Smith with a runner on first base and two outs. After two walks loaded the bases, Norwin catcher Dom Farina came through with a single that skipped past centerfielder Billy Dugan, allowing all three runs to score.
“We were down 3-0 right from the get-go, and I was thinking, ‘Boy, we're in trouble,'” Evans said.
As it turned out, the Warriors weren't. Penn-Trafford tied the game in the bottom of the inning, as freshman Josh Brammell singled home a run with two outs and Orgera followed with a two-run double.
The Warriors took the lead in the bottom of the second inning when Brammell cleared the bases with a double — again with two outs. Of Penn-Trafford's 10 runs, nine came with two outs.
“That's what you call clutch hitting,” Evans said. “Early in the year, we weren't having that — we left guys on base everywhere.”
After Farina cut the Knights' deficit to 6-4 with a sacrifice fly in the top of the third, the Warriors scored twice more in the bottom of the inning to widen their lead and chase Norwin starter Noah Smith.
Smith, the Knights' ace, allowed eight hits and eight runs in three innings of work. Liebdzinski said the team's defense, which committed two errors and let some catchable balls fall for hits, didn't help its starter much.
“(Smith's) last outing I thought was his best outing of the year,” Liebdzinski said. “I was hoping he was going to build on that, but he was just behind hitters today and didn't have his control like he normally does.
“We were kind of worried about our defense earlier in the year, but we made some moves and changed some guys around. If not great, it's been solid over the last couple weeks. (Monday), it was just not a good day.”
Brammell finished with three hits and four runs batted in for Penn-Trafford, while Orgera supplemented his seven strikeouts on the mound with a 3-for-3, two-RBI performance at the plate.
“We usually (use a designated hitter) for him,” Evans said of Orgera. “That makes me look kind of stupid now because (the) next time he pitches, he's hitting. I'm not going to DH for him, that's for sure.”
Farina finished with two hits and three RBI for Norwin. Cody Stanoszek added a sixth-inning home run.
“Offensively, I thought we were fine,” Liebdzinski said. “I thought (if) we scored five runs, we had a chance to beat them with Noah on the mound.”
Both teams expected to find out their playoff fates Thursday, after the WPIAL drew pairings for the first round.
Penn-Trafford, which was scheduled to play Fox Chapel in a nonsection matchup Tuesday, will likely draw a more favorable matchup than in 2012, when the third-place Warriors lost to Upper St. Clair in the first round of the playoffs.
“We're just waiting to see what happens,” Evans said.
Norwin, which was scheduled to play Section 3-AAAA champion Central Catholic in a nonsection meeting Wednesday, will get a lower seed than the past four seasons as the third-place team from Section 2.
“I was looking at things in a positive light heading forward, but this kind of set us back,” Liebdzinski said. “Hopefully, they respond. That's what I told them (after the game): ‘See how you deal with this. Are you going to continue to slide backwards, or are you going to get a little bit angry (and) upset with how you performed and come back better the next day?'”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.