Fox Chapel softball ready to continue historic playoff run in PIAA tournament

Friday, June 4, 2021 | 6:01 PM

The Fox Chapel softball team is in the midst of the best playoff run in program history, and as the Foxes enter the first round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament, they are hoping it doesn’t stop soon.

The Foxes (13-8) will have a tough challenge Monday at North Allegheny as they get set to take on WPIAL Class 5A champion North Hills (16-5), who routed No. 7 Armstrong, 12-2, in the finals Wednesday.

But at this point, after battling to a fourth-place finish in the WPIAL tournament while being the No. 14 seed, the Foxes aren’t intimidated.

“We know that we can hang in with anybody,” Fox Chapel junior pitcher Mackenzie Borkovich said. “I think if we just get the bats going a little more, I think we’ll definitely have a chance to beat North Hills. We’ve played them two times already, so we are pretty familiar with their team.”

First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.

As Section 3-5A opponents, Fox Chapel and North Hills split their two regular-season games.

Borkovich doled out an uncharacteristic 10 walks during a weather-plagued game in their first meeting, but the Foxes managed a 3-1 victory. The Indians won their second meeting, 6-0, before winning seven of their next 10 games, including the WPIAL final.

The Indians have pitched and hit their way to victory all season, with 13 of their 16 wins coming by four runs or more, and they are carrying the momentum of a historic title win — their first in 21 years — into Monday’s contest. But, in the Foxes’ mind, they already have beaten North Hills once, so why can’t they do it again?

“I think it’s good to know who we are playing because it can give us a little more edge,” Fox Chapel coach Chris Olbrich said. “Knowing that they made it to the WPIAL championship and we beat them, so we can beat them again. So we’ll see what happens.”

Fox Chapel is coming off a pair of one-run losses in the Class 5A semifinals and consolation game, but it is carrying momentum as well.

When the Foxes took on Armstrong in the semifinals, they were making the first WPIAL semifinal appearance in school history. They defeated No. 3 Plum in the first round, and a three-run, winning homer by Brynn Palmer put them over the top against Franklin Regional in the quarterfinals.

But the Foxes’ magic ran out in their next two games, both 2-1 decisions.

The River Hawks scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the seventh inning during their semifinal matchup, and a two-run home run by Chartiers Valley’s Gianna Welsh was the difference in the consolation game.

“The softball gods seem to have a say sometimes,” Olbrich said

The Foxes aren’t stranger to close games. Olbrich said they have had seven come-from-behind wins this season, and half of their eight losses have come by two runs or fewer.

The first-year coach believes that’s what has helped them put together a historic playoff run.

“We’ve been in most games, and they’ve learned not to hang their heads,” Olbrich said. “They don’t do that anymore. They just battle until they get to 21 outs. That’s kind of been our mantra all season long.”

Borkovich, who has 241 strikeouts this season — 36 through four playoff games — has been a big part as well. Her familiarity with the North Hills lineup will be even more important Monday.

“I’ve played on a travel team with pretty much everybody on their team, so I know a lot of their hitters,” Borkovich said. “I know what their strong points are and what their weaknesses are, which I tried to capitalize on a lot. But they’ve also seen me twice now, so I might have to change it up a little.”

After scoring two runs combined in their last two games, the Foxes need to find a way to score more.

North Hills pitcher Sophia Roncone, who threw a shutout against Chartiers Valley in the semifinals and allowed only two hits and two runs while striking out four in the WPIAL championship game, struck out nine against Fox Chapel during their first matchup of the season and then allowed only two hits and struck out eight in the second matchup.

“I think we just need to be aggressive at the plate and put the ball in play,” Olbrich said. “We looked at a few too many pitches during our last two playoff games.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


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