Canon-McMillan celebrates that championship season
Steve Bucci almost celebrated two state championships this summer.
Though Keystone Oaks knocked off Bucci’s undefeated club in the PIAA quarterfinals, the South Park manager reminisced recently regarding the state crown Canon-McMillan secured five years ago.
The former C-M manager and many of his Big Macs reunited for an anniversary celebration of their achievement at the Meadows Casino.
“We have met every year since (that championship),” said Bucci. “It was an historical run.”
Indeed, the triumph marked the first and only state baseball championship in the school’s history. In 2008, Canon-Mac smashed Spring Ford, 10-2, at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona in the PIAA title tilt.
And, while their state run featured impressive shutouts against Central Mountain, 14-0, in the semifinals and Peters Township, 8-0, in the quarterfinals, the Big Macs had entered the PIAA tournament by the slimmest of margins.
After falling in eight innings to Plum, 6-5, in the WPIAL semifinals, the Big Macs won their consolation match. Also in extra frames, C-M edged North Allegheny, 5-4, and qualified for the state playoffs as the third-place finisher in District 7.
The Big Macs opened state action by slipping past Taylor Allderdice, 8-7, in nine innings before they knocked off their section nemesis, Peters Township, which had won the district title by virtue of a 10-4 triumph versus the Mustangs.
“It was an amazing run,” said Bucci.
And one not easily duplicated, adds Bucci. He pointed to the fact that the Big Macs are the last western regional champion in the Quad-A level to this point.
It surely was a remarkable run as the Big Macs outscored the opposition, 41-7, and finished 22-5 overall. In fact, in two seasons under Bucci, the Big Macs compiled a 35-14 record, complete with a 6-2 slate in the post-season.
Bucci moved on to manage the rival Black Hawks from Bethel Park before settling in at South Park, where he guided the Eagles to this year’s WPIAL Class AAA title and a 25-0 record before falling to the Golden Eagles of KO.
While his assistant, Tim Miller, has joined Bucci at South Park, former coach Ken Barna now manages the Clairton baseball team and Jordan Abromovitz sells cars at a dealership on West Liberty Avenue.
Many of Bucci’s charges continue to enjoy success.
Most recently, Matt Pierpont moved into the elite ranks. The Colorado Rockies drafted him in the 26th round of the MLB amateur draft this June after a standout career at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Currently, the 6-2, 215-pound right-handed pitcher is 1-1 with a 3.14 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 14.1 innings for the Tri-City Dust Devils in the Class A short-season Northwest League.
Some graduates are back attempting to help their alma mater reclaim success. Unlike the school’s softball team, which won a second straight WPIAL title and captured its first-ever state championship, the Big Macs were eliminated early in the district playoffs after winning the Section 4-AAAA title, under Frank Zebrasky.
For example, Charles Murphy coaches at Canon-Mac while finishing up his college studies at California University of Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, Chris Dittmar has taken his talent and knowledge to Washington. In addition to teaching, the Waynesburg graduate coaches the freshman team and assists with the basketball coaching duties.
Additional players, who have graduated from college and/or are employed are: Arron Wiegel, who played baseball at West Virginia Wesylan; Mike Spartz, a Penn State product, who works for Range Resources; Andre Hayden, PSU grad; Jeff Lauterbach, an electrician; Chris Douglas, an IUP graduate, who is employed in the construction industry; and Matt Baker, Pitt product.
Nine former players continue to attend college. Some are excelling in sports such as Michael Hull and Sam Lombardo. Both standout wrestlers in high school as well, Lombardo excels at Waynseburg while Hull plays football at Penn State. A junior linebacker, Hull has already earned the pre-season distinction as All-Big Ten, third team.
Currently, D.J. Michalski is playing baseball at Washington and Jefferson College. Mike Toward is the club baseball coach at Ohio University. Zach Hoffman attends Westminster College. Jim Borris is at Pitt; Kyle Almassy at Penn State; Steve Roach and Matt Parisee at Waynesburg.