Alle-Kiski Valley baseball playoff preview capsules: Games for May 15

Monday, May 13, 2019 | 6:25 PM

First round

Wednesday’s games

Class 4A

13-Knoch (10-7) vs. 4-Blackhawk (13-4)

6:30 p.m. at Neshannock

Winner plays: 5-Ringgold (12-5) or 12-Mt. Pleasant (9-8)

Coaches: Sean O’Donnell, Knoch; Bob Amalia, Blackhawk

Players to watch: Ethan Sloane, Sr., OF, Knoch; Zach Zuchelli, Sr., 2B, Blackhawk

Extra bases: Knoch earned its eighth consecutive WPIAL playoff berth in its section finale, rallying from a four-run deficit to beat Highlands, 7-6. The team struggled down the stretch, losing four of its final five games. The Knights lost to Hopewell in their playoff opener last season. Sloane posted a team-high .500 batting average during the regular season with a .594 on-base percentage. … Blackhawk claimed the Section 2-4A championship, its fourth title in a row. The Cougars won six of their final seven regular-season games. Amalia reached 300 career victories earlier this season. He led Blackhawk to WPIAL championships in 2004, ’12 and ’17. Like Knoch, Blackhawk lost its postseason opener last season, falling by shutout to Greensburg Salem.

14-Highlands (10-8) vs. 3-Thomas Jefferson (13-5)

4 p.m. at West Mifflin

Winner plays: 6-Beaver (10-7) or 11-Belle Vernon (10-7)

Coaches: Jeff Campbell, Highlands; Tim Vickers, Thomas Jefferson

Players to watch: Noah Gillette, Sr., P, Highlands; Mike Huber, Jr., 1B, Thomas Jefferson

Extra bases: Highlands is appearing in the WPIAL postseason for the first time since 2003, when the Golden Rams reached the WPIAL quarterfinals. They finished 5-12 last season. Gillette, a Pitt-Johnstown recruit, led Highlands on the mound (5-1, 1.77 ERA) and batted .362 with six doubles and 15 RBIs. Highlands struggled defensively at times, committing 60 errors. … Thomas Jefferson rebounded from a 6-14 record last season to win the Section 3-4A championships. The Jaguars won their final four games. Huber, a 290-pound all-conference offensive lineman in football, was one of the WPIAL’s RBI leaders.

Class 3A

6-Deer Lakes (11-8) vs. 11-Ellwood City (7-9)

4 p.m. at Neshannock

Winner plays: 3-Keystone Oaks (13-4)

Coaches: Josh Tysk, Deer Lakes; Jeff Fotia, Ellwood City

Players to watch: Greg Geis, Sr., P, Deer Lakes; Ricky Pitrelli, Sr., C, Ellwood City

Extra bases: The Lancers qualified for the postseason for the third consecutive season. They suffered a 1-0 loss to West Mifflin in the 2018 first round, the second consecutive year they bowed out in a game of that score. The Lancers played eight games decided by two runs or fewer, losing six. They finished tied for second in a tight Section 1-3A race with Steel Valley, a game behind Freeport. Geis, a lefty, was 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA during the regular season. … Ellwood City tied for third in Section 2-3A with Freedom after winning its last two regular-season games. The Wolverines started 2-6 before stabilizing down the stretch. Of Ellwood City’s 24 players, 17 are freshmen or sophomores. Fotia batted .526 with 13 RBIs this season, pacing the Wolverines in most offensive categories.

7-Burrell (11-4) vs. 10-McGuffey (10-5)

2 p.m. at West Mifflin

Winner plays: 2-Hopewell (13-5)

Coaches: Mark Spohn, Burrell; George Linck, McGuffey

Players to watch: Luke Virag, Sr., P/OF, Burrell; Ryan Sullivan, Jr., P, McGuffey

Extra bases: Burrell, the fourth-place team out of Section 1-3A, appears in the WPIAL postseason for the 20th time in the last 21 seasons. The Bucs advanced to the quarterfinals each of the last two years, bowing out last year with a loss to South Side Beaver. All four of Burrell’s losses occurred during section play, two by a single run. With Virag, a senior right-hander, and junior southpaws Zach Miller and Tanner Spohn, Burrell boasts a strong pitching staff. … McGuffey tied Waynesburg for second place in Section 3-3A. After starting 1-2, the Highlanders won nine of their final 12 games. McGuffey improved by seven victories from last season, when it finished 3-16. Sullivan leads a pitching staff that limited opponents to three runs or fewer eight times this season.

Class A

11-St. Joseph (7-7) vs. 6-Monessen (12-5)

2 p.m. at Seton Hill

Winner plays: 3-Union (13-3)

Coaches: Kurt Krebs, St. Joseph; Bill Matush, Monessen

Players to watch: Tyler Wood, Jr., P/1B, St. Joseph; Marcus Tansmore, Sr., IF, Monessen

Extra bases: St. Joseph is in the playoffs for the first time since 2000. The Spartans tied Leechburg for third place in Section 3-A, clinching their playoff spot with a 10-0 win over the Blue Devils last week. St. Joseph has just two seniors. Its top four hitters and all of its pitchers are underclassmen. Wood struck out 36 batters in 25 innings pitched and batted .568 with 12 RBIs. Sophomore Hayden Mallin had 15 RBIs and was the No. 2 pitcher. … Monessen finished second in Section 2-A behind California. The Greyhounds come into the playoffs hot: winners of seven games in a row, with four double-digit run performances in that span. Tansmore (.474, 18 RBIs) paces an offense that had a .348 combined batting average and scored 166 runs in 10 games. Monessen notched its first playoff victory in school history last season before falling to Union in the quarterfinals.

13-Leechburg (7-9) vs. 4-Quigley Catholic (11-6)

7 p.m. at North Allegheny

Winner plays: 5-Greensburg Central Catholic (9-8) or 12-Rochester (8-7)

Coaches: Bob Oberdorf, Leechburg; Kip Richeal, Quigley Catholic

Players to watch: Cameron Curfman, So., P, Leechburg; Luke Evans, Sr., 2B, Quigley Catholic

Extra bases: The Blue Devils are making their second consecutive postseason appearance after tying for third place in Section 3-A. They put a scare into favored Jeannette in the first round last season, falling 2-0. Leechburg swapped losing and winning streaks during the regular season but closed strong, winning three of its last four. In all seven of its victories, Leechburg held its opponents to four runs or fewer. … Quigley Catholic finished second in Section 1-A behind Union and played its best baseball down the stretch, winning nine of its last 10 games. After going more than three decades without making the playoffs, Quigley Catholic has qualified three years in a row. Luke Evans and his younger brother, sophomore L.J., are the Spartans’ top hitters.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, or via Twitter .

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