2023 WPIAL Class 4A baseball preseason breakdown

Wednesday, March 15, 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 4A baseball.

Preseason Top 5

1. West Mifflin (20-4 last season)

History was made in dramatic and exhausting fashion last spring when West Mifflin captured the school’s first WPIAL baseball championship. In the epic title game, it took 12 innings in which both teams’ depth was tested before the Titans put away 2021 runner-up Montour, 5-4. West Mifflin has some talent coming back as it tries to defend its crown in a unique style of baseball it plays, including all-section junior outfielder Zach Griffaton and senior pitchers and infielders Bert Kovalsky and Pierson Buck.

2. Beaver (13-6)

Four years removed from a district championship, expect Beaver to be in the hunt this spring. The Bobcats finished in second place in Section 2-4A last spring behind Montour and lost a pitchers’ duel in the WPIAL quarterfinals to Laurel Highlands, 3-1. Pitching should once again be a strength for Beaver as it returns three senior hurlers who can also produce on offense in Liam Dorsky (.375 average), Jack Ray (.308) and Mitch Lang (.347).

3. Hopewell (16-8)

Hopewell moves up from Class 3A to 4A and hopes to continue the success it enjoyed in the last two-year cycle. The Vikings won a WPIAL crown in 2021 and was the No. 1 seed in the 3A playoffs last spring before falling to Mohawk in the semifinals, 6-2. Senior Lucas Arrington is one of the top players in the district after batting .456 with three homers and 32 RBIs while going 6-0 on the mound with a 2.60 ERA. Senior pitchers and infielders Ty Eberhardt and Landon Fox also return for Hopewell.

4. North Catholic (11-8)

The 2022 season was a good-news, bad-news type campaign for North Catholic. The good news was the Trojans won the Section 1-4A crown by two games and won 11 games in the regular season. The bad news was NC was one and done in the playoffs when it lost to Knoch in the quarterfinals after a first-round bye. The Trojans will lean on a couple of talented underclassmen in junior pitcher Justin Stupka and sophomore infielder Augie Maslo. Senior Sean Dewey was an all-section outfielder a year ago.

5. Montour (21-6)

Montour decided to take a page from Bethel Park’s playbook. If you can’t win the district, go win the state. After a second straight heartbreaking loss in the WPIAL 4A championship game, the Spartans regrouped and beat Bellefonte, East Pennsboro, WPIAL champion West Mifflin and Holy Ghost Prep in a wild state title game, 10-9. Montour lost a lot with graduation but still has plenty of talent coming back to contend in a tough Section 1, including senior infielder Nick Walker, Senior outfielder Cole Fleck and junior infielder Jake Robinson.

Players to watch

Caison Holland, sr., OF, Ambridge

Adam Fernandez, so., P-INF, Ambridge

Liam Dorsky, sr., P-INF, Beaver

Jack Ray, sr., P, Beaver

Mitch Lang, sr., P-INF, Beaver

Anthony Malagise, sr., OF, Blackhawk

Jarrod Malagise, sr., OF, Blackhawk

Zach McLean, jr., P-INF, Central Valley

Hunter Boring, sr., P, Central Valley

Lucas Arrington, sr., INF, Hopewell

Ty Eberhardt, sr., P-C-INF, Hopewell

Landon Fox, sr., P-INF, Hopewell

Jake Robinson, jr., INF, Montour

Nick Walker, sr., INF, Montour

Cole Fleck, sr., OF, Montour

Tanner Moody, jr., INF, Belle Vernon

Logan Bradish, sr., INF, Latrobe

Tyler Sankovich, sr., INF, Laurel Highlands

Hunter Mamie, sr., C, Ringgold

Lorenzo Glasser, sr., P-INF, Ringgold

Gianni Cantini, sr., P-INF, Ringgold

Christian Thomas, sr., P, Uniontown

Owen Taylor, sr., INF, Chartiers Valley

Brenden Cruz, sr., P-INF, Chartiers Valley

Kyle Witte, sr., OF, Chartiers Valley

Charles Nigut, so., P-INF-OF, Elizabeth Forward

Brady Boyle, jr., C-INF, McKeesport

Lance Vickers, sr., P-C, Thomas Jefferson

Zane Griffaton, jr., OF, West Mifflin

Bert Kovalsky, sr., P-INF, West Mifflin

Pierson Buck, sr., P-INF, West Mifflin

Noah Hutcherson, sr., P-INF, Woodland Hills

Ryan Apaliski, sr., P, Hampton

Jimmy Kunst, sr., INF, Highlands

Luke Bombalski, jr., P-INF-OF, Highlands

Gavin Homer, sr., INF, Indiana

Steven Budash, sr., C, Indiana

Dom NiNinno, sr., INF, Kiski Area

Jacob Smith, jr., P, Kiski Area

Jacob Wagner, sr., INF, Knoch

Jacob Stallsmith, jr., P-OF, Knoch

Cody Stull, so., P-INF, Knoch

Sean Dewey, sr., OF, North Catholic

Justin Stupka, jr., P, North Catholic

Augie Maslo, soph., INF, North Catholic

Diamond notes

• This is the 18th season of Class 4A baseball and if history means anything, the odds are not in favor of West Mifflin repeating as WPIAL champions. In the 17 previous seasons, only two teams have been able to win back-to-back district crowns in 4A: Peters Township in 2007-2008 and Seneca Valley in 2011-2012.

• In winning its first state championship last year, Montour became the second straight teams from the WPIAL to win a PIAA 4A crown and it was the fifth district team to win state gold in the classification. The other four 4A winners were Seneca Valley in 2007, Canon-McMillan in 2008, Ringgold in 2018 and New Castle in 2021.

• Class 4A expanded from 20 to 24 teams and from three to four sections for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. Moving down from 5A are Latrobe, McKeesport, Kiski Area, Hampton, Woodland Hills, Chartiers Valley, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Gallatin. Moving up from 3A was Hopewell. Moving up to 5A is New Castle and moving down to 3A are Burrell, Freeport, Quaker Valley and Greensburg Salem.

• Going into the 2023 season, Montour will bring a four-game winning streak into the new season while Albert Gallatin, Ambridge and McKeesport have a modest one-game winning streak. Woodland Hills is looking to change its mojo. The Wolverines haven’t won a game since opening day of the 2021 season when it defeated Carrick. Since then, it has lost 31 in a row, including 0-16 last year.

• Some WPIAL championship anniversaries being celebrated this season by 4A teams: South Fayette won the WPIAL title five years ago in 2018. North Allegheny was the 4A champion 10 years ago in 2013 and Peters Township captured 4A gold 15 years ago in 2008.

2023 Alignment

Section 1: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Montour

Section 2: Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Latrobe, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Uniontown

Section 3: Chartiers Valley, Elizabeth Forward, McKeesport, Thomas Jefferson, West Mifflin, Woodland Hills

Section 4: Hampton, Highlands, Indiana, Kiski Area, Knoch, North Catholic

More Baseball

Elizabeth Forward grad Luke Padezan takes reins as Gateway’s new baseball coach
After more than 3 decades as an assistant, new coach takes reins of Chartiers Valley baseball
Wild Things Park to host WPIAL baseball finals through 2027
Hempfield’s Dylan Firmstone commits to Penn State baseball
Penn-Trafford baseball making strides in offseason, wins fall league title