2021 WPIAL Class 3A baseball preseason breakdown

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Saturday, March 27, 2021 | 8:01 AM


WPIAL baseball players have been waiting nearly two seasons to get back on the field of play after the coronavirus pandemic forced officials to cancel the entire 2020 campaign.

With the 2021 season moving forward, district players are eager to showcase their skills and lead their teams to the postseason.

Check out the WPIAL Class 6A, 5A and 4A previews.

Here is a look at the new district alignment, along with the baseball teams and players to watch in WPIAL Class 3A in 2021:

Class 3A

Preseason Top 5

1. Hopewell (16-7 in 2019) — The Vikings were WPIAL runners-up and PIAA quarterfinalists in 2019 and have a lineup capable of similar success or more this season. They will be led by junior shortstop/pitcher Anthony LaSala, who hit .333 with 14 stolen bases in 2019, along with senior pitcher/third baseman Roman Gill, a Cal (Pa.) recruit who was 4-3 with 33 strikeouts as a sophomore. Senior outfielder Michael Buobaiuto also returns.

2. South Park (14-8) — South Park reached the quarterfinals in Class 4A in 2019, but there’s been some roster turnover since then. Junior pitcher Drew Lafferty, a Kentucky recruit, transferred in from Seton LaSalle, where he was 8-1 with a 1.80 ERA in helping the Rebels win the Class 2A title in 2019. The Eagles also will rely on senior pitcher/infielder Zach Lemansky, a Geneva recruit, and junior pitchers Ryan Bywalski and Luke Rider. Senior catcher Tyler Corcoran also returns for second-year head coach Brad Shamitko.

3. Avonworth (16-5) — Avonworth is moving up to Class 3A and will lean on senior pitcher/outfielder Nick Slater, a West Virginia Wesleyan recruit, and several other arms on the mound — Jordan Kolenda, Ethan Tinker, Sean McAleer, Mason Monroe, Mason Horwat, Jon Bodnar, Kamden Otstot and Nathan Scrabis.

4. Brownsville (12-5) — The Falcons also are moving up a class, but have some senior leadership to rely on, including infielder Nick Keeney (.441, 16 RBIs). Seniors Cameron Brosky (2B/P), Nick Climes (OF/P) and Zach Kutek (1B/P) also return.

5. Waynesburg (12-6) — Waynesburg will look to contend in Section 4 behind senior pitcher Tyler Switalski (Gardner-Webb) and sophomore pitcher Lincoln Pack (WVU). Switalski was an all-section pick in 2019.

Players to watch

Austin Beattie, Sr., SS, McGuffey

Pete Billey, Sr., C, Mt. Pleasant

Roman Gill, Sr., P, Hopewell

Drew Lafferty, Jr., P, South Park

Anthony LaSala, Jr., SS/P, Hopewell

Jake Orr, Sr., 2B, McGuffey

Lincoln Pack, So., 2B, Waynesburg

Nick Slater, Sr., P/OF, Avonworth

Tyler Switalski, Sr., P, Waynesburg

Josh Ulery, Sr, P/INF, Derry

Notable

• Steel Valley defeated Hopewell, 5-4, in eight innings, to capture the WPIAL Class 3A championship in 2019. Freeport earned the WPIAL’s third-place bid to the PIAA tournament.

• There are 23 teams across four sections in Class 3A, up from 21 teams in three sections in the last two-year PIAA alignment cycle. Burrell, Freeport and North Catholic moved up to Class 4A, and Shady Side Academy, Beth-Center and Washington dropped to Class 2A. Derry, Mt. Pleasant, South Park and Yough moved down from Class 4A. Brownsville, Mohawk and Avonworth bumped up from Class 2A, and Ligonier Valley joined from District 6.

• McGuffey, which finished 10-6 in 2019, has five returning starters, including senior infielders Austin Beattie (Davis & Elkins) and Jake Orr (Seton Hill) and pitcher/outfielder Luke Wagner.

• Derry returns eight letter winners and 10 seniors from the 2019 team, a bevy of experience compared to other teams this season. Among the group is senior shortstop Josh Ulery, a Pitt-Johnstown recruit. He also will pitch, along with seniors Paul Koontz and Nick Detore and junior Ryan Hood.

• Yough, which shared the Section 1-4A title in 2019, has four seniors, including outfielder/pitcher Vincent Martin, a returning starter.

• Six letter winners return for Southmoreland, which is looking to improve on a 3-15 finish in 2019.

• Ligonier Valley is joining the WPIAL from District 6 and will field a lineup with no varsity experience. The Rams will lean on Grant Dowden, Haden Sierocky, Nick Beitel, Mason Seftas, Connor Tunstall, George Golden and Jacob Bleehash.

• Valley moves into Section 3 with some experienced players, including senior pitcher/infielder/outfielder Shane Demharter, who was an all-section pick as a sophomore. John Luke Bailey, Cayden Quinn and Evan Henry also should be impact players.

• Senior catcher Pete Billey, a Seton Hill football recruit, returns to lead Mt. Pleasant, which finished 10-9 in Class 4A two years ago. He was an all-section selection in 2019.

Alignment

Section 1: Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Freedom, Hopewell, Mohawk, New Brighton

Section 2: Avonworth, Keystone Oaks, South Allegheny, South Park, Steel Valley

Section 3: Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, Ligonier Valley, Mt. Pleasant, Valley

Section 4: Brownsville, Charleroi, McGuffey, Southmoreland, Waynesburg, Yough

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@triblive.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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