2023 WPIAL Class 2A baseball preseason breakdown

Friday, March 17, 2023 | 8:01 AM

It’s a realignment year in WPIAL baseball and, once again, the higher classifications have taken a hit.

While Class 6A is down one team from the last two-year cycle, Class 5A is down one whole section after shrinking from 25 teams to 19 teams for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

Class 4A and 3A are the bloated classes now with four sections for each.

The smallest two classes have three sections each.

Here is a rundown of the 2023 preseason top 5 teams, some of the players to watch and other diamond notes in WPIAL Class 2A baseball.

Preseason Top 5

1. Serra Catholic (23-1 last season)

While it seems like more because they are a perennial contender for gold, the WPIAL championship won last year in 2A was the fourth for Serra Catholic and first since 2016. The Eagles were a dominant force in 2022 and were undefeated until Serra suffered its first and only loss in the state playoffs first round to Redbank Valley. The good news for Serra Catholic is it has nearly everybody back, including left-handed pitcher Zach Karp, who was 11-0 last season and has won 23 games in his career, leaving him eight away from the team record of 31 held by Alain Girman. The bad news for the Eagles is junior infielder Zach Black will miss at least the first month-plus of the season after undergoing offseason surgery.

2. Seton LaSalle (15-2)

A great season for Seton LaSalle last spring turned south early in the district playoffs. After going undefeated in Section 4-2A and entering the playoffs as the No. 2 seed with a 14-1 record, the Rebels shut out Northgate in the first round before being eliminated in the quarterfinals by Neshannock, 3-1. Seton LaSalle has a strong group back as it tries to win a championship it last won in 2019. Leading the way are seniors Nate Georgiana and Brian Reed along with junior DiMaggio LoNero.

3. Burgettstown (16-6)

Last year was a breakout season for Burgettstown baseball. The Blue Devils finished in second place behind Seton LaSalle in Section 4-2A and defeated California in the opening round of the 2A playoffs. Then Burgettstown raised some eyebrows by eliminating 2021 champion Shenango in the quarterfinals. The Blue Devils’ big season ended in a 12-inning marathon semifinals loss to Neshannock, 5-3. While some key players graduated, several are back including senior pitcher, infielder and outfielder Andrew Bredel, junior pitcher, infielder and outfielder Brodie Kuzior and junior pitcher and outfielder Eric Kovach.

4. Chartiers-Houston (11-8)

With a young team last spring, Chartiers-Houston finished tied for third place with Fort Cherry in Section 4-2A and lost in the opening round of the WPIAL postseason to Riverside, 5-4. That experience gained by the young Bucs should help in 2023. Among the players back for the Buccaneers include senior outfielder Jake Mele, senior pitcher and outfielder Ryan Opfer, junior outfielder Anthony Romano and junior catcher Luke Camden.

5. New Brighton (10-10)

Last year, New Brighton finished tied for third place in Section 1-3A and was seeded No. 7 in the 3A district playoffs. The Lions roared past Derry in the first round but could not knock off eventual champion South Park, losing to the Eagles in the quarterfinals. New Brighton returns five starters and three pitchers, including senior Bobby Budacki (6-4, 1.47 ERA) and sophomore Brock Budacki (.409 batting average).

Players to watch

Lucas Burt, so., P-C, Bentworth

John Scott, jr., P-C-INF, Bentworth

Dom Revi, sr., P-INF, Beth-Center

Ethan Varesko, jr., P-INF, Beth-Center

Brodie Kuzior, jr., P-INF-OF, Burgettstown

Andrew Bredel, sr., P-INF-OF, Burgettstown

Eric Kovach, jr., P-OF, Burgettstown

Jake Mele, sr., OF, Chartiers-Houston

Anthony Romano, jr., OF, Chartiers-Houston

Luke Camden, jr., C, Chartiers-Houston

Ryan Opfer, sr., P-OF, Chartiers-Houston

Ben Shields, sr., P-C, Charleroi

Jake Beveridge, jr., P-OF, Charleroi

Brock Alekson, jr., P-INF, Frazier

Trent Hayes, sr., INF, Frazier

Michael Shallcross, sr., P-INF, Washington

Iain Callan, jr., P-OF-INF, Washington

Wayne Sparks-Gatling, jr., P-INF, Washington

Quentin Goode, jr., INF, Aliquippa

Luke Snavely, sr., P, Freedom

Ryan Telesz, jr., P-INF-OF, Laurel

R.J. Kissick, so., P-INF-OF, Laurel

Connor Pontzloff, sr., C-INF, Laurel

Bobby Budacki, sr., P-INF, New Brighton

Brock Budacki, so., P-INF, New Brighton

Mitchell Goehring, sr., C, New Brighton

Peyton Celesti, sr., OF, Northgate

Tristan Shuman, sr., OF, South Side

DiMaggio LoNero, jr., INF, Seton LaSalle

Brian Reed, sr., INF, Seton LaSalle

Nate Georgiana, sr., OF, Seton LaSalle

Brandon Butler, sr., P-INF, Apollo-Ridge

Karter Schrock, jr., OF, Apollo-Ridge

Max Kallock, sr., OF, Greensburg Central Catholic

Wade Boyle, sr., OF, Greensburg Central Catholic

Michael Mason, jr., P-INF-OF, Jeannette

Haden Sierocky, sr., OF, Ligonier Valley

John Patsey, sr., OF, Riverview

Zack Black, jr., INF, Serra Catholic

Zach Karp, sr., P, Serra Catholic

Joe DeMoss, sr., P-INF, Serra Catholic

Isaiah Petty, jr., INF, Serra Catholic

Diamond notes

• Serra Catholic is trying to win back-to-back WPIAL baseball championships for the second time in school history after winning Class A gold in in 2009-2010. You have to go a lot further back to find the last time a district team successfully repeated as champions in Class 2A. Twenty-five years ago, the Washington Little Prexies won consecutive WPIAL 2A crowns in 1997-1998. The only two other schools to win back-to-back 2A baseball crowns don’t even exist anymore. Ford City won it all in 1987-1988 and Center repeated in 1989-1990.

• The last WPIAL 2A team to win a PIAA state championship was Neshannock in 2015. Five current Class 2A schools have state baseball championship banners hanging somewhere: Serra Catholic in 2011, Greensburg Central Catholic in 2002, Washington in 1998, Riverview in 1983 and Northgate in 1982.

• Like the two biggest classifications, Class 2A shrunk in teams and sections from the last two years following realignment. Class 2A went from 26 teams to 22 teams. Moving up to Class 3A are Neshannock, Riverside, Shenango, Sto-Rox and Shady Side Academy. Moving down to A are Carmichaels, California, Fort Cherry, Summit Academy, Carlynton and Clairton. Moving down from 3A are New Brighton, Freedom, Ligonier Valley and Charleroi and moving up from A are Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Greensburg Central Catholic and Riverview.

• Six teams carry multiple-game winning or losing streaks into the new season in Class 2A. Washington and Ligonier Valley have the longest active winning streak after finishing 2022 with three straight wins. Both Freedom and South Side have two-game winning streaks entering the new season. On the flip side, Aliquippa lost their last five games, a far cry from the four-year skid it broke last year. Charleroi dropped its final four games last spring.

• Some WPIAL Class 2A championship anniversaries begin celebrated this season: North Catholic won the WPIAL crown five years ago in 2018, Beaver was the 2A champion 10 years ago in 2013, Ellwood City was the 2A winner 20 years ago in 2003, Washington won it all in 2A 25 years ago in 1998, and California captured 2A gold 40 years ago in 1983.

2023 alignment

Section 1: Bentworth, Beth-Center, Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston, Charleroi, Frazier, Washington

Section 2: Aliquippa, Freedom, Laurel, New Brighton, Northgate, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, South Side, Seton LaSalle

Section 3: Apollo-Ridge, Brentwood, Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, Ligonier Valley, Riverview, Serra Catholic

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