Every player on North Hills’ roster knew the stakes entering the playoff game Tuesday against Franklin Regional. Blame social media, coach Randy Miller said after the game.
It had been 11 years since the Indians previously won a playoff game. But thanks to a burst of runs in the first inning, in addition to a strong game on the mound by senior pitcher Joey Pusateri, North Hills now can wave goodbye to that drought.
North Hills scored four runs in the opening inning and cruised to a 7-1 victory against Franklin Regional at Shaler High School’s Matulevic Field, marking the program’s first playoff win since 2007. The Indians advanced to the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals and will face the winner of the West Allegheny and Chartiers Valley game, which was postponed until Wednesday night.
Pusateri, who also started the 6-4 loss against Chartiers Valley in the WPIAL quarterfinals a year ago, pitched a complete game and retired 12 consecutive batters from the top of the third to the top of the seventh. North Hills lost in the first round of the playoffs in three of the previous four seasons.
“It’s awesome,” Pusateri said. “Everybody’s been talking about [the drought]. We know we had that little target on our back, first round this, first round that. We’ve made it to the third round now. We got a bye, we made it to the third round. Semifinal game. We’re pumped for the next one, we’re ready to do what we have to do to win that championship and win that ring.”
North Hills shortstop Steven Miller and midfielder Jordan Pitchford singled to begin the first inning, and third baseman Garrett Barto drove both runners in with a double.
Franklin Regional starting pitcher Alex Frey walked Indians first baseman Tyler Zozos before catcher JT Mazula hit an RBI double to extend the lead to three. Designated hitter Alex Glatz singled, stole second and scored on a single by left fielder Tanner Schmitt and an error by Franklin Regional catcher Bryce Harper.
Franklin Regional wound up with six errors.
“I just got done saying to the guys, ‘Anybody that saw us for the first time today, we’re a completely different team than that,’” Franklin Regional coach Bob Saddler said.
“We don’t make those errors, we don’t make those throws. We’re a team that gets behind our guys. We see somebody make an error, somebody else picks that guy up. We’ve been that team all year. Unfortunately, today it just compiled, and the first inning was a precursor for basically what happened continuously throughout the game.”
North Hills added a run in the fourth and sealed the win in the fifth when second baseman Jordan Albright drove in two with a triple.
“They’ve been hungry all year,” Miller said.
“It’s no secret, the elephant in the room was what we’ve done in past years, tough loss in the quarters last year, I just told the guys. I said you know what, we have all the confidence in the world and you’re one of, if not the best team in 5A.
“Let’s just go out and show it.”