Prep Baseball Report

PIAA Championships Preview

By Jacob Gill
Philadelphia Region Director of Scouting

The PIAA state championship games will be contested on Friday, June 14th at Medlar Park at Lubrano Field on the campus of Penn State University. The all-day affair will crown new champions in A, AA, and AAAA, while West York aims to win back-to-back AAA titles. Congratulations to all teams involved for tremendous runs to get to this point.

Medlar Field

class a: canton vs johnsonburg, 10:30am

Canton Warriors (23-2)
Head Coach - Bob Rockwell
Regular-season finish - 1st place in Northern Tier League
District playoffs - 1-seed in District IV; W 2-1 vs 4-seed Muncy, W 8-5 vs 3-seed Montgomery
PIAA state tournament - W 8-1 vs District III runner-up Lancaster County Christian, W 3-1 vs District I champ Calvary Christian, W 2-1 vs District II champ Old Forge

2014s Garrett Wesneski (10-0) and Northern Tier League Pitcher of the Year Chase Pepper (8-2) are the key cogs of a pitching staff that has given up only one run in four of its five post-season contests. The two rotation stalwarts have split the innings evenly throughout the season and the championship game is Wesneski's turn to toe the rubber after Pepper drew the start in the semifinal.

Canton's offense is led by three players -- lead-off man 2013 CF Emmett Watson, 2013 RF Josiah Bardo, and 2014 DH Kyle Landis -- who hit well over .400 during the regular-season. Those three, along with Wesneski, Pepper, and 2013 SS Wes Moore, received 1st-team all-Northern Tier League recognition.  Given that Watson, Bardo, and Moore are the only three seniors who receive regular playing time, regardless of the outcome in Friday's game, the Warriors should be considered a favorite for the 2014 championship as well.

Johnsonburg Rams (18-3)
Head Coach - Jeff Peterson
Regular-season finish - 1st place Northern Allegheny League Small School South Division
District playoffs - 1-seed in District IX; 1st round bye, W 3-0 vs 9-seed Coudersport, W 4-3 vs 4-seed Cranberry, L 10-7 vs 2-seed Elk County Catholic
PIAA state tournament - W 5-0 vs District VII champ Western Beaver, W 7-6 (11 innings) vs District VI champ Bishop McCort, W 8-1 vs District VII third-seed California

With a roster that contains seven players who were members of Johnsonburg's 2012-13 PIAA Class A runner-up in basketball, the Rams baseball program has an opportunity to do what the hoops squad couldn't -- win their last game of the season. No one should put anything past them after they overcame a 6-0 deficit in the sixth inning before outlasting defending champ Bishop McCort in extra-innings in the quarterfinals.

Penn State Altoona-bound Quinn Luhr and 2014 RHP/SS Cole Peterson (Small School South Player of the Year) could both see action on the bump, as they paired up for the quarterfinal and semifinal victories.  Clarion-bound 3B Mitchell Holmberg and 2013 2B Frank Kocjancic were also named Small School South all-stars.

class aaa: west york vs upper moreland, 1:00pm

West York Bulldogs (20-8)
Head Coach - Roger Czerwinski
Regular-season finish - 1st place in York/Adams Division II
District playoffs - 8-seed in District III; W 4-3 vs 9-seed Northeastern, W 5-3 vs 16-seed Shippensburg, L 5-3 vs 13-seed Greencastle-Antrim, W 9-7 vs 7-seed Lampeter-Strasburg
PIAA state tournament - W 9-6 (8 innings) vs District XII champ Bonner-Prendergast, W 2-0 vs District I champ Holy Ghost, W 5-4 vs District II champ Abington Heights

West York is back to defend its 2012 championship, a 9-6 win over fellow District III constituent Lampeter-Strasburg. This year, it took a win over L-S in the District III third place game just to earn a berth in the state tourney, but the Bulldogs have taken full advantage.  Catholic U-bound Joey Prego (8-2, 1.77, 73 H, 24 BB, 41 K in 75.1 IP) jumped into the ace role vacated by Kaden Hepler (Winthrop), while Susquehanna-bound Brandon Kinneman (5-4, 4.14, 52 H, 20 BB, 39 K in 50.2 IP) continued his role as steady second starter.

Amazingly, for a team making its second straight appearance in the title game, West York has only two seniors who receive regular playing time (anticipated starting line-up has three sophomores and four juniors). The offense gets contributions throughout the line-up with 2014 OF Chase James leading in AVG (.359), Brandon Kinneman leading in OBP (.477), 2015 OF Brett Kinneman in SLG (.429), 2014 3B Carson Fries in RBI (19), and Mount Aloysius-bound Brandon Rauhauser in SB (24).

Upper Moreland Golden Bears (21-4)
Head Coach - Ernie Rehr
Regular-season finish - 1st place in Suburban One League American Division
District playoffs - 3-seed in District I; W 12-0 vs 6-seed Marple Newtown, W 6-1 vs 7-seed Pottstown, L 6-0 vs 1-seed Holy Ghost
PIAA state tournament - W 4-3 vs District III champ Greencastle-Antrim, W 4-3 (10 innings) vs District IX champ Punxsutawney, W 3-1 vs District VII third-seed Keystone Oaks

Despite facing the reigning champs, Upper Moreland's confidence should be through the roof in this one. They will have their top two starters, 2014 RHPs Charlie Hooker and Eddie Decker, available to tag-team the title game after 2014 RHP Tommy Robinson authored a CG two-hitter in the semifinal. The seldom-used Robinson was thrust into the limelight after Hooker and Decker were needed to get the Golden Bears past Punxsutawney the previous round.

Hooker doubles as the team's most dangerous offensive piece, leading the way in AVG and SLG.  He was also one of five Golden Bears to post an OBP over .500 during the regular-season. West Chester-bound OF Robert Knox has been on fire in the state tournament (6-10, 2B, 2 3B).

class aa: loyalsock township vs beaver, 3:30pm

Loyalsock Township Lancers (21-3)
Head Coach - Jeremy Eck
Regular-season finish - 1st place in Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference Division II
District playoffs - 1-seed in District IV; 1st round bye, W 4-3 vs 8-seed Towanda, W 2-1 vs 4-seed Montoursville, lost 7-5 vs 7-seed Hughesville
PIAA state tournament - W 6-0 vs District II champ Lakeland, won 9-5 vs District III champ Delone Catholic, W 8-1 vs District XI champ Salisbury Township

Ho-hum, Loyalsock is making run in the state tournament...again.  After winning the state title in 2008, the Lancers reached the semifinals in 2009 and 2010, took a sabbatical in 2011, won District IV in 2012, and find themselves playing for another ring in 2013. This run of success appears to have some staying power, as Loyalsock enters the title game with only one senior (clean-up hitter Ethan Moore) in the regular starting line-up.

What the Lancers lack in age, they more than make up for in talent.  2015 RHP Luke Glavin has verbally committed to Duke, 2015 OF Jimmy Webb has done the same to Wake Forest, and 2015 SS/RHP Kyle Datres (upper 80s, touch 90) may be the best of the bunch. Webb, Datres, 2014 CF Robbie Klein, and 2015 IF Tommy Baggett all received 1st-team HAC-II recognition.

Beaver Bobcats (20-3)
Head Coach - Bruce Herstine
Regular-season finish - Tied for 1st place in WPIAL Section 5
District playoffs - 2-seed in District VII; W 6-5 vs 15-seed Bentworth , W 6-0 vs 10-seed Laurel, W 8-1 vs 14-seed Shady Side, W 7-1 vs 1-seed Quaker Valley
PIAA state tournament - W 10-0 (6 innings) vs District IX champ Karns City, W 1-0 vs District VI runner-up Mount Union, W 7-0 vs District VII runner-up Quaker Valley

After almost suffering an upset in the first round of the District VII playoffs, the Beaver pitching staff has been lights out, allowing only two runs in their next six games combined (including three straight shutouts in the state tournament). Radford-bound RHP Austin Ross and 2013 RHP Austin Logan comprise a formidable 1-2 punch. Ross is expected to draw the start on Friday, after Logan authored a CG 2-hitter in the semifinal.

In addition to their mound talent, the Bobcats also appear to have Mother Nature on their side this week. They will have the option of using Logan in relief on three full days of rest, an extra day over every other team competing in a title game (all of whom had their semifinal match-ups pushed to Tuesday because of rain).

class aaaa: north penn vs lower dauphin, 6:00pm

North Penn Knights (16-10)
Head Coach - Kevin Manero
Regular-season finish - Tied for 3rd place in Suburban One League Continental Division
District playoffs - North 12-seed in District I; W 9-3 vs South 5-seed Conestoga, W 9-3 vs North 4-seed Perkiomen Valley, W 5-0 vs South 1-seed Strath Haven, L 4-3 vs North 10-seed Pennridge, L 4-1 vs North 7-seed Council Rock North
PIAA state tournament - W 1-0 vs District XI champ Parkland, W 11-1 (6 innings) vs District I champ Coatesville, W 3-0 vs District I runner-up Pennridge

North Penn qualifies for this year's glass slipper, having earned one of the final two spots in the District I playoffs and then the last of District I's bids to the big dance. The Knights arrive at championship day with the most losses among the eight remaining teams (only West York in AAA has more than half as many). They have used the PIAA tournament to avenge a number of those losses from earlier in the season -- Parkland knocked them off in a non-conference tilt, but the Knights turned the tables in round one, while the fourth time was the charm against Pennridge following two regular-season losses and a third in the District I playoffs.

It would be a mistake to sell this team short, however. The SOL Continental is proving itself to be the deepest league in the state, one in which its members beat up on each other during the regular season. There are very few, if any, leagues that could produce two state semifinalists (Pennridge being the other) from among teams that didn't finish in the top two in the regular-season standings. In addition, this is the second straight year that a team from the SOL Continental that barely snuck into the District I playoffs made a run to the state tournament (Central Bucks South did it as the North 12-seed in 2012).

2013 RHP Dylan Borowski (2-2, 2.22, 33 H, 10 BB, 17 K in 34.2 IP) will draw the starting nod after Elizabethtown-bound Brian Maher (9-1, 1.68, 62 H, 7 BB, 30 K in 66.2 IP) tossed a four-hitter in the semifinal round. Handling the pitching staff is Binghamton-bound catcher Eddie Posavec, who possesses arguably the quickest release and most accurate arm in the area. Misericordia-bound OF Brady West (.410 AVG, .500 OBP, .603 SLG, 12 SB) lacks a standout tool, but does a little bit of everything well as the igniter of the offense in the lead-off spot.

Lower Dauphin Falcons (22-5)
Head Coach - Ken Kulina
Regular-season finish - 1st place in Mid-Penn Keystone Division
District playoffs - 5-seed in District III; W 3-2 vs 12-seed Cumberland Valley, W 4-2 vs 4-seed Warwick, W 6-2 vs 16-seed JP McCaskey, W 1-0 vs 15-seed Exeter Township
PIAA state tournament - W 9-3 vs District I third-seed Council Rock North, W 12-1 (5 innings) vs District VI champ State College, W 1-0 (10 innings) vs District VII champ North Allegheny

Lower Dauphin survived the Game of the Year in the semifinal. A walk-off HR by Jake Shellenberger (his first as a varsity player) finally ended it after the Falcons squandered bases loaded situations the previous three innings. LD's defense kept the game scoreless in the ninth by throwing out a runner at the plate trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run. The first six innings were completed in one hour, while the entire game was over in two hours.

The Falcons are led by Mid-Penn Keystone Division co-MVPs, 2014 SS Kaylor Kulina and 2014 C Deon Stafford, both of whom are garnering interest from Division I colleges. 2015 RHP Blair Lewis, who threw nine scoreless innings in the semi, and 2013 RHP Marshall Kiessling, who is expected to draw the start in the championship game, are the dynamic duo on the mound for LD.

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