2013 Sports Year In ReviewPublished Dec 28, 2013 at 7:46 pm (Updated Dec 28, 2013 at 7:46 pm)
South Fayette proved big wasn’t better as the Lions, outsized on the line on most occasions, rolled to a perfect 16-0 season in football. In claiming the school’s first state title, the Lions shattered several records, including single-season passing and receiving marks by their top tandem—Brett Brumbaugh and Justin Watson. Brumbaugh passed for 3,917 yards and 41 touchdowns while Watson hauled in 73 of those aerials for 1,568 yards. The pair was at its best as the Lions toppled heavy favorites, Aliquippa, 34-28, in the WPIAL championship contest played No. 23 at Heinz Field and Imhotep Charter, 41-0, in the PIAA finals played Dec. 15 at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Quips boasted West Virginia recruits Dravon Henry and Jaleel Fields. Meanwhile, Imhotep Charter boasted as many as 18 Division I recruits, an offense that averaged 47.1 points and 303 yards rushing per game. The Panthers were predicted to beat the Lions, 50-6. “When you play with your heart and play with these kinds of kids, whose minds were right the whole way,” said SF head coach Joe Rossi, adding then that results such as the Lions posted this fall are not surprising.
After making the final putout during the PIAA championship game, first baseman Maddie Engel (center) rushes to celebrate Canon-McMillan’s first-ever state softball crown with winning pitcher Alayna Astuto (No. 12) and battery mate Giorgiana Zeremenko (No. 21). The Lady Macs defeated Neshaminy, 4-3, in extra innings June 14 at Nittany Lion Park on the Penn State University campus. Earlier, the Lady Macs picked up their second ever WPIAL title, beating North Allegheny, 5-2, May 30 at Lily Field in Californa, Pa. The Lady Macs finished 25-1 overall. Asuto, who was undefeated at 25-0 with a 1.06 ERA, earned Almanac MVP honors for the season. In the state final, a 12-inning affair, she struck out 18 and scattered four hits.
Stacey Kazalas celebrates with her teammates after making a kill for the Bethel Park girls’ volleyball team. The Lady Hawks followed the lead set by their male counterparts in the spring, only better. While the BP boys, under the direction of Tom Allman, finished runner-up in the district, falling to North Allegheny in the finals as well as the PIAA quarterfinals, the Lady Hawks fell one match shy of competing in the state finals, under first-year head coach Shawn Palmer. They succumbed to two-time PIAA champion, Hempfield, in the semifinals. The Lady Hawks also won a section banner and reached the district finals for the first time in the program’s history. They also lost to North Allegheny in the WPIAL final, but bounced back to reach the Final Four in the state. In other volleyball action this year, Bishop Canevin captured the WPIAL Class A title, toppling Greensburg Central Catholic, 3-2, winning the final sets, 25-13 and 15-9, to seal the title.
Thanks to Jared Skolnicki, shown here unleashing a pitch to the opposition during PIAA state playoff action, Keystone Oaks ruled the diamond in high school baseball. In posting a 20-6 record, the Golden Eagles advanced all the way to the Final Four in the state for the first time in program history. Plus, after sharing a section banner with Chartiers Valley, KO took third in the district. The Golden Eagles rode the arm of Skolnicki to success. In 76 innings, he struck out 111, maintained a 0.28 ERA and recorded 11 victories against only one defeat. A centerfielder, Skolnicki also led KO in hitting with a .435 average, .481 on-base percentage and .623 slugging percentage with eight extra base hits, and 10 RBI. He will play baseball at Kent State this spring.
Connor Schram and Cody Wiercioch dominated the action on the mats during the wrestling season. The four-time PIAA finalists led Canon-McMillan to WPIAL and PIAA titles. The Big Macs won both championships for dual-meet competition as well as during the individual championships. CM captured its third PIAA team title in a row and fifth under Chris Mary, who retired from coaching upon the completion of the season. Schram, who is now wrestling at Stanford, finished 45-3 this year and 159-12 overall in his career, which included two state titles. Wiercioch, who wrestles for Pitt, was 44-1 during the season and 167-6 in his career, which featured three state titles. In Class AA, South Fayette completed a record-making campaign, claiming its first section title and advancing the WPIAL team finals. The Lions lost a thriller to Burrell in the Class AA team championship match. They advanced five wrestlers to the PIAA tournament.
Grant Engel, Pat McDonnell and Thomas Steve cherish their WPIAL Class AAA golf championship. With scores of 69, 71 and 71, the trio led Upper St. Clair its 18th team title. With a 381 team score, the Panthers beat their closest rival by 30 strokes. USC also dominated the PIAA tournament, winning the state crown by 18 strokes, with a 302 combined score over runner-up Methacton. In the process, Engel captured the PIAA individual title, becoming the third state champion from USC to accomplish that feat. Engel won the crown on the final hole. He shot a 74-73—147 to win by two strokes. In girls’ action, Joey Walz from Seton-La Salle garnered PIAA runner-up honors in Class AA while Lauren Waller from Canon-McMillan won the WPIAL Class AAA individual title and claimed a bronze medal in the PIAA tournament.
Troye Kiernan (left) and Joel Hart (right) savor their gold medals after directing Upper St. Clair to its’ second straight PIAA title for boys’ soccer. Both scored goals to lift the Panthers to victory, 4-0, against Conestoga Valley in the Class AAA final played Nov. 16 at Hersheypark Stadium. Dom Caruso and Doug Hapeman also tallied goals while Garrett Blake (2), Hart and Shane Sibley dished up assists. Kiernan, who will continue his career at St. Francis University, earned All-America honors while Hart, who led the team in scoring with 37 goals, will play for American University. USC finished 23-1-1 overall. Peters Township was responsible for the lone loss, edging the Panthers, 1-0, to win the WPIAL title. The Lady Indians and the South Fayette boys finished as district runners-up in soccer this fall.
After going 1-12 four years ago, Seton-La Salle reached the winner’s circle, capturing the first WPIAL boys’ lacrosse title in school history when the Rebels defeated Quaker Valley, 13-8, May 23 at Baldwin Stadium. Kevin Hudson anchored the SLS defense, making 14 saves in the net. Colin Bashaw and Connor Quinlan led the offense, scoring four goals each. Noah Kaib had 14 ground balls and Dominic Tolomeo controlled 14 face-offs. SLS finished the season at 15-1 overall. The Mt. Lebanon boys edged North Allegheny, 9-8, for the WPIAL Division I title. In girls’ action, Peters Township won the Division I title with a 16-14 win over Shady Side Academy, but Chartiers Valley fell to Shaler, 15-14, in the Division II final.
Morgan Fink celebrates after winning the 100-yard breaststroke race during the WPIAL Class AA swimming championships. Her time of 1:05.01 also set a new school record at South Fayette. In addition to her individual victory, the Duquesne freshman teamed up on the Lady Lions’ victorious medley and 400 free relay teams. Those wins enabled South Fayette to win its first team title in school history. The Lions also won their first section title in 15 years and finished third in the state. In WPIAL Class AAA action, North Allegheny dominated, sweeping both the boys’ and girls’ team titles, but the Upper St. Clair boys edged Bethel Park for runner-up honors and the Lady Panthers took third in the girls’ standings. The USC boys finished fifth in the state.
2013 belonged to the underdogs and the historians as area athletes and their teams achieved milestones against adverse odds. At the professional level, after 20 years, the Pirates qualified for post-season play. Though they failed to win the pennant, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals, they were rewarded for their 94-win campaign, the franchise’s first winning season since 1992, when Andrew McCutchen claimed MVP honors and Clint Hurdle garnered National League Manager of the Year recognition. At the local level, scholastic squads provided the drama as several achieved the pinnacle despite the naysayers and others marked success for the first time. Here’s a look back on the top 10 sports stories making The Almanac headlines this past year.