Senior Dylan Barnes, North Hills baseball team enjoy breakout season

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Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The night before their playoff debut, North Hills’ baseball players decided to let loose a bit.

Members of the team, which is spearheaded by 11 seniors, decided to enjoy an evening of miniature golf May 16, around 24 hours in advance of their first-round WPIAL playoff game against Upper St. Clair.

It’s a tradition that — similar to the baseball field — seems to bring out the competitive nature, and the best, in Dylan Barnes.

“I won the last two times, but didn’t do too well today,” said Barnes, a senior infielder for the Indians.

Barnes has been part of a group of North Hills players that has seen some tough times and persevered.

“Freshman year really sucked,” said Barnes. “None of us got to play baseball. But we realized that, since we’ve had to go through a lot, that we should probably work hard throughout the rest of the years we have in high school. And it’s paying off.”

It certainly did in 2023.

North Hills finished the regular season 13-6 to earn that playoff spot following a pair of six-win seasons.

“The last couple of years we lost quite a lot,” Barnes said. “We realized that we have 11 seniors this year. We just wanted to work really hard for our last year and realized that we could go really far in the playoffs too.

“We really exceeded expectations. We’ve all worked very hard since last fall, the winter and now the spring. We all just really committed to it this year.”

In January, Barnes decided that he’d like to keep playing baseball beyond 2023, committing to Penn State Behrend, where he will major in business.

“I went on a visit a couple of months before I decided to go there,” he said. “The guys were really nice, the coaching staff was really nice, and I really liked the campus.”

The academic side was also important to Barnes, who sports a 4.1 GPA at North Hills.

“All of my parents and coaches say that school comes first,” he said. “I just try to work hard in everything.”

As the starting second baseman, the 6-foot-3 senior has been able to gain a lot of chemistry with the team’s shortstop, Water Vitovich, who is committed to Gannon.

“Ever since sophomore year, we’ve been playing middle infield together,” Barnes said. “We’ve worked really hard there and know we always have each other’s backs.”

Those types of bonds run deep for the Indians, beyond high school ball.

“It’s cool. I’ve been playing with these guys my whole life, from Little League to now,” Barnes said. “And now we all got into the playoffs together.”

Helping turn programs around has been a bit of a trend for Barnes, also a member of North Hills’ basketball team, which has had a pair of very successful years, including back-to-back appearances in the PIAA playoffs and a trip to the WPIAL finals at the Petersen Events Center in 2022.

“It was really fun, going to those state games far away and playing for a WPIAL championship,” said Barnes, who also fondly remembers the times off the court. “The bus rides were really funny. I can’t really say what went on, but they were always great.”

Now, as his eventful times on the WPIAL diamonds and courts, in the North Hills classrooms and even on the local mini golf courses come to a close as a high schooler, he’s leaving the baseball program much better than he found it by embracing a leadership role for the team’s fresher faces.

“It’s definitely important,” he said. “Even when I’m gone, I want all of my younger friends and teammates to succeed like we did.”

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