Fox Chapel strikeouts specialist Borkovich exceeding expectations

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | 6:27 PM


Mackenzie Borkovich logged most of the pitching innings as a freshman for Fox Chapel in 2019.

She hoped to make a jump last year as the Foxes sought a return to the WPIAL playoffs after a one-year hiatus.

But the covid-related cancellation of the 2020 season dashed all hopes for the Fox Chapel players.

With a renewed sense of opportunity and expectations for a solid season, Borkovich is back in the circle hoping to continue what has been a strong start.

“I worked really hard throughout the winter on my pitching, and with missing my sophomore season, I knew I really had to stay focused,” said Borkovich, who was 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 44 innings through a 3-1 victory over Section 3-5A rival North Hills on Monday.

“All the work is starting to pay off. I came in hoping to get strikeouts, but I have exceeded my expectations.”

Fox Chapel headed into Wednesday’s section matchup with Mars at 4-2 overall and 1-1 in section play.

The game against North Hills started amidst rain showers and the possibility of a postponement. But the game went on, and struggles gripping a wet softball, Borkovich said, led to control problems and an uncharacteristic 10 walks.

But, Borkovich said, she overcame that with the help of her coaches and battery mate, catcher Amelia Herzer. As the weather improved, so did her control.

“There were points where I got some strikeouts in key situations and the defense behind me made some important plays,” Borkovich said. “At one point, I intentionally walked a girl to load the bases, so I knew I couldn’t walk another girl there. I ended up throwing three straight strikes. I just had to really focus. I always say that my pitching wouldn’t be nearly as effective if it wasn’t for Amelia and how she is able to help me through situations.”

While North Hills drew 10 walks, the Indians finished with just three hits. Borkovich struck out 10, and with help from the defense behind her, stranded 13 Indians runners on base.

“We are more of a defensive and pitching team,” Borkovich said. “We will score, but we rely a lot on pitching and defense. Everyone knows it’s going to take a strong team effort every game.”

The win against North Hills was a bounce back of sorts for the Foxes, who lost 3-1 to section-leading Shaler in the section opener Friday. Against a potent Titans lineup, Borkovich gave up seven hits, two earned runs and struck out eight.

“It was a close game,” Borkovich said. “We had runners all over the bases the entire game. We just didn’t get that big hit we needed. But we put that behind us and had a great attitude coming into the North Hills game. It was a tight game the whole way, and then Amelia finished it off.”

Herzer went 3 for 3, and her two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth provided the winning runs.

She added an RBI double in the first inning.

Borkovich started the season with a 6-1 home nonsection loss against Plum in which she struck out eight, walked four and gave up eight hits. She said the game was a good experience.

Three days later, Borkovich went toe-to-toe with Burrell sophomore Katie Armstrong.

The pitchers combined for 40 strikeouts and just five hits allowed in a 1-0 Fox Chapel win in 10 innings. Borkovich struck out 19, gave up three hits and walked just two over 128 pitches.

“I knew that I had to do my part to keep us in the game, inning by inning, out by out, pitch by pitch,” Borkovich said. “I couldn’t get too far ahead of myself. Late in the game, I knew they had seen me three, four or five times, so I had to use all the pitches I could to try and get them out. It was an amazing game, and I am glad we were able to get the win.”

From there she added a 19-strikeout, two hit effort in a 9-1 win over Peters Township and a 13-strikeout, one-walk game against perennial power North Allegheny.

Borkovich gave up six hits against the Tigers, but the Foxes prevailed, 3-2. Her infield hit in the bottom of the seventh brought home the winning run.

“Mackenzie really busted her butt over the past two winters and past two offseasons to get better,” Fox Chapel coach Chris Olbrich said. “Her speed is up about 5 mph. She also doesn’t tire out as easily as she did when she was a freshman. She can throw a lot of pitches, and she is still effective late in games. She’s a bulldog out there. She’s tenacious.”

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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