Fox Chapel softball exceeds expectations with deep playoff run

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Saturday, June 12, 2021 | 11:01 AM


After losing 2020 to the covid pandemic, the Fox Chapel softball team entered this spring with optimism that it could get to the Class 5A playoffs and make a run.

Foxes coach Chris Olbrich was confident his team would be competitive in each game it would play.

Both of those assessments turned out to be correct as a youthful Fox Chapel squad battled for a spot in the postseason in a competitive Section 3-5A and then, as the No. 14 seed in the WPIAL Class 5A bracket, pulled a pair of upsets to qualify for the program’s first trip to the PIAA tournament.

The playoff run ended in the state playoffs June 7 with a 6-0 loss to section rival and WPIAL champion North Hills at North Allegheny. Both teams had to wait out a nearly two-hour rain and lightning delay before starting the game.

The Foxes finished 13-9 overall after going 3-15 just two years ago.

“There were a lot of positives. It was a great season,” Olbrich said. “It was the furthest this team has ever come. Nothing to hang your heads about. We got to play an extra month of softball, and that’s awesome.”

The Foxes and Indians (17-5) split during the regular season. Fox Chapel defeated North Hills, 3-1, on April 12, and junior Makenzie Borkovich worked around some weather-related control issues to give up just three hits and strike out 10.

Borkovich pitched well in the PIAA rematch with the Indians — striking out 11 batters — but she had trouble getting the third out as North Hills scored all six runs after two were out.

“I think North Hills was the best hitting team we faced all year,” Olbrich said.

Borkovich struck out 252 batters in 140 2/3 innings and compiled a 2.49 ERA.

Fox Chapel had two runners on base three times against North Hills in the state matchup but couldn’t come up with a big hit. Hunter Taylor had a single and double to lead the Foxes.

Taylor, a sophomore shortstop, suffered a thumb injury in the WPIAL quarterfinal win over Franklin Regional and missed the semifinal setback to Armstrong.

She came back for the consolation game against Chartiers Valley.

Fox Chapel loses just two starters to graduation, Bella Krisky and Mercyhurst-bound Neena Pietropaolo, so the Foxes might be heard from again soon.

Pietropaolo finished second on the team in hitting (.344) with three home runs, 11 RBIs and 16 runs scored. Two of her homers came in the WPIAL playoffs.

The first one broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning of a first-round game against No. 3 Plum. Fox Chapel went on to claim a 2-0 victory.

She then was a part of a final-inning rally as the Foxes came back to topple No. 6 Franklin Regional, 7-5, in the quarterfinals.

Junior third baseman Brynn Palmer’s walk-off three-run homer against the Panthers propelled Fox Chapel not only into the WPIAL semifinals, but it also clinched the team’s trip to states.

Krisky added eight RBIs in her final varsity season.

Junior catcher Amelia Herzer returns to anchor Fox Chapel at the plate and behind it, as well. She fronted the team with a .426 average (29 of 68) and also had team bests in home runs (4), RBIs (24).

George Guido contributed to this story.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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