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Norwin baseball falls to North Allegheny in first round of playoffs

| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 9:30 a.m.

The Norwin baseball team rallied late but couldn't overcome its early deficit in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs Monday, falling to North Allegheny, 6-4.

The Knights (9-8) scored three times in the seventh inning and had the bases loaded for senior Jake Pribanic, a Penn State recruit, with two outs. Pribanic's fly ball to deep right-center field was caught by North Allegheny's Lucas Hilderbrand to end the game.

“They fought hard, which was a nice sign heading into next season,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said in an email. “There were times this year when I felt like we didn't fight and battle to the end. That wasn't the case yesterday. They stayed up and believed they could come back. Hopefully, they can take that mentality into next season.”

After getting the No. 1 and No. 2 overall seeds the past two seasons, Norwin was slotted as the No. 15 seed heading into Monday's games. North Allegheny, the No. 2 seed, beat the Knights, 12-0, earlier this season.

“They had a good year and deserved a high seed, and we probably deserved to be where we were seeded after an up-and-down year,” Liebdzinski said. “I didn't think it was a bad matchup for us, though. We saw them before, and even though that game went poorly, we didn't feel that their pitching or lineup was too much for us.”

Norwin took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a run-scoring triple by Pribanic, but North Allegheny answered with two runs in the second after Knights starter Noah Smith hit the first two batters of the inning with pitches. The Tigers (17-4) widened their lead to 6-1 in the fifth, when two Norwin errors with two outs allowed four runs to eventually score.

“We always stress to our guys that the team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins,” Liebdzinski said. “Unfortunately, we made a few more mistakes than NA did.”

The 6-1 score held up until the final inning, when a North Allegheny error and Casey Rebosky run-scoring single allowed the Knights to cut their deficit to two runs with two outs. Smith and J.J. Matijevic walked to load the bases before Pribanic's final out.

Smith was charged with the loss, allowing six runs — two earned — on six hits in six innings of work. North Allegheny advanced to face Plum in the WPIAL quarterfinals Wednesday.

After winning four straight section titles, Norwin fell to a third-place finish in 2013. Liebdzinski said the Knights returned just two full-time starters and four letterwinners from last season's team.

“Having a winning record and making the playoffs is a pretty good accomplishment,” he said. “That (being) said, we are not content with that. We have a lot of work to do from now until next March so that we can get back to where we want to be.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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