State playoff loss puts heartbreaking ending on successful season for North Hills softball

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Saturday, June 25, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Sophia Roncone didn’t bend when facing the pressure of the first round of the PIAA Class 5A softball playoffs. What the North Hills senior pitcher did was turn in one of the best performances of her career.

Roncone, a Holy Cross commit, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Central Mountain. The Indians couldn’t find a way to scratch across any runs and took a tough loss when Central Mountain’s Madison Hardy homered in the bottom of the ninth to produce a 1-0 victory.

“It was one of her better outings,” said North Hills coach Libby Gasior, who was named Section 3 coach of the year by the Big 56. “She was tough throughout the whole seven innings. In the eighth inning, she struck out all three batters. We tried to answer for her at the plate, but weren’t able to.”

The Indians shared the WPIAL Section 3-5A crown with Fox Chapel and went 17-5 overall. North Hills, which won its first district title in 21 years in 2021, advanced to the WPIAL semifinals before bowing to Armstrong. The Indians beat Chartiers Valley, 13-3, to finish third in the district and earn a bid to the state tournament for the second straight year.

“It was nice for the young girls to see,” Roncone said. “We didn’t play easy teams throughout the season. We had to gear up for those, so it wasn’t a shock when we got to the playoffs.”

There was no doubt, though, that the state playoffs were a tough ending to a strong two-year run.

“It was a tough 3 ½-hour bus ride only to get out there and play as well as they did and as hard as they did to lose,” Gasior said. “There were a couple of things that didn’t go our way. If they did, it would have been a different ballgame. Defensively, it was one of the best efforts we had.”

For their accomplishments in 2022, the Indians were well-represented on the Big 56 Section 3 team.

Infielder Maria Chutko, outfielder Kassidy Wittig, designated hitter Hanna Murphy and Roncone were selected to the first team. Catcher Abby Scheller and infielder Brenna Westwood were chosen for the second team.

Gasior was happy with what this senior group accomplished. It’s a group that produced as juniors after missing the preceding year due to the pandemic.

“The 2020 seniors are the ones that are remembered the most because they lost the most, their senior year,” Gasior said. “It had a trickle-down effect through the program. A lot of these girls would have started as sophomores. The 2021 seniors also had a big impact on our success. I’ve coached a lot of kids who I think I will never coach another kid like them ever again. I know every program had to deal with the pandemic, but it was heartbreaking to miss a season.”

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