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Hot bats lead North Hills into baseball playoffs

Heading into this year's varsity baseball season, North Hills returned a roster that featured a wealth of experience, including 11 seniors and three juniors. A noticeable majority of that experience was coming back to pitch for the Indians.

And for coach Randy Miller, he said the stable of steady arms led him to expect his ball club to squeak out some low-scoring contests.

“Going into spring training, hitting was kind of a question mark for us. The one think I knew we had coming back was pitching. Pretty much the entire top half of our rotation came back this year after they were juniors last year. So, I had a lot of confidence in them,” Miller said.

“The question mark heading into the season was replacing the six lettermen that graduated from our lineup and how we'd put together a lineup this year. I would have to say that question mark got answered with an exclamation point this season.”

While the North Hills (13-3, 9-2) pitching staff has been rock solid, holding teams to one run or less in six of 16 games, it has been the Indians' bats that have separated them from the Section 1-5A pack this season.

North Hills is scoring 8.4 runs per game this season. In seven of their 16 games, they've brought home 10-plus runs. Through May 1, only one other team in WPIAL Class 5A had scored more runs then the Indians' 134 (Laurel Highlands, 135).

One player who has seemingly been in the middle of all the team's offensive production is senior Garret Barto. The third baseman and starting pitcher is hitting .475 with 20 RBIs. Barto also has displayed power by clobbering four home runs and knocking 16 of his 25 hits for extra-bases.

“He has been maintaining one heck of a pace offensively. He leads our team in RBIs, he leads our team in home runs, he leads our team in hits, extra-base hits. It's just been phenomenal what he's done this year,” Miller said.

“He just has a good approach at the plate, and he's been seeing the ball really well right now. I can't even say right now, he's been seeing the ball well like this all year.”

In addition to Barto, senior Steven Miller is also swinging a hot bat and steady at shortstop. Miller is hitting .465 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.

In the leadoff spot, Jordan Pitchford has been instrumental in setting the table. The senior center fielder has a batting average around .400 with 17 RBIs and 20 runs scored.

The numbers across the board for the North Hills batting order are well above average. The team's ability to score runs helped lead them to a first-place record, and with the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs on the horizon, the team will look to continue to use its strength at the plate to win important ball games.

“As a goal, for our guys, we like to see them around .300 or .350 as a high school hitter. Right now, we got five guys that are eclipsing that,” Miller said.

“We want to play good defensively, throw some strikes on the mound and keep the other team down on the scoreboard. We have that trust in our lineup to go ahead, go out there and put up some runs for us.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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