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Penn-Trafford moves on after loss to Norwin

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Penn-Trafford's Josh Lonero turns a double play over Norwin's Bobby Svec during a game on Monday, April 14, 2014 at Penn-Trafford High School. Norwin won 11-5.

The race for the Section 2-AAAA championship just got a little bit tighter for the Penn-Trafford baseball team.

The Warriors, who led the section outright heading into the week, dropped into a virtual three-way tie for first place after an 11-5 loss to Norwin on Monday. Entering play Wednesday, Penn-Trafford (9-1, 4-1) was tied for first with Hempfield (7-3, 4-1), with Norwin (6-1, 3-1) a half-game behind.

“We're all tied with one loss, and we're going to see who can run the stretch out,” Penn-Trafford coach Ron Evans said. “You can't afford to lose to the other teams (Latrobe, Connellsville, Kiski Area and Albert Gallatin). You've got to beat the other teams and split with Hempfield and Norwin. That's our goal.

“We're going to be all right. We're going to be fine.”

Penn-Trafford swept both meetings last season against Norwin on its way to a second-place finish in the section, but the Warriors never led Monday. The Knights scored two runs in the opening inning on the strength of a home run by J.J. Matijevic, who homered for the sixth straight game. Matijevic and fellow senior Dom Farina finished with five runs batted in for Norwin.

“That's probably the best-hitting team we've faced this year,” Evans said. “(Senior pitcher Tyler Smith) was up a little high, and you can't miss high against Norwin. They'll crush the ball, and they showed that today.”

Evans felt the Warriors also dealt with some bad luck, as some of their hard-hit balls went for outs while Norwin found some holes with ground balls.

“We weren't going to go 20-0, but it is tough to lose to rival Norwin,” Evans said. “It just seemed that it wasn't meant to be today. They start off with a bloop hit, and then Matijevic hits a home run. Balls weren't even getting out of the infield, and they were getting runs out of the inning. It would just happen. Then, when (Norwin) had a hit, they hit.”

Penn-Trafford collected nine hits against Norwin. Luke Smeltz led off the first inning with a double, moved to third on Mark Merlino's single and scored on Smith's single, but Merlino was thrown out trying to score.

After Farina gave Norwin a 4-1 lead in the second with a two-run single, Scott Koscho cut the Warriors' deficit to two runs with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning.

Penn-Trafford had a chance to cut into the lead further or move ahead in the fourth and fifth innings, but both times the Warriors left two runners in scoring position. They also left the bases loaded in the sixth inning after scoring two runs to cut Norwin's lead to 7-4.

“We left a ton of baserunners on — bases loaded, second and third, first and second,” Evans said. “(There were) two inning-ending double plays on balls we hit hard (but) we hit right at them. They had a couple seeing-eye hits, but wow. It was just their day today.

“I'm not taking anything away from (Norwin); they're the best baseball team we've seen this year. But if we get a hit here or there, we're in the game. It just didn't happen.”

In other action over the past week, Penn-Trafford posted double-digit victories over Albert Gallatin (12-0) and Hempfield (13-2) and rallied from five runs down to defeat Greensburg Salem, 7-6, at PNC Park. Merlino and Smith each hit home runs in the victory over Hempfield, while five different players came through with extra-base hits against Greensburg Salem.

The Warriors were scheduled to continue section play by hosting Kiski Area on Wednesday, past the deadline for this week's edition. They will travel to play Gateway on Monday.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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