2022 Trib HSSN Head of the Class: Baseball Player and Coach of the Year for each classification
Friday, June 24, 2022 | 8:04 PM
This spring, those sitting at head of the baseball class had a chance to see a lot of thrilling title runs and some great encore performances.
Two teams that did not win district titles rebounded to claim state gold. There were two teams that repeated, one as WPIAL champion and the other as state winners. Plus, plenty of postseason action going beyond seven innings, including a pair of 12-inning marathons, and a turnaround from the basement to the penthouse in section play in one season.
Trib HSSN salutes all the players and coaches for their great work on the baseball diamond in this spring. However these players and coaches receive a special gold star on the forehead, a tip of the cap and a seat up front as they are at the head of the class in 2022.
Player of the Year: Cole Young, North Allegheny
Despite teams pitching around him most of the season, the senior shortstop helped North Allegheny earn a share of the Section 1-6A championship and post a 15-6 overall record. Young committed to play his college baseball at Duke, but that could all change soon as he is expected to become the fourth WPIAL baseball player this century to be selected in the first round of the MLB draft.
Coach of the Year: Patt McCloskey, Mt. Lebanon
What a year for the man who has become synonymous with Mt. Lebanon baseball. He was a player under his father on the 1993 Blue Devils championship team. He was an assistant nine years later when Lebo won gold again in 2002, and 20 years later, he has his second WPIAL crown as a head coach (2006). Plus, a key part of his coaching staff and close friend, Jeff Donati, took over at Upper St. Clair and led the Panthers to the district finals, where they lost to the Blue Devils, 2-1.
Player of the Year: Bryan Rincon, Shaler
The senior shortstop shined again in not only his second season at Shaler, but his second year in the United States after moving with his cousin, Titans outfielder and pitcher Miguel Hugas, from Venezuela. Rincon is smooth on defense and old school at the plate, one of the few players in recent history to use a wooden bat when hitting. Rincon is expected to be selected in the upcoming MLB draft, perhaps in top three rounds.
If there was a team that could have tapped out early because of major injuries this spring, West Allegheny was at the top of the list. The Indians lost two of the top pitchers in the district in seniors Devan Zirwas, a Virginia Commonwealth recruit, and Auburn recruit Gavin Miller, along with starting junior outfielder Nick Longo before the season began. Changes were made, roles were adjusted and West A went on to capture its fifth WPIAL championship.
Player of the Year: Mason Sike, Montour
All year, when there was a clutch hit needed or a big rally surfacing, the senior first baseman and pitcher seemed to be in the middle of things. He homered in both of the Spartans’ wins in the WPIAL playoffs, was the winning pitcher in three postseason games and went 3 for 4 in the PIAA Class 4A championship game won by Montour. Sike will play his college baseball at St. Bonaventure.
Coach of the Year: Jeff Kuzma, West Mifflin
For those who love to think outside the box, the 2022 West Mifflin baseball team was for you. Jeff Kuzma and his staff left no stone unturned in preparing their Titans for many uncommon things, such as switching batters boxes in the same at-bat, using four outfielders, using infield shifts, and using team speed as a weapon. It all paid off in a golden way as West Mifflin captured the school’s first baseball championship with a total team effort.
Player of the Year: Drew Lafferty, South Park
The senior shortstop and pitcher started his scholastic career by winning a WPIAL baseball championship at Seton LaSalle in 2019 and concluded his high school ball with another district crown, this one for South Park. After injuries slowed him down on the mound as a junior, Lafferty returned to the hill and was brilliant in helping the Eagles win their second title. He will continue his baseball career at Kentucky.
Coach of the Year: Mike Cahill, East Allegheny
East Allegheny finished in last place in Section 3-3A last spring with a final record of 5-12. The five wins could be considered a success for a program that has had little to celebrate in the last two decades. That all changed for the Wildcats this season as Cahill helped turn around EA, which went from worst to first with an 11-5 record and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 1999. For good measure, the Wildcats picked up a postseason victory when they beat Ellwood City, 5-4.
Player of the Year: Zach Black, Serra Catholic
The sophomore shortstop is doing a great job following in his brother’s footsteps. Mark Black, a 2020 grad now playing for Gardner-Webb, was one of the top players to dawn an Eagles’ uniform. However, little brother Zach is making a name for himself at the plate and on defense. He was a big part of a team that won a fourth WPIAL championship this season with an undefeated record before Serra lost in the state playoffs.
Coach of the Year: Doug Tunno, Burgettstown
A tip of the cap to Brian Dzurenda of Serra for a WPIAL championship run with a perfect record and to John Quahliero of Neshannock, who came out of a brief retirement to lead the Lancers to district and state silver, but the COY goes to Doug Tunno. In 2019, Burgettstown finished 4-12. In 2021, the team ended a long playoff drought and ended up 11-6. This year, the Blue Devils earned a first state playoff berth, lost two marathon games to Neshannock in the WPIAL and PIAA semifinals and finished 16-6.
Player of the Year: Tyler Staub, Union
The senior pitcher and shortstop didn’t throw a no-hitter in the WPIAL finals like his 2021 Union teammate Jake Vitale did, but he wasn’t far off. Staub threw a four-hitter with eight strikeouts as the Scotties became the only district baseball team to repeat as champs. His numbers put him near the top in the district at the plate and on the mound. He will play baseball next year at Bryant & Stratton.
Coach of the Year: Joe Dougherty, Eden Christian
Last year, the Eden Christian Academy baseball program lost in the WPIAL semifinals, but bounced back and made a surprise run all the way to the PIAA finals, where the Warriors lost to Halfiax. After Steve Good resigned as head coach, Joe Dougherty took over this spring, and the program didn’t skip a beat. Eden Christian was one of two WPIAL baseball teams with an undefeated record heading into the district finals. The Warriors lost to Union in the WPIAL title game and then fell to Saegertown in the PIAA opener to finish 17-2.
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