Norwin softball team hopes to learn from experience

Norwin's Christiana Skrabak (right) tags out Connellsville's Alyssa Orndorff during the first inning of a Section 1-AAAA game on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at Connellsville High School.
Norwin's Christiana Skrabak (right) tags out Connellsville's Alyssa Orndorff during the first inning of a Section 1-AAAA game on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at Connellsville High School.
Photo by Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Doug Gulasy
| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Norwin softball team saw firsthand what it takes to become a WPIAL softball champion two years ago, when the Knights lost a quarterfinal matchup against eventual titleist Canon-McMillan.

Although the memory of that 8-1 defeat is still burned in their minds, the Knights are focusing on repeating Canon-McMillan's run rather than reliving their own role in it.

Norwin will enter the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs as a more experienced team than the 2012 version, which was making its first postseason appearance in 11 years. Several starters remain from that team, giving the Knights a boost in confidence.

“It's good to have a couple of girls who are older,” senior second baseman Lindsey Robinson said. “We can let the younger girls know what to expect and to never underestimate anything. There's going to be a lot of good pitching, a lot of good hitting. It's really, really exciting because it's always a good game.”

For years, Norwin (11-3, 9-3) chased traditional Section 1-AAAA powers Hempfield and Latrobe. The Wildcats and Spartans combined to win four WPIAL championships from 2007-11, while the Knights missed the playoffs from 2002-11.

Norwin claimed a share of the section championship — the first in school history — in 2012, and the team was tied for second through Monday, in large part because of a combined 3-1 head-to-head record against Hempfield and Latrobe.

“We've been competitive now for the last three or four years straight,” Norwin coach Andy Phipps said. “When you're competitive week in and week out, the girls start to believe in themselves (and) other schools start to believe in you. I think the girls have a lot of confidence. Right now, these girls are not just looking for a section title; they're talking about a WPIAL title.

“Since I've been at Norwin, we've never really talked about a WPIAL title, so it's pretty exciting that the girls are looking and saying, ‘We have to win one at a time, but there's that possibility.'”

Although Norwin benefits from experience in players like Robinson, fellow seniors Nikki Berardinelli and Maddy Miller and juniors Erin Linhart, Hannah O'Block and Maddy Wensel, the Knights also rely on underclassmen like sophomore shortstop Christiana Skrabak, the team's leading hitter, and freshmen Danielle Chorba and Johnna Karas.

After missing the playoffs entirely last season, the Knights clinched their postseason berth with a 19-3 win last week over Kiski Area.

“Last year it was really devastating to be knocked out of the playoffs by that last game (a 9-1 loss to Penn-Trafford),” Robinson said. “To know before the season is even over that we're in the playoffs, that's really satisfying. I'm super excited to get back there.”

Phipps believes his team is ready for the playoffs after it had so much success in what he called the most difficult section in the WPIAL.

“The pitching's phenomenal in this section, and our girls have had a lot of success at the plate this year,” he said. “I think going into the playoffs, we're going to be prepared coming out of our section. We've got to see how everything plays out, but I'm hoping we get a decent spot in the playoffs and maybe get on a little bit of a run.”

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

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