Early-season trip gets North Hills softball title defense off to a great start

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Saturday April 23, 2022 | 9:01


Forty-two years ago, Dolly Parton released the hit song “9 to 5”.

In the song, Parton sings, “Well you got dreams and you know they matter.”

The North Hills softball team, which began its 2021 Class 5A softball title defense just minutes from Parton’s hometown, has just that – dreams.

“It was a trip that was planned and paid for in 2020,” said then-14th-grade coach Libby Gaisor in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. “We kept rolling it (due to covid restrictions).

“Some of these trips are kind of life changing for our children. Maybe they won’t take it if it’s not with this team. We lived in a cabin of 50 people for four days. We did some really fun stuff. And we got to play softball as well. It was a victory on all counts. »

A year ago, the Indians made a surprising run to the program’s first championship in 21 years, doing so as the No. 8 seed and upsetting No. 1 Penn-Trafford along the way.

“I have 11 seniors coming back, and we made a point, at the end of last year, for 2021 to be pretty much that 2021 team,” Gaisor said. “Now is our chance to write the 2022 chapter.

“Last year we said it was a long season, a long time, and to take it every game at a time. When that turned out to be the way we won it , with this mentality, it is now a much calmer group. We are very motivated.

Not only does Gaisor have the luxury of 11 seniors, but she also has seven returning starters and several college-bound players.

“We almost have a rotation of 13 to 14 people,” Gaisor said. “It looks really promising.”

At the center of things is starting pitcher Sophia Roncone, a senior committed to Holy Cross.

“If you could make a student athlete, you would want it to be Sophia Roncone,” Gaisor said. “She is a leader. She is tough, she has a good temperament and she leads by example. She’s been such an important piece in everything we do.

Maria Chutko, who is attached to Oberlin College, swung a good bat early in the season and replaced Roncone in the circle a few times.

“His bat was amazing,” Gaisor said of Chutko. “It’s sad that I can’t coach another kid like Maria (after this season). But I’m glad I could.

Seton Hill rookie Kassidy Wittig locked up the center field spot and excelled at the plate early in the year, as did junior second baseman Brenna Westwood and Akron-bound senior catcher Abigail Scheller.

“In a section that’s full of really good catchers, she’s right up there,” Gaisor said.

After returning from Tennessee, the Indians picked up victories over Mars, Shaler and Hampton, scoring 31 points in those three games. But they suffered a 7-0 loss to section rival Fox Chapel, and it gave North Hills the motivation to improve, knowing that what happens in April isn’t always a sign of things to come. to come.

“Situational hitting has been really good for us, and we’re trying to stay warm with the bat,” Gaisor said. “And defensively, we try to gel. This teamwork is a big priority for us right now.

North Hills officially closed the book on the 2021 season on April 19 with a ring ceremony. The hope is that, in a year, the 11 seniors who had the majority of their high school years heavily impacted by covid-19, will return to collect more jewelry.

“They can’t all start, obviously,” Gaisor said. “But this decision by the senior class to stick it out and be a part of it speaks volumes to these kids.”

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