- High School
Seven of the eight teams in the WPIAL baseball finals are quite familiar with this championship stuff. They all have won at least one title in the past nine seasons. As championship traditions go, the eighth team in the finals is like the odd man out.
Belle Vernon has never won a WPIAL championship, and the WPIAL has been staging championships since 1914.
Belle Vernon will try to win its first title when it plays Blackhawk in the Class AAA championship Tuesday night at Consol Energy Field in Washington.
The other seven teams in the WPIAL finals and their most recent championship seasons are Seneca Valley (2011), Mt. Lebanon (2006), Blackhawk (2004), Ellwood City (2003), Riverside (2011), California (2006) and Neshannock (2011).
Belle Vernon brings an 18-4 record into the title game and the contest could present an interesting matchup of standout sophomore pitchers. Tenth-grader Dylan Pietrantoni will start for Belle Vernon. He is 7-0 with a 2.96 ERA. Blackhawk very possibly will start sophomore Brendan McKay, who is 7-1 with three saves and a 0.52 ERA.
One of the reasons Belle Vernon has gotten this far is its ability to win close games. Four of the Leopards’ past five games, going back to the regular season, have been decided by one run, and Belle Vernon has won all of them.
The team is led in hitting by Adam Ferita, who has a .453 average. Joe Simsic is hitting .403 and Dom Francia .380.
The Class AA baseball championship between Riverside and Ellwood City is most certainly an interesting one. The two are neighboring rivals, and Riverside coach Dan Oliastro is an Ellwood City graduate.
The teams met twice this season and Riverside won the first, 1-0. Ellwood City trounced Riverside in the second, 13-3.
Serra’s exit from the playoffs in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals ended the high school career of pitcher Alain Girman, but Girman had one of the most successful careers of any pitcher in WPIAL history.
Girman finished with a 31-2 record, and both losses were this sesaon. The WPIAL does not keep records, but Girman’s mark is believed to be tied for second on the WPIAL all-time list. Ellwood City’s Kevin Ricciuti had, coincidentally, a 31-2 record from 2000-03.
The all-time record for WPIAL wins is help by Carmichaels’ Jared Lapkowicz, who was 38-4 from 2002-05.
Basketball to Hershey
The state basketball championships will have a sweet flavor to them again. That’s because they’re headed back to Chocolatetown. The PIAA voted Thursday to move the state championships back to Hershey, beginning in 2013.
From 1976 through 2006, the state finals were played in Hershey, with the exception of 1979, when they were played at the Civic Arena. But in 2006, the games were moved to the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State. The games stayed there through this past season, when the PIAA’s contract with the Bryce Jordan Center expired.
The only two venues to bid on the basketball championships were the Bryce Jordan Center and the Giant Center in Hershey. PIAA executive director Brad Cashman said cost was the main reason the games were moved back to Hershey. Cashman said the Jordan Center’s bid could have ended up being as much as $75,000 more expensive than the Giant Center.
Attendance has gone down the past few years at the Jordan Center.
“There is a lot of speculation about whether the move [back to Hershey] will help attendance,” Cashman said. “But no matter what, the biggest factor is still the schools involved.”
A number of Philadelphia Catholic and Public League schools have made it to the state finals the past few seasons, and those schools generally don’t bring many people.
Meanwhile, in other PIAA venue news, the wrestling championships (individual and team) will remain at the Giant Center in Hershey.
The swimming championships will continue to be staged at Bucknell.
State Track & Field
The PIAA track and field championships are Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University. Nine individuals from the WPIAL are top seeds.
WVU Makes Inroads
The West Virginia University football team is off to a good start recruiting in Western Pennsylvania.
West Virginia recently landed two top players from the WPIAL. Monessen quarterback Chavas Rawlins and McKeesport linebacker Hodari Christian both made verbal commitments to the Mountaineers. Those are two nice gets for West Virginia. Pitt has only two recruits so far from the WPIAL class of 2013.
Rawlins had close to two dozen scholarship offers and his final list of schools included Tennessee and Duke. He said one of the main reasons he chose West Virginia was because the Mountaineers wanted him as a quarterback. Other colleges said they might like him more at another position.
Christian had more than a dozen scholarship offers from Division I colleges.