Defending champion North Hills baseball finds positives in challenging season

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Thursday, April 25, 2019 | 11:18 PM


It appears a successful WPIAL Class 5A title defense isn’t in the cards for the North Hills baseball team this season.

It’s been a tough go of it from the onset for the Indians (2-10, 1-4) this year, and while they may find themselves toward the bottom of the Section 2 standings, that does not mean they have nothing left to play for.

“A couple of our top arms have been battling arm injuries, and then you mix that in with trying to replace 12 seniors from last year’s team, with just one returning starter coming back, it was a rough start to things due to the injuries and inexperience,” North Hills coach Steve Long said.

“We’ve played some nice games. We’ve swung the bat well in some games, and we’ve pitched well in others. We just haven’t put it together at the same time. We hung around with a lot of teams in our section the first time around. Now, the second time through the section schedule, we think we can sneak up on a few of them.”

Up to this point, there have been quite a few bright spots despite the team’s embattled record. One of the positive aspects for North Hills has been its ability to work a few youngsters into the starting lineup.

On the mound, freshman Aidan Tumpa has shown plenty of promise in his handful of starts. Long said Tumpa has taken the bump for the Indians in a couple of section games and performed well, displaying solid poise and maturity for a first-year varsity contributor.

Drew Garth has also worked his way into being a fixture in the middle of the team’s batting order, showing some pop in his bat while playing consistent defense in right field.

But if the Indians’ plan to engineer a few upsets down the home stretch of their schedule, it’s fair to assume Jordan Albright will be a part of that. The senior and multi-sport athlete has been a jack-of-all-trades for his team this season, and his coach said he expects that trend to continue.

“He’s our lone returning starter from last year, and he’s been our shortstop. He’s also been pitching a little bit because we really need him on the mound,” Long said.

“He’s started slow in the past because he comes straight over from basketball, but he’s just an incredible athlete. He got back into baseball mode really fast. He’s been hitting the ball hard. He’s the best bat in our lineup right now, for sure.”

Another senior who has been steadily proving his worth for North Hills has been center fielder Tanner Smith. Long said Smith’s play in center field has been top-notch, as opposing coaches in the section have expressed their frustrations to him about Smith’s ability to roam the outfield and steal base hits.

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