She hasn’t even finished her first season of high school softball, but it’s easy to see why Bentworth’s Sydney Gonglik is already being billed as the WPIAL’s next big star.

Forget the numbers for a second — just take a look at the bewildered look on the faces of opposing hitters when they step into the batter’s box against her. Better yet, observe their expressions as they walk back to the dugout in succession, one by one — some shaking their heads, others just laughing or shrugging their shoulders.

On Monday evening at Youthtowne Field in Clinton, Pa., it was Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s turn to face off against Gonglik, a two-way freshman phenom with a 68-mph fastball and jaw-dropping power at the plate. A piece of the Class 2A Section 3 title was up for grabs, with OLSH aiming to claim a share of the crown along with the Bearcats, who won the first matchup at home on April 19, 7-0.

Although OLSH (12-4, 10-2) managed to scrape together a run this time around, the end result was virtually the same — a lopsided win for Bentworth via a virtuoso performance by Gonglik, who allowed one run on five hits and one walk and struck out 14 in a 12-1 beatdown by the Bearcats (13-2, 11-0). She also went 1 for 2 with an RBI single and three walks (two intentional), dropping her batting average from .750 to .737 in the process.

Not bad for a freshman, huh?

“I kind of let my emotions get to me. I’m really working on that,” said Gonglik, who was visibly frustrated after narrowly missing out on her 10th shutout. “It wasn’t my best game, but my team helped me.”

The numbers Gonglik has compiled through her first 15 high school games are almost impossible to comprehend. As of Monday’s outing, Gonglik has racked up 201 strikeouts to only four walks in 85 innings pitched, compiling a record of 13-1 with an 0.91 ERA and 0.40 WHIP while twirling nine shutouts, six no-hitters and three perfect games. She is also slashing .737/.818/1.684 for a completely ridiculous OPS of 2.502, with 8 doubles, 5 triples, 6 home runs, 17 RBIs, 16 walks, 10 stolen bases and 37 runs scored on the year.

“Some of these girls hit. You’re not going to get them out all the time. That’s just how it is,” said Bentworth coach Jack Cramer. “She is too much of a perfectionist. She needs to lighten up a little bit, but it’s hard for her to do. … She expects to strike everybody out, shut everybody out and no-hit everybody, and it’s just hard to do.”

Bentworth’s Sydney Gonglik talks to coach Jack Cramer after reaching third base against OLSH on Monday, May 6, 2024, at Youthtowne Field. Bentworth won, 12-1, to clinch its first section title since 2011. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

All it takes is one glimpse of Gonglik’s fastball to realize that all the hype is for real. Actually, you don’t even need to see it — you can already hear the “pop” from a mile away. Add to that a lethal rise ball, devastating curveball, scintillating screwball and even an occasional changeup, and you have an arsenal of pitches that most Class 2A hitters simply have never seen before.

“She’s just lights-out,” said OLSH coach Dave Quinn. “The problem is, at our level, you just don’t see that every week. … When you don’t see it, it’s hard to get used to it.”

With her overpowering fastball and impeccable command, coupled with her prodigious power at the plate, the comparisons to Seneca Valley junior Lexie Hames are hard to ignore. A Clemson recruit, Hames led the Raiders to a WPIAL Class 6A title and PIAA Class 6A championship appearance as a freshman in 2022, then won PUP Player of the Year honors in 2023.

Like Hames, Gonglik carries an imposing aura in the circle that few can match, causing many opposing hitters to feel defeated before they even step into the box. Even veteran players with years of training lose complete control of their mechanics and revert to swinging blindly and wildly, just hoping to make contact in any shape or form. Foul tips are cheered like line-drive doubles by teammates in the dugout, and walks are celebrated like home runs.

Of course, Hames is a superstar of the highest order, and only time will tell if Gonglik can rise to that same level while following in her footsteps to play for WPIAL and state championships on her way to earning a Power Five scholarship — but it sure is going to be fun to find out.

“Those are tough cards you’re dealt when you’re going against somebody like that, who you’re probably going to be watching on TV in four or five years,” Quinn said. “I’m proud of my team and the season that we’ve had, with our only two losses in the section to a phenom like that.”

Bentworth’s Sydney Gonglik, left, and Kayla O’Dell high-five after their team’s 12-1 win against OLSH on Monday, May 6, 2024, at Youthtowne Field. Gonglik struck out 14 batters in the section-clinching win. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Even if Gonglik happened to be the only high-caliber player on the team, her presence alone would make the Bearcats a threat to contend for a WPIAL title. But Bentworth also features a handful of quality hitters alongside her, including sophomores Zoie McDonald (.562, 2 doubles, 4 triples, 28 RBIs), Nora Lindley (.404, 3 doubles, 2 homers, 21 RBIs) and Sofia Gaussa (.438, 7 doubles, 12 RBIs, 27 runs) and junior Kyleigh Glaze (.367, 3 doubles, 3 homers, 14 RBIs).

No wonder the Bearcats have outscored their 11 WPIAL foes by a combined score of 125-4 since returning home from the Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., after splitting four games against elite competition to start the year.

“We’re ready for playoffs now,” Gonglik said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster. Now that we’re winning, we keep rolling.”

Having waited 13 years since capturing its last section crown, Bentworth doesn’t have much tradition to speak of in softball, and the Bearcats have never won a WPIAL title. They also happen to inhabit the same classification as unbeaten Neshannock, the two-time defending WPIAL Class 2A champion and winner of 65 of its past 66 games. But all of a sudden, the Lancers appear to have a legitimate threat to their throne — and the WPIAL has a new must-see attraction.

“It feels great making a name for your school and getting another section title,” Gonglik said. “I’m just going to keep doing the same thing and helping my team out any way I can.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at