North Hills softball avoids WPIAL title letdown, blanks Fox Chapel

Monday, June 7, 2021 | 11:52 PM

Even a nearly two-hour rain and lightning delay didn’t deter WPIAL champion North Hills from a strong performance in its PIAA opener.

Indians junior righthander Sophia Roncone struck out 13 Fox Chapel batters and yielded only three hits as North Hills blanked the Foxes, 6-0, at North Allegheny High School.

The Indians scored three runs on wild pitches and one on an error in addition to Roncone coming up with a key double and Melanie Taylor a triple.

The game started at 8:25, an hour and 55 minutes after the scheduled starting time due to a delay in getting the state tournament opener between Laurel and Frazier underway.

North Hills (17-5) will face Bellefonte on Thursday in the Class 5A quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.

The Indians, winners in the WPIAL title game over Armstrong last Thursday, avoided the letdown that has plagued numerous WPIAL champions over the years in PIAA first-round games.

“We knew that was a possibility,” said North Hills coach Libby Gainor. “There was some hype for us. Some of the articles that were put out got us focused real quick, and we were able to turn the page.”

The Indians broke through in the bottom of the third, scoring three times after there were two outs with nobody on.

Kyra Blauth and Kassidy Wittig singled and Brenna Westwood walked to load the bases. Blauth scored on a wild pitch and Wittig came around on an errant throw as she tried to take third. Westwood then scored on Taylor’s triple.

North Hills added another in the fourth when Roncone nearly hit one out of the park in deep left-center, doubling home Maria Chutko.

“Sophie’s a tough kid,” Gaisor said. “The (batted) ball got her on the glove hand early on, and you couldn’t tell anything happened. She had that same look no matter what.”

Taylor and courtesy runner Kaylee Bischoff scored on wild pitches to secure the victory in the fifth.

It was the first-ever PIAA playoff appearance for Fox Chapel (13-9) to end a season’s worth of memories.

“There were a lot of positives. It was a great season,” said Foxes coach Chris Olbrich. “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.”

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

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

Said Olbruch: “I think North Hills was the best hitting team we faced all year.”

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

Chutko and Wittig had a pair of base hits for the Indians.

Fox Chapel and North Hills split two section games during the regular season.

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