Lebo, Canon-Mac lead Diamond Dozen all-star list
The WPIAL crowned no champions among Almanac baseball teams this spring. That fact, however, did not mean diminished achievements. Despite the creation of six classifications, a two-division increase over past years, competition spiked, bringing out the best among the area athletes.
Canon-McMillan topped the charts. They claimed a section banner with a 12-0 slate. The Big Macs were one of only five undefeated section winners and the only squad in the WPIAL’s highest classification to win all of its games. Their league foes, Peters Township, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park, all posted 7-5 records and qualified for the postseason. Only the Big Macs and Lebo, however, reached the Final Four in the WPIAL tournament.
Almanac Diamond Dozen Baseball All-Stars
Player School Position Stats
Nick Callender Mt. Lebanon Infielder .377 BA: .535 onbase %
Dom Cepullio Upper St. Clair Outfielder .328 BA; 26 SB
Matt Dalesandro Mt. Lebanon Outfielder .435 BA; .533 onbase %
Jackson Geisler Upper St. Clair Outfielder .413 BA; 13 RS
Ian Hess Canon-McMillan Infielder .509 BA; 27 RBI, 21 RS
Mark Linkowski Mt. Lebanon Pitcher 7-0; 1.37 ERA
Colin Loughman Bethel Park Infielder .319 BA
Justin Meis Bethel Park Pitcher 5-0; 1.56 ERA; 48 strikeouts
Tor Sehnert Peters Township Outfielder .397 BA; 3 HR, 7 2B
Eric Riotto Peters Township Infielder .349 BA; 22 RBI
Zach Rohaley Canon-McMillan Pitcher 7-0; 52 strikeouts; 0.75 ERA
Tristen Zimmer Chartiers Valley Pitcher 7-3; 1.71 ERA
MVP: Cameron Weston 5-0, 55 Ks; 1.25 ERA; .375 BA 17 RBI
Honorable mention: Cam Walker, Jordan Castelli–Canon-McMillan; Dante Panucci–Chartiers Valley; Derek Pritchard–Bethel Park; Ethan Cuccares, Nick Shaub, David Abbondanz, Eric Kraus, Andre Smith, Nate Bayer–Mt. Lebanon; Jared Capozza, Nick Krugh–Seton-La Salle; Ethan Young, Blake Smith–Peters Township;Dylan Winseck, Tom Bash, Ronaldo Del Duca, Tanner Cicchini–Upper St. Clair
Rookie of the Year: Dom Popa, Seton-La Salle
Players to watch: Konnor Corchado, Connor Barrett, Steve Alauzen, Jake Lindow, Zack Philossoph, Jason Orzechowski–Chartiers Valley; Kevin Kogler–Bethel Park; Alex Zigarovich, Spencer Curran–Mt. Lebanon; Justin Fillippa, Aidan Urbano–Upper St. Clair
Coach of the Year: Tim Bruzdewicz, Canon-McMillan
Meanwhile, Chartiers Valley, which won its first baseball championship in 2016, managed to remain successful under new manager Curt Cairns. Coming out of Section 5-A, battle-tested and as the No. 3 seed, the Colts managed also to reach the semifinals. They finished fourth in the WPIAL, one game shy of qualifying for the PIAA tournament.
“It’s always hard to get up for a consolation game once you lose in the semifinals,” said Cairns. “However, we were up to the task and prepared well. We put up runs early but couldn’t hold on. A few errors and timely hits hurt us. We lost to an excellent team,” he conceded.”
Chartiers Valley not only lost to rival West Allegheny, the Colts lost to Latrobe in the WPIAL semifinals. The Wildcats won both the District 7 crown and the state championship thanks to Zach Kooska, who was named Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year.
Nonetheless, the Colts, like the Big Macs and Blue Devils, dominated the diamond. As a result, it is no surprise that the three teams headline The Almanac’s 2017 Diamond Dozen list.
Duo guide CM
In addition to having Cameron Weston garner MVP honors (see related article), the Big Macs placed two additional players on the all-star squad.
If there were a Cy Young Award for scholastic players, then Zach Rohaley will claim the laurel. The junior compiled a 7-0 record, complete with a 0.75 ERA. He struck out 52 batters in 42 innings. Rohaley, who batted .360 during the season with 10 RBI, is a repeat performer on the Diamond Dozen list, As a sophomore, he had 75 strikeouts and a 1.59 ERA to go along with a 7-4 record.
“Ro knows how to pitch,” said Bethel Park manager Tony Fisher.
By the same token, Ian Hess knows how to hit. “He is very good,” Fisher added of Hess.
How good? Hess ranked No. 13 in the WPIAL in batting. Only one other player–Derek Orndorff from Connellsville–in the WPIAL’s highest classification batted better than Hess.
A junior, Hess hit .509 with 27 RBI and 21 runs scored. The first baseman also smacked nine doubles and two roundtrippers.
“The scary thing about Canon-Mac is they are all underclassmen,” said PT manager Joe Maize of Weston, Rohaley Hess and even Cam Walker, who batted .350. “Hess is a very good hitter.”
Trio guide Lebo
At Mt. Lebanon, the Blue Devils had good hitters, great pitching and excellent defense. That triple combination added up to a Final Four showing in 6-A of the WPIAL and a 14-9 record.
Mark Linkowski proved Lebo’s ace. The junior compiled a 5-0 record during the regular season before throwing two complete shutouts in the playoffs. He tossed a no-hitter against Hempfield, 5-0, in the first round and then blanked Bethel Park, 6-0, in the quarterfinals. Linkowski posted a 7-0 record, a 1.37 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP.
“All of which are school records in the batted ball coefficient of restitution era. That’s fancy for exit speed,” said Lebo manager Patt McCloskey. “It took away all the pop out of metal bats.”
McCloskey added that Linkowski’s performance was vital to Lebo’s success because the Blue Devils had lost their No. 1 returning pitcher, James Stocker, to a knee injury for the 2017 campaign. “Mark certainly filled the void,” he said.
Linkowski’s and Lebo’s battery mate, Nick Callender caught every inning of every game. The junior was “crucial” to the Blue Devils’ success. In addition to having a “stellar” season defensively, Callender batted fourth in the line-up and maintained a .377 batting average with a .535 on-base percentage. He drove in 15 runs.
“Nick was the unquestioned leader of this year’s team, and his performance on the field matched his vocalization in the dugout,” McCloskey said. “He held us together.”
Matt Dalesandro was the glue to Lebo’s offense and outfield. The junior right fielder batted in the lead-off spot. He maintained a .435 average with a .533 on-base percentage. He scored 19 runs and swiped 13 bases.
“In addition to playing exceptional defense,” McCloskey said, “Matt was the catalyst for our offense. His base running also ignited our offense.”
All three Blue Devils–Linkowski, Callender and Dalesandro–earned first-team all-section honors.
Zimmer leads CV
After winning the school’s first WPIAL title for baseball, Chartiers Valley came back with another successful season under new management, however. Curt Cairns, who had been with the program for 19 years and served as an assistant coach since 2009, took the helm and the transition proved “seamless” as he utilized the pitching talents of Tristen Zimmer to reach the Final Four in the WPIAL 5-A tournament.
The senior compiled a 7-3 record and maintained a 1.71 ERA. He earned all-conference honors as a pitcher. At the plate, Zimmer batted .361 with seven doubles. He drove in 14 runs.
“He was a huge part of our success this year both offensively and on the mound,” said Cairns.
Cairns also noted that Zimmer was one of the players used to him and he used to Zimmer and is grateful for the performance that cemented CV’s future.
“You always want to put your stamp on your program in your first year and set the tone for the future,” Cairns. “Tristan helped us do that.”
Experience keys PT
Experience has always played a key role in Peters Township’s success and not just because Joe Maize has been the rock as manager. He helped sharpened the skills of two all-stars, who both were all-conference selections, and as a result the Indians qualified for the postseason after finishing tied for second place in section, behind league-leading Canon-McMillan.
Tor Sehnert makes his second straight appearance on the Diamond Dozen list. The senior outfielder led the WPIAL in home run last season and drove in 29 runs. As a result, he saw less fat pitches to hit this spring. However, Sehnert managed to bat .397 with three roundtrippers, a triple and seven doubles. His on-base percentage swelled to .530 thanks to 13 walks and he maintained a .682 slugging percentage.
Sehnert, who was 6-for-6 in the stolen base department, will play baseball for Coastal Carolina University.
“Tor hurt us a lot,” said Lebo manager Patt McCloskey. “He was a difficult out. When you look at all his tools, he can see why Coastal Carolina made him an offer and he’s been committed since his junior year.”
Eric Riotto proved Peters Township’s ace. He compiled a 4-3 record with a 3.29 ERA. He fanned 51 batters in 44.2 innings.
At the plate, Riotto batted .349 with three doubles, two triples and a homer. He scored 16 and drove in 22 runs. Riotto maintained a .529 slugging percentage.
BP’s 1-2 punch
Bethel Park likewise benefited from a 1-2 punch as Justin Meis dominated the action on the mound and Colin Loughman anchored the defense.
Meis posted a 5-0 record that included a no-hitter against rival Baldwin. He also won a first-round playoff game against Shaler.
Of the no-hitter, BP manager Tony Fisher commented, “Justin was phenomenal. It was one of the most dominant pitching performances I have witnessed. He had all three pitches working for strikes and he had a lot of life on his fastball.”
The junior owned a 1.56 ERA and struck out 48 batters. Opponents batted .143 against Meis, , who claimed all-section honors.
“He had a stellar season for us,” said BP manager Tony Fisher.
Patt McCloskey agreed. “Justin was one of two pitchers that really had an impact on us,” said the Lebo manager.
A versatile athlete, Meis also started on the varsity basketball team.
A four-year starter, Loughman has been BP’s defensive anchor at shortstop. Offensively, he batted .319 and earned his second, first-team all-conference acclaim. He will play baseball at Seton Hill University.
“Colin is considered to be one of the top defensive infielders on the circuit,” said Fisher. “He also pieced together a fine offensive season for us.”
USC pair excels
Though Upper St. Clair did not compile a fine campaign, going 3-9 in section and 7-13 overall, Dom Cepullio and Jackson Geisler cobbled together all-star seasons.
A senior, who played in both left and center field, Geisler batted .413. He led the Panthers in hits with 26, runs scored with 13 and on-base percentage with .443. The two-year starter swiped 12 bases. Defensively, he committed just one error and he threw out a runner at the plate.
“Jackson is a super kid. A team player” said USC manager Jerry Malarkey. “He knows the game. His arm is so good that nobody runs on him. He is a good hitter with excellent fielding skills. He gets a good jump and can run down most balls.”
Noting his potential to play at the next level Malarkey indicated that Geisler, who played football and basketball in high school, plans to continue his baseball career at a junior college.
Meanwhile, Cepullio returns. The rising senior, who has already committed to James Madison University, has been a three-year starter for the Panthers in the outfield. He also served as a relief pitcher.
Cepullio led the team with 26 stolen bases. He batted .328 with six doubles and a triple. He drove in 11 and scored 11 runs. He maintained a .431 on-base percentage and a .469 slugging percentage.
“Dom came up big for us in big games,” said Malarkey. “He was our vocal leader. He’s just an exceptional athlete.
Among the players to earn honorable mention status are:
• Cam Walker and Jordan Castelli from Canon-McMillan.
A junior, Walker batted .350 and started at shortstop. “He played real good defense,” said Tim Bruzdewicz.
The Big Macs’ designated hitter, Castelli batted .360 with 16 RBI.
• Dante Panucci–This Chartiers Valley senior batted .315 with eight doubles, a triple and two home runs. “Dante was injured for the first six games but came back to help lead us offensively,” said Curt Cairns. “He also played excellent defense at first base.”
• Derek Pritchard–This Bethel Park senior started at third base and sparked the offense as the Hawks’ leadoff hitter. He led the team in hits, runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases and slugging percentage. A second-team all-conference performer, Pritchard will play at Clarion.
• Ethan Cuccarese, Nick Shaub, David Abbondanza, Eric Kraus, Andre Smith, Nate Bayer, all from Mt. Lebanon:
A junior infielder, Cuccarese batted .300 and tagged the game-winning homer against Baldwin. He moved from third base to second this season after earning Almanac Rookie of the Year honors. “He played exceptional defense,” said Patt McCloskey, “and Ethan had some huge hits for us.”
A senior, Shaub batted .227 but proved an anchor in the infield. “He had the best defensive season of any infielder we have had in the 18 years I’ve been here,” said McCloskey. “He took away innumerable hits all year long and literally won us games on defense. In addition, he had several key hits late in section games that helped us to some really big wins.”
A senior first baseman, Abbondanza batted third for the Blue Devils and drove in 15 runs. He recorded three saves on the mound. “He was consistently productive,” McCloskey said.
A senior left fielder, Kraus made good hard contact and tagged big hits for the Blue Devils, said McCloskey.
A designated hitter, Smith batted .263. As a pitcher, he set a school record with only 1.4 walks per nine innings. He won two games and pitched 40 innings.
A senior center fielder, Bayer batted .250 but shone on defense. “He made a lot of spectacular difficult catches to help us win, including three in Linkowski’s no-hitter,” McCloskey said. “He also was a speed threat from the bottom of the line-up.”
• Jared Capozza and Nick Krugh–These Seton-La Salle seniors were bright spots in an otherwise dismal spring. The Rebels were 3-10 overall. Capozza batted .428 with 13 RBI. Krugh batted .305 with 10 RBI.
• Ethan Young and Blake Smith–This pair helped Peters Township to the playoffs. Young batted .339 with 20 runs and 23 RBI. Smith batted .417 with 24 runs and 12 RBI.
• Dylan Winseck, Tom Bash, Ronaldo Del Duca and Tanner Cicchini from Upper St. Clair.
A senior pitcher and shortstop, Winseck batted .268 and owned a 2.69 ERA. “He was an intense player. A team leader,” said Jerry Malarkey. Winseck will play at CCAC South
A senior pitcher and infielder, Bash served as a team captain for the Panthers. The three-year letter winner drove in 16 runs. He won two games and struck out 23 batters. He allowed the fewest hits per inning and batted .300. “Tom set high standards and expected others to do the same,” Malarkey said. He will play at St. Vincent.
A senior captain and three-year starter at second base, Del Duca batted .328. “Ronaldo was very committed; hard worker; intense player,” Malarkey said. He will play at Allegheny College
A senior and two-year starter in the outfield, Cicchini batted .289. He will play at Penn State-Behrend. “Tanner was the fastest player I have coached. Excellent team player,” added Malarkey.
SLS has ROTY
Few freshmen have an impact on their clubs let alone start for their teams but Dom Popa did both for Seton-La Salle. He pitched for the Rebels, picking up a victory in three decisions. He also batted .358 with 14 hits and 10 runs. For his efforts, Popa has earned Almanac Rookie of the Year honors.
Players to watch
Among the players to watch are:
• Chartiers Valley’s Konnor Corchado, Connor Barrett, Steve Alauzen, Jake Lindow, Zack Philossoph and Jason Orzechowski. Some played on the Colts’ WPIAL championship club but all will help the team continue to maintain high standards.
“With a successful season, we have laid the foundation for continued success and plan to build the program by working with our youth,” said Curt Cairns.
• Bethel Park’s Kevin Kogler. As a freshman, Kogler started all 22 games for the Hawks and batted a “respectable” .295. According to manager Tony Fisher, he came on strong in the second half of the season and supplied “clutch hits” in wins against Peters Township, Lebo and Shaler. He also contributed two key run-scoring singles in his first-ever playoff game. “He is a tremendously athletic defensive first baseman,” added Fisher.
• Mt. Lebanon’s Alex Zigarovich and Spencer Curran.
A junior, Zigarovich became a shortstop for the Blue Devils midway through the season. He came through offensively with a .250 batting average. “Alex made the difficult transition and really did a lot defensively to help us win,” said Patt McCloskey.
A junior, Curran posted two wins and a one save on the mound. In 29 innings, he struck out 28 batters. “He proved invaluable to us as both a starter and a reliever,” McCloskey said.
• Upper St. Clair’s Justin Fillippa and Aidan Urbano.
A rising senior, Fillippa excelled at shortstop for the Panthers. “He’s a solid defensive player that works hard and has a strong arm,” said USC manager Jerry Malarkey.
As a relief pitcher, Urbano struck out 16 in 23 innings of work. The sophomore, who owned a 3.00 ERA, tossed four no-hit innings against Bethel Park. Though he has moved to Seattle, Malarkey predicted, “Aidan’s going to be good. Absolutely,” he added, “we’ll be hearing about him. Every time, he pitched, he was very effective.”