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North Hills baseball driven to take next step

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Saturday, March 23, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Before Jon Pedrosky truly dove into preparations for the 2024 WPIAL baseball season, he first made a trip to his printer.

Once there, the third-year North Hills baseball coach printed off photos of the scoreboard from the Indians’ final game of the 2023 season. That scoreboard read: Upper St. Clair 9, North Hills 7. It was a frustrating first-round loss for a promising Indians squad.

But Pedrosky took the heartbreak and converted into a motivational tool. Those photos were hung up in his team’s facility, a constant reminder of how close North Hills came to its first postseason win since its WPIAL championship season of 2018.

“We expect to be there in the end, and that’s why you play the game,” said Pedrosky, reflecting on the 13-7 record from a year ago. “It’s something we talked about in my first year, where we want to go. We took a big step last year.

“But it’s disappointing because we didn’t reach where we wanted to go. I thought we could’ve made a little bit of a run and things didn’t go our way. We just didn’t finish. And that’s going to be a big thing this year, playing a full seven (innings). In that playoff game, we played a great five innings. Unfortunately, you play seven, and that’s what beat us in the end.”

What leads Pedrosky — who helped the Indians more than double their win total from 2022 to 2023 — to believe that this team can achieve its goals is, primarily, its pitching.

That group is spearheaded by Delaware recruit Jake Pollaro, a towering, left-handed senior who also plays first base and enters baseball season far more fresh than in previous years when he was coming off football and basketball season. Pollaro decided to focus his efforts on the diamond this season.

“His body was pretty beat up when he got to us in the past,” Pedrosky said. “It would take a little bit. (North Hills basketball coach Buzz Gabos) has so much success in basketball. It was great for our school, but they would go well into March and our season starts in March. Jake would need to get a little bit of a catch-up. This year, he’s been right on track. He’s actually ahead of schedule.”

Also back are senior pitcher Ben Barr, who is committed to Cal (Pa.), senior pitcher and Allegheny commit Austin Bakowski, as well as senior catcher Zack Kuhn, who will head to Juniata next year.

“Austin has been one of our section starters since he was a sophomore and got to start our playoff game last year,” Pedrosky said. “He’s a bulldog. He’s sitting in the upper-80s. He pounds the strike zone and eats up innings.

“Barr could easily be a section starter. He’s a crafty lefty. He got a little time last year. The kid’s actually an excellent outfielder as well.

“And Zack’s been catching for us the last three years. He’s been splitting time, but this year he has it to himself. And he’ll anchor the middle of our lineup and should be one of the top catchers in the section.”

Before North Hills jumps into the depths of its schedule here in Western Pennsylvania, it will first travel south to the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach for some late-March baseball in better weather.

“You can play a decent amount of games in a short amount of time,” Pedrosky said, who also laughed about the challenge of overseeing 35 high school boys in a beach setting. “Your kids get 16-20 at-bats in. If a team plays up north, a kid is going to get four or eight at-bats. And the kids’ arms get to throw in a warmer temperatures than up here.

“Plus, these kids get to know each other. You’re traveling 12 hours each way. You have no choice but to get to know them.”

Once the Indians return home, a challenging Section 3-5A awaits, including two games each against defending Class 5A champion Shaler, plus traditional powers West Allegheny and Mars. An improving Moon team, as well as a New Castle program that won a championship just three years ago, round out the section.

“It just seems like the last few years, one of our teams is in the WPIAL finals or the state finals,” said Pedrosky.

“The expectations are always the expectations. You expect to be in the playoffs and compete for a championship. Our section doesn’t do us any favors. It’s a gauntlet. But once you get through that section, you’re seasoned for the playoffs.”

And Pedrosky hopes that’s not only where his team ends up again, but that it can become one of those teams in the finals. He likes their odds, but knows there is work to be done to prevent him from powering up that printer next winter.

“We have some good talent who grew into leadership roles for this year,” he said. “And we’re fortunate here at North Hills. We have a great group of people and a great group of baseball players.”

Tags: North Hills



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