North Hills baseball hoping bats heat up with weather

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Saturday, April 23, 2022 | 9:01 AM


Jon Pedrosky didn’t have to look far for his newest job.

Pedrosky, a psychology teacher at North Hills, is in his first season as head coach of the school’s baseball team.

“I was thinking about taking a couple of years off, and then this job opened up and it was one of those things that was hard to pass up, with the kids we have and the community we have,” said Pedrosky, who coached Deer Lakes for eight years and spent the last six seasons as an assistant at Central Catholic.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of the kids,” he said. “That’s what attracted me to the job. And I knew we had a good junior class returning.”

The first game North Hills played with Pedrosky in the dugout was far from the snow and freezing rain that had gripped much of Western Pennsylvania since the start of baseball season.

The Indians, who finished 6-11 last year, took a trip to Myrtle Beach, playing three games and racking up three wins. It was a needed trip for a group that was not able to utilize its usual home field, Herb Field in Ross Township, due to poor playing conditions.

“It was awesome,” Pedrosky said of the five-day excursion. “We got our arms warm for the upcoming season, especially our pitchers. And as far as camaraderie, it’s second to none. … And we were fortunate to have some nice weather.”

The bonding off the field paralleled that which occurred on the diamond, especially after being unable to take such trips over the last couple of seasons due to covid-19 restrictions.

“These kids haven’t been on a trip,” Pedrosky said. “This was their first time traveling together. And it’s a nice, tight group. They like each other. And that’s not always the case. It’s nice to bring that closeness a little closer.”

North Hills piled up the runs in South Carolina, topping Burgettstown, New Brighton and Berks Catholic while scoring 27 runs.

But when the team returned to a chillier climate, the bats cooled off, and the results became a bit heartbreaking.

“We’ve lost every game (after returning from the trip) in the seventh inning,” said Pedrosky.

The Indians lost section games by a single run to Chartiers Valley twice and West Allegheny once, as well as a 10-6 loss to West Allegheny.

“We’re there. We’re right where we need to be,” Pedrosky said of the Indians, who claimed a WPIAL Class 5A title in 2018. “But we need to learn how to win. … We just have to be able to take that next step.

“I think we’re pressing a little bit at the plate. We’re getting guys on but just not coming up with that big hit that we need. But our pitching has been phenomenal.”

Leading the way on the mound have been junior CJ Leuch and senior Nick Friday, as well as top relievers Austin Bakowski and Dylan Barnes.

“Game-in and game-out, they just give us an opportunity to win by giving up just two or three runs per game,” Pedrosky said. “That’s all you ask for from a starting pitcher. We just have to help them out a little more offensively.”

Through the first seven games, Barnes was the team’s top hitter, batting over .500, including a 7-for-10 mark in Myrtle Beach. Junior Walt Vitovich hit over .400 in the early going as well.

Pedrosky trusts that, as the weather warms, his group — which couldn’t even take its team photo outside this year — will be able to get the bats going. His foundation of pitching and defense seems to be in a decent place.

And he believes that will help turn the tight losses into victories.

“For how hard these kids worked in the offseason, they deserve better outcomes than we’ve been getting,” he said. “We’re trying to implement a new system, and these kids grasped it right away. They’re buying into it.

“We’re right there with these top teams. I think we’re close, and I think we’ll get there.”

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