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Underclassmen stepping up for Norwin baseball team

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
Norwin's Nick Amendola pitches during the seventh inning of the Knights' game April 18, 2013, against Penn-Trafford.

Bobby Svec hit plenty of home runs when he was younger, but his long ball power began to diminish as he grew older.

That changed for at least one game last week, when the Norwin junior hit his first homer since Little League in a 14-2 victory over Albert Gallatin.

“I got under the ball, and at first I didn't think it was going over,” Svec said. “But then I saw the right fielder's reaction, and I just started smiling. It was a big moment for me.”

Although many of the Norwin baseball team's biggest moments this year have come thanks to its seniors — more than half of the players on the roster are seniors — the Knights (10-2, 7-2 Section 2-AAAA) are also getting contributions from their younger players.

Junior Connor Perry hit four home runs in three games last week, including a grand slam in the victory over Albert Gallatin. Junior John Driggers and sophomore Nick Amendola are tied for the team lead with three wins on the mound, while Amendola also has two homers.

“There's a lot of senior leadership on our team,” Svec said. “There's only a few guys in my class that are still around. I used to play baseball with (the seniors) when I was younger, back when I was 10 or 11. It's been real fun because we're bonding as a team, and we're just having so much success right now.”

The younger players learn from being around the senior class, which includes Division I prospects Dom Farina, J.J. Matijevic and Noah Smith.

“It starts from just getting changed in the locker room to going on the field,” Perry said. “They teach us everything — how practices work, how games go. Our coaches are unbelievable, helping us out (with) what pitches are coming. You pick up things and become better ballplayers all around.”

Perry played on the varsity team last year, mainly as a defensive replacement, though he did receive a handful of hitting opportunities. That experience helped prepare him for a starting role in the Knights' outfield.

“You step up to the plate (for the first time) and the first pitch is fine, but as soon as that goes by, it's just a nervous breakdown,” Perry said. “Without a doubt, I came in this year not as nervous as I was last year and just with normalcy, ready to attack and hopefully win.”

Like some of the other underclassmen contributing to the team this season, Svec is in his first year playing varsity. He said he's gaining more confidence as the year goes on.

Although the team's underclassmen will take on the full leadership of the team next season, their focus is on the rest of 2014. Norwin began the week one game behind Hempfield in the section race and with a chance to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight season.

“I'm feeling really good,” Perry said. “The pitching's phenomenal right now. Our offense is amazing. Hopefully we just keep it all going ... as long as kids keep stepping up and doing our thing, hopefully we can go far in the playoffs.”

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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