2024 WPIAL Class 2A baseball preseason breakdown

Thursday, March 14, 2024 | 10:53 AM

Since 2017, either Seton LaSalle or Serra Catholic has reached the WPIAL Class 2A baseball championship game.

In fact, in the five title games played since 2017, the Rebels and Eagles have squared off against each other in two of them, including last year.

Seton LaSalle beat Serra Catholic both times by a combined score of 20-2, winning the 2023 title game 8-1.

There are high expectations for both baseball juggernauts coming into the 2024 season so it would be no surprise if one or both doesn’t play for district gold at Wild Things Park in May.

Can another team step up and quell the Rebels or clip the Eagles wings?

Here is a rundown of the 2024 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 (19-4 last season)

Serra Catholic won the Section 3 championship and reached the WPIAL championship game despite missing one of its top players for most of the season in Zach Black due to offseason surgery. The senior and Mercyhurst commit is healthy and ready to lead the Eagles back to the top. The Eagles have a rich history of pitching, and that will continue with junior Tyler Skaggs and Owen Dombroski leading the way. The Port Vue Athletic Field will be the Eagles’ home away from home this spring as renovations continue on Little Boston Field.

2. Seton LaSalle (17-5)

Seton LaSalle claimed WPIAL baseball gold for the third time in program history and for the second time in four years by defeating Riverview and New Brighton in the quarterfinals and semifinals, then scoring six runs in the sixth inning to defeat 2022 champion Serra Catholic, 8-1. While some key players are gone from that title run, senior Gio LoNero, a North Alabama recruit, leads the returning group. Also back are senior outfielder Mike Todd (Mt. Aloysius) and senior catcher Aric White (Virginia State).

3. Burgettstown (16-5)

The turnaround of the Burgettstown baseball program continued last year when it edged Chartiers-Houston to win the Section 1 championship. In the district playoffs, the Blue Devils defeated South Side, but lost to Serra Catholic in the semifinals. Following a consolation game win, Burgettstown beat Redbank Valley in the PIAA first round before falling to Sharpsville in the state quarterfinals. One of the top players in the class is senior pitcher and infielder Brodie Kuzior. He will continue his baseball career at Seton Hill. Also back for the Blue Devils is senior pitcher and outfielder Eric Kovach.

4. Greensburg Central Catholic (9-6)

Greensburg Central Catholic finished tied for second place with Riverview in Section 3, but the Centurions did hand Serra Catholic its only section loss. GCC relied on some young players a year ago which should help the team this spring. The Centurions have a strong battery with senior pitcher Ethan Brody (La Roche) and sophomore catcher Anthony Grippo. Sophomore pitcher and infielder Ian Shipley is coming off a sharp freshman season. The Centurions hope to be in the hunt for their first WPIAL baseball title since 2015.

5. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (13-9)

The 2023 season was an up-and-down campaign for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The Chargers started 1-3, and then won five straight games. The Chargers dropped three straight, then went on another five-game winning streak. OLSH blanked Greensburg Central Catholic in the opening round of the playoffs, and then saw its season end with a loss to Serra Catholic in the quarterfinals. Two key pitchers return for the Chargers in senior Quinn Santelli and junior Isiah Schulz.

Players to watch

Lucas Burt, Jr., P/C, Bentworth

John Scott, Sr., P/INF, Bentworth

Ben Hays, So., Bentworth

Ethan Varesko, Sr., P/INF, Beth-Center

Brodie Kuzior, Sr., P/INF, Burgettstown

Eric Kovach, Sr., P/OF, Burgettstown

Jake Beveridge, Sr., P/OF, Charleroi

Keegan Kosek, Sr., INF, Chartiers-Houston

Anthony Romano, Sr., OF, Chartiers-Houston

Luke Camden, Sr., C, Chartiers-Houston

Tyler Morrison, So., 2B, Frazier

Chase Fulmer, So., CF, Frazier

Iain Callan, Sr., P/OF/INF, Washington

Wayne Sparks-Gatling, Sr., P/INF, Washington

Kyle Bainer, Sr., C/INF, Washington

Quentin Goode, Sr., INF, Aliquippa

Chase Grable, Sr., OF, Freedom

Zach Kuntz, So., P/OF, Freedom

Tommy Ward, Jr., C, Freedom

R.J. Kissick, Jr., P/INF/OF, Laurel

Brock Budacki, Jr., C, New Brighton

Jaxson Zahn, So., INF, New Brighton

Nick Rawlings, So., P/C/INF, Northgate

Isiah Schulz, Jr., P, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Quinn Santelli, Sr., P, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Gio LoNero, Sr., INF, Seton LaSalle

Mike Todd, Sr., OF, Seton LaSalle

Aric White, Sr., C, Seton LaSalle

Mark Weber, Sr., P/INF, Seton LaSalle

Andrew Corfield, So., OF, South Side

R.J. Fisher, Jr., P, South Side

Carter Wilson, Jr., P/INF, South Side

Logan Bianco, Sr., INF, Apollo-Ridge

Anthony Grippo, So., C, Greensburg Central Catholic

Ethan Brody, Sr., P, Greensburg Central Catholic

Ian Shipley, So., P/INF, Greensburg Central Catholic

Adam Moreland, Jr., C, Ligonier Valley

Jack Loughren, Sr., INF, Riverview

Rece Stempler, Jr., P/OF/INF, Riverview

Johnny Bertucci, Jr., P/INF, Riverview

Zack Black, Sr., INF, Serra Catholic

Owen Dumbroski, Jr., P, Serra Catholic

Tyler Skaggs, Jr., P, Serra Catholic

Diamond notes

• Seton LaSalle will be trying to do something this year that few schools have been able to do — repeat as WPIAL Class 2A baseball champions. It has been over a quarter of a century since the last time a school repeated as 2A baseball champs. The Washington Little Prexies won consecutive WPIAL 2A crowns in 1997 and 1998. The only two other schools to win back-to-back 2A baseball crowns were Ford City in 1987 and 1988 and Center in 1989 and 1990.

• The last WPIAL 2A team to win a PIAA championship was Neshannock in 2015. In the 12 years before the Lancers’ state title run, the district produced five PIAA champions in Class 2A — Ellwood City in 2003 and Riverside in 2005, 2006, 2011 and 2012. The first three 2A state champions from the WPIAL were Wilmington (now in District 10) in 1981, Northgate in 1982 and Riverview in 1983.

• Burgettstown, Seton LaSalle and Serra Catholic were the three section champions last year in Class 2A. The Blue Devils and Rebels won Sections 1 and 2, respectively, by one game, while the Eagles won Section 3 by three games. Four 2A schools enjoyed big improvements from the 2022 season. Both Charleroi and South Side enjoyed six-game improvements as the Cougars went from six wins to 12 victories last season, and South Side improved from nine to 15 wins in 2023. Chartiers-Houston and New Brighton improved by five victories from two years ago to last spring.

• For as much success as Aliquippa has enjoyed in football and basketball, that has not translated to the baseball diamond. The Quips were the only Class 2A winless team in 2023 and carry a 20-game losing streak into the 2024 campaign. Three other programs trying to end losing skids early this spring are Northgate, which has lost 15 in a row; Frazier, losers of seven straight games; and Washington, which dropped its last six games of 2023.

• This is the 45th season of Class 2A baseball in the WPIAL. The very first 2A champion was Freeport in 1979. Some of the other 2A championship anniversaries being celebrated this season include: Seton LaSalle won the WPIAL crown five years ago in 2019, Steel Valley was the 2A champion 10 years ago in 2014, Blackhawk was the 2A winner 20 years ago in 2004, Waynesburg Central won it all 25 years ago in 1999 and Quaker Valley captured 2A gold 40 years ago in 1984.

2024 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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