2024 WPIAL Class A baseball preseason breakdown

Friday, March 15, 2024 | 9:01 AM

For a young Bishop Canevin team, 2023 was a year to dip a toe in the water and drink whatever success was possible while building for the future.

Well, the future was now for the Crusaders as they belly-flopped into the district postseason waters and came away with gold from the bottom of the pool.

Now Bishop Canevin returns all its starters from a year ago as it attempts to repeat.

However, that is not a given as the smallest classification in the district is filled with talented teams ready to turn dreams into a reality.

Who will survive three balanced sections and an even deeper postseason field to raise gold at Wild Things Park?

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

Preseason Top 5

1. Bishop Canevin (15-4 last season)

Bishop Canevin finished in second place in Section 3-A behind Eden Christian Academy, but it was first in the district after playoff wins over Western Beaver, Leechburg, Rochester and California in the finals, 8-5. It was the first distinct diamond crown for the Crusaders since 2000. With everybody back this spring, it’s hard to go against Bishop Canevin as it tries to repeat. Senior outfielder Mason Glover is a High Point commit and senior infielder Dom Varley is headed to Bucknell next year. Junior pitchers Tyler Maddix and Kole Olszewski give the Crusaders a strong 1-2 punch on the mound.

2. Union (14-6)

Union was hoping to make history last year as it was trying to become the first WPIAL Class A school to win three straight baseball championships. The Scotties won the Section 2-A title by two games over Leechburg and earned a first-round bye. But history when poof when Union lost to California in the semifinals, 9-6. The Scotties’ big gun is back in senior outfielder Michael Gunn, a Slippery Rock commit. Seniors Rocco Galmarini, Dayne Johnke and Anthony Roper will help Union on the hill and at the plate.

3. Eden Christian Academy (12-5)

There were high expectations for Eden Christian Academy heading into the postseason after the Warriors finished as Section 3-A champions. However, after a first-round bye, Eden Christian was stunned in the quarterfinals by Rochester, 9-4. Senior pitcher and infielder Caleb Emswiller is one of the top players in the district after committing to Division I Gardner Webb. Also back is senior pitcher and outfielder Enzo Natale and a pair of promising sophomores in Brody Hull and Brett Feldman.

4. California (14-9)

California ended up as co-champions in Section 1-A with Carmichaels even though it beat the Mighty Mikes twice in their section series. The Trojans split with Fort Cherry and Jefferson-Morgan, but proved their sweep was no fluke when they defeated the Mighty Mikes in the quarterfinals. Then after stunning defending champion Union, Cal fell in the final to Bishop Canevin. Senior Kris Weston and juniors Chase Cicchitto and Caden Monticelli will have to pull some additional slack after junior Ricky Lawson was injured and is out for the season.

5. Leechburg (12-6)

Leechburg went from a seven-win season in 2022 to making a run for the Section 2 title and winning 13 games in 2023. The Blue Devils ended their season with an eight-game winning streak, but their momentum did not carry over into the postseason as they lost to eventual champion Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals, 4-1. A trio of juniors coming off solid sophomore season return for Leechburg in catcher Rocco Vigna, pitcher and infielder Chase Henry and pitcher and football quarterback Jayden Floyd.

Players to watch

Isaiah Bradick, Sr., INF, Avella

Chase Cicchitto, Jr., P/INF, California

Kris Weston, Sr., OF, California

Caden Monticelli, Jr., P/INF, California

Patrick Holeran, Sr., P, Carmichaels

Liam Lohr, Sr., P/INF, Carmichaels

John Woodward, Soph., P, Jefferson-Morgan

Brenton Barnhart, Jr., OF, Jefferson-Morgan

A.J. Vanata, Sr., INF Mapletown

Morgan Kiger, Sr., C, West Greene

Johnny Lampe, Sr., C/OF, West Greene

Rocco Vigna, Jr., C, Leechburg

Chase Henry, Jr., P/INF, Leechburg

Jayden Floyd, Jr., Leechburg

John Hughes, Sr., P/INF, Springdale

Logan Lyons, Jr., P/INF, Rochester

Cole Poplin, Jr., C/OF, Rochester

Mike Gunn, Sr., P/OF, Union

Rocco Galmarini, Sr., P/OF, Union

Dayne Johnke, Sr., P/OF, Union

Anthony Roper,Sr., P/INF, Union

Will Martin, Sr., INF, Western Beaver

Tyler Maddix, Jr., P/INF, Bishop Canevin

Kole Olszewski, Jr., P/OF, Bishop Canevin

Quentin White, Sr., C, Bishop Canevin

Mason Glover, Sr., OF, Bishop Canevin

Dom Varley, Sr., INF, Bishop Canevin

Sean Hart, Sr., INF, Carlynton

Jake Moldovan, Sr., P/INF/OF, Carlynton

Mason Mulligan, Jr., OF, Carlynton

Antonio Goodrum, Sr., OF, Clairton

Michael Wright, Sr., P/INF, Clairton

Walter Clarit, Jr., C, Cornell

Josh Mozuch, Sr., P/INF, Cornell

Caleb Emswiler, Sr., P/INF, Eden Christian Academy

Enzo Natale, Sr., P/OF, Eden Christian Academy

Brody Hull, Soph., P/INF, Eden Christian Academy

Brett Feldman, Soph., P/INF, Eden Christian Academy

Josh Walters, Sr., UTIL, Monessen

Eli Covington, Sr., P/INF, Monessen

Jordan Smith, Sr., P/INF/OF, Sewickley Academy

Michael Woo, Sr., P/OF, Sewickley Academy

Nolan Donnelly, Jr., P/INF, Sewickley Academy

Billy Pietragallo, Soph., OF, Sewickley Academy

Lucas Picher, Jr., P/INF, Winchester Thurston (first-year program playing independent schedule)

Sam Tarr, Jr., P/INF, Winchester Thurston

Diamond notes

• Bishop Canevin hopes to become the fourth Class A team to win back-to-back WPIAL championships this spring. The three others schools to win back-to-back district gold in Single-A are Serra Catholic in 2009-2010, Neshanncok the following two years in 2011-2012 and recently Union in 2021-2022.

• Last year, all three PIAA qualifiers from WPIAL Class A — Bishop Canevin, California and Union — lost in the first round. Only four WPIAL schools have won PIAA Class A championships, and three of them are now in higher classifications and the other one doesn’t even exist anymore. Vincentian Academy won the PIAA Class A baseball titles in 2016 and 2018. The other three are Greensburg Central Catholic in 2002, Neshannock in 2004 and Serra Catholic in 2011.

• The biggest improvement record-wise from 2022 to last spring belonged to the district champions. Bishop Canevin went from seven wins to 15 victories in its title run for an eight-game improvement. Cornell went from no wins to six wins last year and Leechburg went from seven wins to 13 victories for a plus-six each. Others that enjoyed noticeable improvement in 2023 were Avella (plus-5), California (plus-4) and St. Joseph (plus-4).

• Three Class A baseball programs that went winless in 2022 found success in 2023. Cornell and Clairton entered last season with 17-game losing streaks. The Raiders not only won six games, they qualified for the playoff last spring. The Bears enjoyed two wins. St. Joseph had a 16-game losing streak end as it won four contests a year ago. The only team that was winless in 2022 and was winless again in 2023 was Summit Academy. The Knights were 0-12 and are 0-24 since their last win in 2019.

• This spring is the silver anniversary of WPIAL Class A baseball. It was 25 years ago when South Fayette defeated Greensburg Central Catholic to win the 1999 Class A title, 9-2. Here are some of the other district Class A championship anniversaries being celebrated this season: California won the WPIAL Class A title five years ago in 2019, and it was the Trojans capturing gold 10 years ago as well in 2014. Serra Catholic was the Class A winner 15 years ago in 2009, and 20 years ago in 2004, Neshannock beat Carmichaels in one of the most lopsided title games in district history, 15-0, in only four innings.

2024 alignment

Section 1: Avella, California, Carmichaels, Fort Cherry, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, West Greene

Section 2: Leechburg, Rochester, Springdale, St. Joseph’s, Summit Academy, Union, Western Beaver

Section 3: Bishop Canevin, Carlynton, Clairton, Cornell, Eden Christian, Monessen, Sewickley Academy

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