Norwin baseball seeks elusive WPIAL title
TribLIVE Sports Videos
For all of the Norwin baseball program's success over the past decade — nine playoff appearances, five section titles, two undefeated regular seasons and a WPIAL runner-up finish — the Knights' players know one very notable achievement is missing.
Heading into the 2014 season, that unaccomplished goal — winning the school's first WPIAL championship since 1960 — is driving a senior-laden team.
“Coming into this year, our first goal obviously is to win the section, win some playoff games and eventually get to that WPIAL championship game and bring it home,” senior shortstop J.J. Matijevic said.
“We're all seniors now,” senior catcher Dom Farina added. “This is our year, and our chance to step up.”
More than just the WPIAL title is motivating the Knights in 2014. Norwin saw its four-year run as section champion end last season, as the Knights finished in third place in Section 1-AAAA with a 9-8 overall record. The team fell to North Allegheny, 6-4, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
“This year, I think we're coming out with a chip on our shoulder,” Farina said. “We want to go out and get that section title, and I think we're looking pretty good.”
Last season, the Knights dealt with inexperience. Only two starters and four letterwinners returned from the 2012 team, causing some early growing pains.
After finishing with undefeated regular seasons in 2011 and 2012, Norwin lost its season opener, 10-0, to Hempfield in 2013. Two games later, the Knights lost, 12-0, to North Allegheny, and the team suffered 7-0 and 11-1 losses later in the year.
“I think at the beginning of the year last year we struggled a bit with the preparation and the focus that we have,” Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski said. “I don't think that's an issue this year. I think these guys are pretty focused. I don't think they're any more motivated because we always have the same goals starting out, but I think they're more focused of having a little bit better year and getting back to where we want to be.”
This season, an experienced roster that includes 10 seniors and eight players who saw extended playing time will bolster the Knights. Norwin's starting lineup could include eight or nine seniors this season: Farina, Matijevic, Kevin Kuhn, Dan Passarello, Dylan Sabo, Noah Smith, Steve Socrates, Cody Stanoszek and Jake Zambo. Junior Connor Perry could see extended playing time in the outfield.
“With a lot of seniors this year, it's a lot of leadership,” Matijevic said. “There's a couple of sophomores and juniors that have to step up, but I feel our team is really strong. Our team works really hard, and I feel we're going to be ready for the season.”
The Knights' offense will be led by Division I prospects in Farina (Youngstown State) and Matijevic (Arizona). Another Division I prospect in Smith (Mount St. Mary's) will anchor the pitching rotation.
Liebdzinski said the pitching depth after Smith remains somewhat of a question mark. The Knights will look to Kuhn, Perry, senior Nick Palo, junior John Driggers and sophomore Nick Amendola to contribute on the mound this season.
“You know you're going to get backed up at some point (by weather), so you know you're going to need your third and fourth pitcher to go out and perform for you,” Liebdzinski said. “It's a matter of getting them a little more experience early in the year.
“They're still improving. I think the other guys are going to be fine, but we still don't know for sure because we haven't seen them perform enough on the mound to know for sure.”
Liebdzinski said he expected the section race to be a tight one with returning playoff teams Hempfield and Penn-Trafford, and he thought Latrobe and Connellsville could also compete for the postseason.
Norwin is scheduled to begin the season by hosting nonsection opponent Penn Hills at 4 p.m. Friday. Section play is scheduled to begin March 31 against Hempfield.
“I think we'll have another good year,” Liebdzinski said. “We just need to do a better job of proving it once we get to the playoffs.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alvarez homer triggers winning outburst for Pirates
- Pirates claim Ishikawa off waivers; Marte injured
- Greeks reject demands for more austerity in key referendum
- Woman shot at Kennywood Park in ‘freak accident’
- McCutchen, Pirates hitters increasingly in crosshairs
- Police: Maine man shoots off firework from top of head, dies
- Pittsburgh’s tech startup activity rates last of 40 metro areas in report
- Pirates minor league report: Ramirez more mindful while at plate
- Man, child hit by car late Saturday in South Side
- State-owned universities spend millions in race to snare students
- Pennsylvania’s ‘Grand Canyon’ offers something for everyone