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Missed opportunities cost Norwin softball playoff berth

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
Norwin catcher Maddy Wensel tags Penn-Trafford's Cassie Szmyd out at the plate during a game May 2, 2013, at Penn-Trafford High School. The Knights lost, 9-1.

The Norwin softball team's postseason hopes officially ended with a 9-1 loss to Penn-Trafford on May 2.

In coach Andy Phipps' mind, however, the Knights' downfall actually came about because of early-season losses to Franklin Regional and Kiski Area.

Norwin (11-7, 6-6 Section 1-AAAA) lost to Franklin Regional, 2-1, on April 2 and to Kiski, 6-4, on April 16. The Panthers and Cavaliers finished at the bottom of the section.

“If we win those two games, then the outcome of the Penn-Trafford game is meaningless,” Phipps said. “Those were the two games that we had to win. Last year's playoff team, we beat everybody that we were capable of beating. This year, we lost to two or three teams we were capable of beating. When you have down games like that, it can come back and cost you the postseason.”

Phipps said he came into this season with high expectations after the Knights won a share of the section championship a season ago.

However, the three seniors who graduated from that team — Kayleigh Dodd, Rachel Lojas and Abbey Zorzi — provided about 35-40 percent of its offense, Phipps said. Norwin missed that firepower this season, as the team left more than 160 runners on base and scored 45 fewer runs.

“When you take those girls you left on base and weren't able to produce runs off them, it's going to cost you,” Phipps said.

The Knights also didn't have their top pitcher from last season available this year. Senior Jamie Robinson suffered a shoulder injury late last season, and it kept her from pitching again until March.

“As far as I'm concerned, she never got back to 100 percent,” Phipps said.

In Robinson's place, junior Maddy Miller became the team's primary pitcher. She won nine games and struck out 63 this season.

Five seniors will graduate: Robinson, Cassidy Chappell, Nikki Ingel, Lauren Long and Alicia McMichael. Phipps said all five batted over .350 this season, led by Ingel's team-best .557 average.

Chappell and Robinson were four-year starters, and Ingel was a two-year starter after playing her first two seasons at Greensburg Central Catholic. However, Norwin will return a solid nucleus of Miller, sophomore catcher Maddy Wensel (.525 average, 13 RBI) and freshman Christiana Skrabak (.448 average, three home runs).

Phipps said two current eighth-graders will supplement Miller on the mound.

When you take those five seniors (out), obviously you're starting to have to fill a lot of positions,” Phipps said. “But we have some really nice young talent. We've got a couple eighth-graders coming up that are really strong.

“So again next year we feel like we can be really competitive and hopefully get back into the postseason.”

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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