North Hills baseball off to hot start

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Saturday, April 22, 2023 | 11:01 AM


A year older, a year better. A lot better, in fact.

That’s been the case for the North Hills baseball team through the opening weeks of the season.

After finishing 6-12 and missing the playoffs in 2022, the Indians have gotten off to a blistering hot start in 2023, racking up an 8-1 record through April 17.

“It’s been nice,” second-year coach Jon Pedrosky said. “We returned a good amount of guys from last year, and have gotten some good surprises from some guys coming up. There’s just been some good energy.”

Pedrosky saw this coming. Despite the disappointing results in his first season with North Hills, he witnessed the team perform well in the fall.

When the group went to Myrtle Beach in late March, and impressively won its first two games by a combined score of 21-5, his hopes began to be realized.

“We played a couple of good teams down there and saw some good pitching,” Pedrosky said. “Then we came back up (to Pittsburgh) and faced a couple of good pitchers.”

North Hills’ first game against a WPIAL opponent came March 29, a 2-1 win over Hampton, which pitched James Madison recruit Ryan Apalski.

“We did a nice job against him and gained some confidence against a very good pitcher,” Pedrosky said.

Since then, the bats have been heating up for the Indians, who scored 37 runs in a three-game winning streak, including victories over Gateway and a series sweep of New Castle.

Offensively, the Indians have been paced by leadoff hitter Dylan Barnes, a Penn State Behrend recruit who batted .550 through the first nine games.

Fellow senior Walt Vitovich, a Gannon commit, hit around .450, as did junior Jake Pollaro, who arrived to the team late following a successful basketball season.

“We’re not really known for our hitting, but we’ve been swinging the bat a little bit here,” Pedrosky said. “As a whole, we’re just avoiding strikeouts and getting a lot more people on base than we did last year.”

Following the breakout games at the plate, the winning streak continued with consecutive victories over perennial power Mars thanks to strong pitching efforts from starters Austin Bakowksi and CJ Leuch, who have anchored the two-man rotation.

It’s all led to a perfect storm for North Hills’ opponents — facing a team with a strong 1-2 punch on the mound and a lineup full of capable hitters who continue to gain understanding of the lofty expectations Pedrosky has for the program.

“They’re a lot more comfortable with the system that our coaching staff has put in,” Pedrosky said. “They’ve seen the system succeed a little bit, and they’re buying into it.”

And that will be necessary for the Indians, which compete in one of the WPIAL’s toughest sections, Section 3-5A, alongside perpetual contenders like Shaler, West Allegheny, Mars, Moon and New Castle.

And while Pedrosky admits that his team may not have the big named talent like some of their opponents, he feels that his team shows up more than ready to win, day in and day out.

“The energy has really been the difference this year,” Pedrosky said. “A lot of teams we’ve played this year have made comments about our energy and the way our kids are into the game. And that’s something that makes a big difference.”

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