2024 WPIAL Class 4A baseball preseason breakdown

Tuesday, March 12, 2024 | 11:00 AM

Hopewell won its second WPIAL championship in three years last season for the program’s fifth district crown.

However, this title run was like no other.

Moving up from Class 3A, the Vikings played below .500 baseball and finished the regular season tied for third place in Section 1-4A, five games out of first with a record of 8-11.

Hopewell proved anything can happen in late May as the No. 14 seed first stunned defending champion West Mifflin, then upset No. 6 North Catholic and edged No. 7 Indiana in the semifinals.

Facing No. 5 Latrobe in the title game, the Vikings spotted the Wildcats two first-inning runs before scoring three times in the second and holding on to win the title in shocking fashion, 4-3.

What magic can happen in Class 4A this season?

Here is a rundown of the 2024 preseason top 5 teams, some of the players to watch and other diamond notes in WPIAL Class 4A baseball.

Preseason Top 5

1. Thomas Jefferson (8-12 last season)

Dropping from Class 5A to 4A was not a cure all last year for Thomas Jefferson as it finished in fourth place in Section 3-4A and 8-12 overall. However, the Jaguars were young and now they have experience with eight starters returning. Senior Alec Warden is a Penn State recruit will be joined by fellow senior and Pitt-Greensburg commit Ethan Steinmetz to solidify the infield, while seniors J.J. Siemon, a West Virginia Wesleyan recruit, and Point Park commit Brady McGough lead an experienced pitching rotation.

2. West Mifflin (15-3)

Two years removed from winning the WPIAL 4A championship, West Mifflin enjoyed another successful season last spring as it tied for the section crown with Chartiers Valley and was the No. 3 seed in the 4A playoffs before being stunned in the opening round by eventual champion Hopewell, 2-1. Senior Zane Griffaton returns as the Bluefield State commit is expected to see time all over the diamond. When pitching, his battery mate will be senior catcher Corey Kuszaj, a Cal (Pa.) recruit. Sophomores Caden Wills and Chase Maggio will see plenty of mound work as well for the Titans.

3. North Catholic (10-11)

Much like West Miflfin, North Cathlic was a postseason victim of the Hopewell title run. The Trojans won the Section 4-4A championship and defeated Elizabeth Forward in the opening round of the district playoffs before falling to the eventual champion Vikings in the quarterfinals. North Catholic will rely on the solid senior battery of Tommy Schafele on the hill and Blake Primrose behind the plate. Primrose is a St. Joe’s commit. Big things are expected again from senior infielder and Gannon commit, Tommy Koroly.

4. Latrobe (17-8)

Trying to win district gold for the first time since 2017, Latrobe won the Section 2-4A title last year by three games, then knocked off Kiski Area, Chartiers Valley and top-seed Montour to return to Wild Things Park. However, their golden dreams ended with silver linings as the Wildcats lost to Hopewell in the finals, 4-3. The team lost a lot to graduation but has proven to be a consistent winner, which should not change this season. Senior outfielder Jacob Cramer (IUP) is back as is senior catcher Louie Amatucci (Saint Vincent) and senior pitcher and infielder Reilly Smith (Westmoreland CCC)

5. Montour (20-5)

On the heels of a PIAA championship run in 2022, Montour tied Blackhawk for the Section 1-4A crown and was the top seed in the WPIAL playoffs. The Spartans defeated Uniontown and Hampton in the district postseason before falling to Latrobe in the semifinals, 10-7. Montour won the consolation game over Indiana to return to the PIAA playoffs, but it was one and done as the Spartans lost to Cathedral Prep. Only two starters return, but the Spartans will rely on a lot of young talent. The team will be lead by one of the top players in the district in senior pitcher and shortstop Jake Robinson, a Kent State commit.

Players to watch

Adam Fernandez, Jr., P/INF, Ambridge

Tyler Kisling, Jr., P/C/OF, Beaver

Dylan Smith, Sr., P, Blackhawk

Zach McLean, Sr., P/INF, Central Valley

Jake Hunter, Soph., OF, Central Valley

Nate Angelo, Soph., INF, Central Valley

Lucas Walton, Sr., P/OF, Hopewell

Jake Robinson, Sr.,P/ INF, Montour

Maddox Tarquinio, Sr., P/INF, Montour

Jake Gedekoh, Sr., OF, Belle Vernon

Alex Nash, Sr., P/INF, Belle Vernon

Jacob Cramer, Sr., OF, Latrobe

Louie Amatucci, Sr., C, Latrobe

Noah Lion, Jr., P/INF/OF, Laurel Highlands

Alex Kolano, Jr., P/INF, Ringgold

Ryan Biani, Sr., P, Chartiers Valley

Ethan Ridgeway, Sr., P/INF, Chartiers Valley

Charles Nigut, Jr., P/OF, Elizabeth Forward

Carter Kirsch, Jr., INF, Thomas Jefferson

Alec Warden, Sr., INF, Thomas Jefferson

Elias Lippencot, Sr., OF, Thomas Jefferson

Brady McGough, Sr., P/OF, Thomas Jefferson

J.J. Siemon, Sr., P/INF, Thomas Jefferson

Ethan Steinmetz, Sr., INF, Thomas Jefferson

Zane Griffaton, Sr., P/OF, West Mifflin

Caden Wills, Soph., P/INF, West Mifflin

Aidan Munsie, Sr., OF, West Mifflin

Corey Kuszaj, Sr., C, West Mifflin

Chase Maggio, Soph., P/INF, West Mifflin

Justin Dubee, Jr., C, Hampton

Ben Ryan, Sr., P/INF, Indiana

Landon Kodman, Sr., C/INF, Indiana

Blake Fritz, Sr., OF, Kiski Area

Carter Leviski, Sr., P/C, Kiski Area

Jacob Smith, Sr., P/INF, Kiski Area

Braden Wozniak, Sr., INF, Knoch

Tommy Schafele, Sr., P, North Catholic

Blake Primrose, Sr., C, North Catholic

Tommy Koroly, Sr., INF, North Catholic

Diamond notes

• This is the 19th season of Class 4A baseball, and if history means anything, the odds are not in favor of Hopewell repeating as WPIAL champions. In the 18 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.

• Last spring was the first time this decade that a WPIAL team did not win the PIAA championship. There was no season in 2020, New Castle won PIAA gold in 2021, and Montour won a state championship in 2022. The other three 4A PIAA winners from District 7 were Seneca Valley in 2007, Canon-McMillan in 2008 and Ringgold in 2018.

• There were six section champions in the 2023 season in Class 4A. Latrobe won the outright Section 2 title and North Catholic beat out Indiana to win Section 4. There were co-champions in Section 1 with Blackhawk and Montour and in Section 3 with West Mifflin and Chartiers Valley. The biggest turnarounds in 4A from 2022 were Indiana with 16 wins (plus-5 wins from 2022), Kiski Area with 9 wins (plus-5), Latrobe with 17 wins (plus-5) and Chartiers Valley with 14 wins (plus-4).

• Coming into the 2024 season, Woodland Hills is looking for some positives with its baseball program. The Wolverines haven’t won a game since opening day of the 2021 season when they defeated Carrick. Since then, they have lost 44 in a row, including going 0-13 last year. Albert Gallatin also suffered through a winless season last year, finishing 0-16.

• Some WPIAL championship anniversaries being celebrated this season by 4A teams: Beaver won the WPIAL title five years ago in 2019, Seneca Valley was the 4A champion 10 years ago in 2014, and North Allegheny captured 4A gold 15 years ago in 2009.

2024 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

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