2016 WPIAL Playoffs Preview

By Jacob Gill
Pennsylvania Assistant Director of Scouting

While some districts will take into the middle of this week to complete their regular-season games, the WPIAL (District VII) is the first district to kick off the March to Medlar for berths in the state championship bracket. Full schedule can be found on our 2016 District Tournament Tracker, which will be updated with brackets from other districts as they are released. Below is a brief primer with players, storylines, and other things on which to keep an eye.

Top Prospects

4A - Plum 2016 OF/1B Alex Kirilloff - The phrase "he's gonna be a draft guy" is thrown around way too cavalierly with regards to high school players in this state. It just doesn't happen that often, and, when it does, it happens late and the player ends up going to college. That being said, everything we're hearing about the Liberty signee is that he will give Pennsylvania a first round selection for the second straight season. The athletic 6-foot-2, 195-pound left-handed hitter is an above average runner with above average raw power and a good feel for hitting (.544 AVG, 17 of 31 hits for extra bases, 17 BB vs 1 K, 11 SB).

Trent Vietmeier3A - Montour 2017 RHP Trent Vietmeier (left) - Chiseled 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame. Louisiana State commit ran his fastball up to 93-mph, working 88-91 last fall. Has also shown a feel for two solid secondary offerings.

Joe Gunn2A - Seton-La Salle 2016 Util/RHP Nico Popa - A premium athlete, this Pittsburgh-bound right-handed hitter has a loose swing with very good bat speed, plus foot speed (6.50 60-yard dash), and plenty of arm strength (89-mph from the infield, 90-mph from the outfield).

1A - Union Area 2016 OF Joe Gunn (right) - The Ball state signee is a strong, 5-foot-9, 200-pound left-handed hitter who has some juice in his bat and ran a 6.79 60-yard dash at the prestigious East Coast Pro Showcase last summer.

1st Round Upset Alert

Luciano Besh4A - #12 Franklin Regional vs #5 Bethel Park - FR has the same number of wins against 4A playoff qualifiers as BP does (including one each against the teams sandwiched around BP in the seedings), while FR already showed they can hang with BP in a 5-4 opening day loss back in March. Assuming SUNY Maritime-bound LHP Luciano Besh is handed the ball, his command of three pitches will give the Panthers the opportunity to flip the script in this rematch.

Zach Schultz3A - #13 Indiana Area vs #4 Mars Area - The Indians have spread out their innings fairly evenly throughout this season, but Kent State-bound RHP Zach Schultz (29 IP, 13 H, 9 BB, 34 K) should be well rested, having logged only two innings since May 4, and is more than capable of giving his team a chance to win.

Nico Popa2A - #12 Seton-La Salle vs #5 Brownsville Area - Brownsville swept through its section, but went 2-4 in out-of-section action, including three games against 1A schools (two of them losses). Seton-La Salle finished third in its section, but has more quality wins than Brownsville and split series with strong Keystone Oaks and Steel Valley programs. Popa (left) is expected to bring his arm strength mentioned above to the mound for this one.

Jacob Kinsell1A - #13 Carmichaels Area vs #4 Union Area - Returning to the theme of pitchers giving their team a chance to win, Carmichaels RHP Jake Kinsell, who will become one of the first players to wear the uniform when Goldey-Beacom College starts up its program next year, has the stuff and experience to push the Mikes into the quarterfinals.

High Seed With Toughest Draw

4A - #1 Plum - The Mustangs could end up facing #16 Mt. Lebanon, which has as many or more wins against playoff qualifiers as ten of the teams seeded ahead of it. The next round would bring #8 Fox Chapel Area, which has nine wins against playoff teams (tied with Plum and Shaler Area for most among the group) or #9 Peters Township, which is slugging .447 and has drawn more walk than strikeouts collectively on offense.

3A - #2 Montour - At least one of the 2015 state tournament qualifiers out of the WPIAL will not be making a return trip, as Montour could be on a collision course with defending state champ Knoch in round two. This one comes with an asterisk, depending on when Knoch decides to use Tallahassee CC-bound ace Alex Stobert, as his co-ace from last year has missed most of the season due to injury.

2A - #2 Riverside - The Panthers first round opponent, New Brighton Area, is 0-6 against playoff qualifiers, but the Lions were more competitive than the record indicates, as those losses came by an average of 2.5 runs and no margin was greater than four. Waiting in the second round could be Steel Valley, which is as hot as any team around having won eight of their last nine, including victories over the 6- and 12-seeds in this bracket.

1A - #4 Union Area - If Union can solve Kinsell in round one, they could face an Our Lady of the Sacred Heart squad that has one loss against a 1A team all spring and posted similar results against common opponents with Union.


Ryan Okuda4A - Pine-Richland 2017 LHP Ryan Okuda (right) - The lanky southpaw missed a month this spring, but returned to throw 13 innings, allowing six hits and two walks against twenty strikeouts at the end of the regular-season. His presence deepens the staff, gives the Rams an ace, and it's probably not a coincidence that three of the team's four losses came while he was sidelined.

3A - Chartiers Valley's hitting coach - A Colts team that started 11-3 and averaged nearly eight runs per game finished 1-4 and scored seven runs total in those five contests. If they can turn things around at the plate, this team has shown it can post quality wins, as it knocked off Montour and 6-seed West Allegheny in April and beat 4A 5-seed Bethel Park 1-0 to end the regular season.

Frankie Fraschetti2A - Neshannock's mystique - The defending state champ rode its one-two rotation punch of Harford CC-bound Frankie Fraschetti (left) and California of PA-bound Richie Serignese to the 2015 state title and has earned the top seed in this year's playoffs. Co-section champ Riverside actually posted more impressive game scores in the section this spring (81-10 for the Panthers, 68-30 for the Lancers) with comparable out-of-section results for the two teams, but how much is the defending state championship aura worth in the post-season?

Christian Fedko1A - Pressure on Vincentian Academy - This team is quite talented (led by Connecticut commit Christian Fedko), and has shown it can hang with quality bigger programs (one-run losses vs 2A 2-seed Riverside, 4A 10-seed North Hills, and 2A 4-seed Avonworth), but rarely gets challenged in section play and hasn't made it past the first round since 2012.

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