Prep Baseball Report

2015 Season Preview: PIAA District VII (Class AA)

By Jacob Gill
Philadelphia Region Director of Scouting

We keep it on the western side of the state to get us halfway through our district preview articles, the main component of our season preview content, which will run for three weeks up to the first official competition date for PIAA schools on March 20. Each article includes a list of top prospects from amongst the cohort of schools; for example, today is a top seven in District VII (class AA). Each article also contains write-ups of a number of teams in the cohort.

We have received inquiries regarding how we decide which teams to detail. A team having or not having its own paragraph in the article is less an indication of what type of season we expect it to have and more a function of how much information we are able to compile. For example, if we have not seen a team in person (there are over 600 baseball-playing high schools in the state), stats are not available on-line, and a school district spam filter gobbled up our e-mails to the coach that contained the questionnaire, we might not have enough information to write a full paragraph on that school.

To view all district previews as they are released, please visit our District Previews 2015 page.

PIAA District VII Class AA Top Prospects

Ray Scala1. Nico Popa, 2016, IF, Seton-La Salle Catholic
2. Dustin Lander, 2015, LHP, South Side (Charleston Southern)
3. Tyler Garbee, 2015, RHP, Quaker Valley (Akron)
4. Brandon Donovan, 2015, RHP, Steel Valley (Radford)
5. Frankie Fraschetti, 2016, RHP/3B, Neshannock
6. Shane Roebuck, 2015, C/OF, Brownsville Area
7. Ray Scala, 2015, IF, Laurel (St. Bonaventure) ==>

Class AA

Section 1
Freedom Area will roll with another young line-up this spring, as no seniors are guaranteed large roles and five players return after getting significant playing time as freshmen or sophomores last year. A quartet of juniors - P/3B Evin DiCiero, P/SS  Brad Eckman, P/1B Tim Hampe, and C/OF Garin Piehler -- and two sophomores -- IF/P/C Nick Henderson and IF/P Zach Green -- should all have the opportunity to make their mark for coach Dan O'Leary.

After missing a playoff spot by a mere one game last season, New Brighton Area will lean on the arms of junior RHP Justin Francona, senior LHP Peyton Fath, and sophomore RHP R.J. Debo to get them over the hump this spring. Coach Mick Campbell's primary run-producers will include senior second baseman Jarrod Potts, senior IF/C Kurt Dierdorf, sophomore C/OF Kyle Bolland, and junior outfielder Andrew Mittner.

All-region second baseman Matt Dombrowski (.500 AVG, 5 BB vs 3 K, 8 SB) and fellow senior infielder Evan Helbling (.450 AVG, .675 SLG) will lead a Northgate line-up that returns all but one regular and has six hitters who batted .325 or better last year. Coach Brandon Hogle hopes to solidify the pitching and defense side of things, as one-third of his staff's runs allowed were unearned and his hurlers ceded more walks than strikeouts a season ago. Sophomore RHP Caleb Turner (20 IP, 10 H, 12 BB, 24 K) was a bright spot as a freshman.

Quaker Valley will roll out a young squad this spring, as infielder Adam Pilewicz and all-section honoree Garbee are the only two returning seniors for the co-section champ Quakers, who are coming off back-to-back state tournament appearances.

Dustin LanderCo-section champ South Side graduated six senior starters off a team that reached the WPIAL playoffs (and won a game while there) for the first time in fourteen years. Senior all-section selection Lander (right), who was honored as both a pitcher and outfielder, will be the centerpiece of the Rams retooling.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Avonworth - none
Burgettstown Area - none [realigned from section 2]
Fort Cherry - none [realigned from section 2]

Section 2
Junior Lane Zekir (48.1 IP, 64 H, 27 BB, 38 K) returns as the ace of a Bethlehem-Center pitching staff that has no other returning members who logged more than six innings. Zekir (.279 AVG) is also the lone holdover from a Bulldogs line-up that graduated eight regular starters.

Brownsville Area will lean on its offense, led by senior two-time all-section selection Roebuck, who has reached base in every game he has started going back to his freshman year. Junior all-section infielder Cory Lent, senior outfielders Devin Braddock and Tucker Pritts, and senior second baseman Kenny Ryan also return to the line-up. Coach Skooter Roebuck will look to get quality innings from a group that includes LHP Pritts, plus RHPs Lent, Ryan and senior Travis Bevard.

Despite the fact that it graduated only three starters, Charleroi Area projects to have another young line-up this spring, with only two seniors likely to see regular at-bats. Sophomore shortstop Sam Miceli (.370 AVG, .452 OBP) sparks an offense that hopes to see development from a group that had all other returners hit below .270. The returning members of coach Luke Mollis' staff, which will be fronted by sophomore LHP Josiah Fisher (the Cougars innings leader as a freshman), combined to walk more hitters than they struck out last year, and will need to take a step forward with their command in order to take the next step as a team.

Frazier will ride a trio of junior RHP this spring -- Hunter Patterson (21 IP, 12 H, 15 BB, 27 K), Dylan Celaschi (14.1 IP, 11 H, 12 BB, 15 K), and Cody Morris (11 IP, 10 H, 7 BB, 11 K) -- as it reclassifies up from class A. The Commodores graduated their top five offensive performers (by OPS), with the three pitchers listed above on the short list of returners who saw significant at-bats last year for coach Craig Kordich.

This year may be an opportune time for Waynesburg Central to reclassify from AAA section 3, as the Raiders have a young squad following the graduation of seven from last year's team. An inexperienced pitching staff will include a quartet of RHPs: sophomore Hunter Robinson, senior Joel Rohanna, plus freshmen Trey Rohanna and Brandon Turchek. The Rohannas and Turchek will team with senior infielder John Glenn Davis and sophomore utility Hunter Robinson to power coach Kevin Pincavitch's offense.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Chartiers-Houston - none
Washington - senior IF Chris Gouin, senior P Jonathan Spina (La Roche)

Section 3
Apollo-Ridge welcomes back its entire pitching staff (well, almost; one graduate logged one-third of an inning), led by the senior RHP trio of Austin Laird (37.2 IP 40 H, 22 BB, 38 K), Mike Percic (24.2 IP, 28 H, 11 BB, 18 K), and Jarrett Geiger (22 IP, 24 H, 11 BB, 30 K). The offense is strongly intact as well (only three departures due to graduation), with junior all-section outfielder Dylan Wingard (.250 AVG, .388 OBP, 7 BB vs 5 K, 10 SB), senior infielders Percic (.350 AVG, .469 OBP, .725 SLG) and Loren Wingard (.306 AVG, .390 OBP, .527 SLG), and senior outfielder Brandon Neal (.433 AVG) the top holdovers in the Vikings line-up.

Senior LHP Caleb Zablocki will front a Ford City pitching staff that could otherwise rely on a handful of freshman for innings. Senior all-section third baseman Blake Bower will power first-year coach Dennis Montgomery's offense, with support from senior shortstop Noah Nulph, first baseman Zablocki, and junior utility Anthony Falsetti.

The entire pitching staff returns for West Shamokin, including ace senior RHP Matt Hankey (37.2 IP, 26 H, 28 BB, 41 K) and sophomore RHPs Ben Vicini (19.2 IP, 32 H, 11 BB, 21 K) and Devin Fairman (11.2 IP, 14 H, 13 BB, 16 K). Coach Dave Powers' offense returns seven regulars and will be led by C/IF Fairman (.310 AVG) and senior outfielder Scott Przybysz (.333 AVG).

Other schools and returning all-section players
Burrell - senior 1B Ryan Sowol
Shady Side Academy - none [realigned from section 4]
Summit Academy - none

Section 4
After sending a towering LHP off to a Division I program for the second straight year, Keystone Oaks will turn to junior RHP/Util Nick Riggle and junior LHP Josh Beck to front a pitching staff that could have junior submarine RHP Michael Wetmiller closing out the back-end of games. Riggle will also help power the offense, along with junior all-section shortstop Ben Canty. As it reclassifies down from AAA section 3, the Golden Eagles line-up should once again feature junior catcher Stephen Kazalas-Kelley, junior outfielder Dylan Procopio, and sophomore utility Joe Fawcett, all of whom gained varsity experience as underclassmen.

Nico PopaAs it realigns from section 1, Seton-La Salle Catholic returns the bulk of a roster that made a run to the WPIAL title game and earned a berth in the state tournament. Senior all-section outfielder Danzel McKinley-Lewis will team with the toolsy Popa (right), one of the top breakout candidates in the state due to his athleticism, foot speed, and quick bat, to drive the Rebels offense. Senior RHP Carson Rebel and Popa both saw extensive mound time during last year's post-season run.

Six regulars -- including senior first baseman Brandon Ruffing (.400 AVG), sophomore shortstop Stefano Faiello (.444 AVG, 5 SB), and junior third baseman Nate Stetz (.314 AVG, .442 OBP, 8 BB vs 5 K) -- return to the South Allegheny line-up this spring. Coach Mark Suckfiel will look for Ruffing (19 IP, 16 H, 14 BB, 19 K) and Stetz (33 IP, 26 H, 26 BB, 24 K) to sharpen their command and lead a pitching staff that walked more than it struck out last season.

If a team is going to graduate three of its four primary pitchers, as Steel Valley did, it can't do much better than having all-section honoree Donovan (46.2 IP, 28 H, 12 BB, 78 K) as its one returner. The Ironmen offense will be equally inexperienced, as Donovan (.478 AVG, 13 XBH) and Point Park-bound catcher Cole Eged (.444 AVG, .554 OBP, 11 BB vs 6 K) are the only regular starters back this season. Coach Tim Vickers also welcomes back senior RHP/1B Jesse Cantley, who will provide support on the mound and with his bat after suffering an early-season injury last year.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Carlynton - none [realigned from section 1]
East Allegheny - none
Wilkinsburg - none [new team]

Section 5
Frankie FraschettiNeshannock dominated the section last year, not losing its first game until May. Unfortunately for the Lancers, their next loss came shortly thereafter, in the WPIAL quarterfinals, ending a stellar season earlier than they hoped. Junior RHP rotation stalwarts Richie Serignese and all-section Fraschetti (right) are back to front the pitching staff. Fraschetti will team with senior all-section outfielder Mark Clause and senior catcher Jake Swope to power the offense.

A trio of junior RHPs -- Evan Kendall, Gage Hoover, and Cody Wolthers -- will team with seniors Matt Benson and Devin Ross to log most of the innings for Shenango this spring. Coach Mike Othites' junion-laden line-up (only two senior starters are back) includes shortstop Kendall (.365 AVG), his junior double-play partner Hunter Waskin (.323 AVG), and junior catcher Vince Turco (.417 AVG).

Adam JeannetteRiverside graduated 84% of its innings from last season, with junior RHP Michael Boswell (17 IP, 23 H, 10 BB, 8 K) the only returner to log more than two innings. Coach Dan Oliastro gets the junior left-right combo of Vinnie Loccisano and Kolby Wolf back from injury, who, along with sophomore RHP Adam Jeannette (right), will vie for innings behind Boswell. The Panthers lost four regular starters on offense as well, but bring back plenty of experience, led by senior first baseman Trevor Moser (.393 AVG, .478 OBP, 11 XBH), senior catcher Peyton Pacella (.382 AVG, .478 OBP, 10 BB vs 8 K), and infielder Boswell (.304 AVG, .412 OBP). Sophomore infielder Dylan Speicher (.296 AVG) held his own in his rookie campaign, while junior outfielder Jason Dambach (.294 AVG, .379 OBP) rounds out the returning starters.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Beaver Falls Area - none
Laurel - none
Mohawk Area - none

Season Preview Schedule

2/27 - PAISAA
2/27 - District V
2/28 - District IX
3/1 - District VI
3/2 - District IV
3/3 - District X
3/4 - District III (Class A & AA)
3/5 - District VII (Class A)
3/6 - District VII (Class AA)
3/7 - District II
3/8 - District XI
3/9 - District I (Class A, AA, AAA)
3/10 - District III (Class AAA)
3/11 - District VII (Class AAA)
3/12 - District I (Class AAAA)
3/13 - District III (Class AAAA)
3/14 - District VII (Class AAAA)
3/15 - District XII