Hockey, volleyball teams headline Baldwin sports hall of fame Class of 2024

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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The Baldwin Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2024 consisted of one athlete, four coaches and three teams.

All distinguished in their own right, the inductees included Maddison Sgattoni, coaches Bob Gneus, Ed Helbig, Bunny Schmidt and Rich Wright, the 1987-88 ice hockey team and the 2014 and 2015 girls volleyball teams, which were inducted as a group.

The induction ceremony took place Feb. 12 in the LGI at the high school with more than 100 people in attendance.

Each inductee or a representative gave a brief acceptance speech and all of the inductees received a commemorative Hall of Fame certificate.

Following the ceremony, the new inductees were introduced at center court at halftime of the Baldwin-Peters Township boys basketball game.

Baldwin athletic director Tony Cherico was instrumental in the planning process for the induction ceremony.

“I could not have been happier with the event,” Cherico said. “It was important to me that the families were involved. Families sacrifice so much to help coaches and athletes participate in sports that they love. So, being part of the ceremony was as much for them as it was for the inductees.

“I loved seeing all of the old teammates back together and telling stories and having fun. You can tell how long overdue the hockey induction was. The coaches that were inducted are so much more than just coaches. All of them had impacts on athletes’ lives, not just their athletic careers. When you are around 30, 40, 50 years (old), it is about so much more than the sport. It is about relationships. That was evident in all four coaches that were inducted.”

Cherico added, “I was looking forward to helping get the HOF back up and running. I think it is off to an amazing start.”

The festive evening proved to be a moving experience for all involved.

Here are synopses of the 2023 HOF inductees starting with the teams:

2014, 2015 girls volleyball

Both teams finished their regular season with perfect records — 19-0 in 2014 and 21-0 in 2015.

The Baldwin netters were team champions at every tournament they entered both years. And both teams defeated North Allegheny in the WPIAL finals, with both matches going five sets.

Grit, determination and talent helped the Baldwin girls raise the WPIAL trophy.

The Highlanders advanced to the PIAA semifinals in both years where they lost twice to Hempfield.

Coach Chris Kelly and assistant Adam Foote attended the HOF event, as did several members of both championship teams.

“There was something special about the group of girls that played on those teams,” Kelly said. “They had a tenacity and an intensity that you don’t often see. Their personalities very much matched mine. They were very competitive and gritty, a blue-collar mentality. While we did have a lot of talented players, we always had the mindset of the underdog, which kept us motivated.

“When Tony Cherico called to tell me those teams were being inducted, I was thrilled. I’ve always been so proud of those teams. They deserve to be recognized. It was so nice to see the girls and their parents that night. Some of them I hadn’t seen in 10 years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.”

The 2014 team consisted of Sierra Colbert, Tori Dedig, Emma Dongilli, Miranda Hampsay, Delaney Kelly, Mallory O’Brien, Ria Price, Addie Reckley, Hannah Scott, Maddi Sgattoni, Tori Sgattoni, Barb Spegar, Mikayla Thorne, Mackenzie Voelker, Abby Wagner, Sarah Welsh and Sydney Yanchik.

Many of the same girls competed on the 2015 squad, as well.

Colbert, Dongilli, Hampsay, O’Brien, Ria Price, Reckley, Scott, Maddi Sgattoni, Spegar, Thorne, Voelker, Wagner and Yanchik were joined by Erin Ferrari, Sydney Kaercher, Bri Phillips and Alaina Price in 2015.

1987-88 hockey

The 1987-88 Baldwin hockey team was inducted previously into the Pennsylvania High School Hockey Hall of Fame for its accomplishments during its championship season.

Baldwin captured the Class AAA Penguin Cup that season and went on to become state champion.

Just making the playoffs that year was quite a feat.

Baldwin had to fight its way into the postseason in a division that had the reigning state champion and 10 straight Penguin Cup champions.

Despite being an underdog, the Highlanders won their first-round game by an 8-3 score. Moving on, they faced reigning champion Upper St. Clair, which had won 50 of its previous 53 games, only to lose to Baldwin in triple overtime in a game that lasted into the morning.

The team won the Western Region championship by a 9-3 score against Shady Side Academy, then skated against Archbishop Wood in the state finals at the Civic Arena. Baldwin won by a 4-1 score.

Coach Mike Cox and several members of the team were on hand at the HOF ceremony.

“I feel the ’88 team’s induction was a true tribute to the Baldwin Hockey Club organization as a whole,” Cox said. “Numerous individuals and families over the years contributed to the overall success that was spotlighted via our team.

“I sincerely hope the 1975 and 2021 state championship teams can be recognized in the future.”

Baldwin’s top line was comprised of Dave Koval at center with Bob Reed and Mike O’Connor on the wings.

Team captain Russ Smith anchored the defensive corps in front of goaltender Jason Byers.

Other team members included Dave Benedict, Brian Bereksazi, Mike Caravan, Jim Cichon, Dan Grentz, Doug Kelly, Clint Kotwas, Joe Labellarte, Jeff Lawton, Joel Layton, Dan Novesel, Tom Pauley, Keith Reed and George Tarasi.

Maddison Sgattoni

Few if any at Baldwin left as indelible an imprint on the Baldwin athletic program as Maddison Scattoni did in her four years playing girls volleyball.

A 2017 graduate and the only individual athlete inducted in this year’s HOF class, Scattoni also was the catalyst on both volleyball teams that were added to the hall this year.

As a senior, Sgattoni won the WPIAL Scholar Athlete Award, Bress Award (Baldwin Female Athlete of the Year) and KDKA Extra Effort Award, was named WPIAL Class 4A Player of the Year and was a Big 56 first team all-section honoree.

She was a three-time Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches all-state and three-time All-WPIAL first-team selection, named all-section four times, honored as the 2014 WPIAL Player of the Year and as the Purbalite Female Athlete of the Year.

Sgattoni continued her career at the Naval Academy where she earned several more plaudits including being named Rookie of the Week four times, NAAA Athlete of the Week, All-Patriot League Player of the Week twice, All-Patriot League First Team, Patriot League Championship MVP and All-Patriot League second team.

The local product was team captain during her junior and senior seasons.

Upon graduation, Scattoni went on to become an officer in the United States Marines Corp in which she is currently serving.

Scattoni was not able to attend the ceremony but provided a video in which she accepted her nomination. She was represented by her parents, Kelly and Dom Sgattoni, and sister, Tori.

Coach Bob Gneuhs

Gneuhs had an influence in the Baldwin softball program spanning nearly four decades from 1984-2021.

He was part of 24 section championships and 10 WPIAL titles as an assistant coach. He coached more than 10 Division I athletes, numerous Division II and III athletes and ultimately was a part of 11 softball players being inducted into the Baldwin-Whitehall Athletic Hall of Fame.

The late Gneuhs was represented at the ceremony by his daughter, Jennifer, and friend and coaching partner, Paul Hindes, who made an elegant acceptance speech.

Coach Ed Helbig

Helbig is in his 49th year as a track coach in the district, starting out as an assistant for 19 years then serving as head coach for 30 years.

He also has been Baldwin’s indoor track coach for 27 years.

Helbig has earned two WPIAL team championships, five WPIAL runner-up finishes and 38 section titles and has coached 75 WPIAL individual champions and 15 PIAA individual titlists.

He also has been selected to the BHS Distinguished Highlander Alumni Hall of Fame and Pennsylvania Track and Field Hall of Fame and has received the Tri-State Track Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award.

Helbig is involved heavily in the TSTCA, WPIAL and PIAA steering committees and also is a licensed track and field official.

Coach Bunny Schmidt

Schmidt became a volunteer cross country coach in 1993. A year later, she took over as a coach of the junior high program.

She was influential in building the 1999 WPIAL championship team at Baldwin and was a huge part of runners Dan Mazzocco and David Adley winning the WPIAL championship. Mazzocco also went on to become a state titlist.

Schmidt took over as head coach of the Baldwin boys cross country team in 2006 and remained at that position until being forced to retire because of illness in 2017.

Schmidt lost her battle with cancer a year ago and has been thought about and missed by many ever since.

Each October, she is celebrated via a Pink-Out cross country event called Bunny’s Run. All money raised is donated to cancer research at St. Clair Hospital and to date, the Baldwin cross country program has donated more than $25,000.

Schmidt was represented at the HOF event by her two sons.

Coach Rich Wright

Wright began his coaching career at Baldwin as a volunteer cross country coach in 1987.

Shortly thereafter, he became the junior high coach and in 1992 took over as varsity head coach. That same year, he also was hired as a track and field assistant coach.

Wright led the 1999 cross country team to a WPIAL championship and was part of the 2002 track and field WPIAL championship at Baldwin.

He has coached 23 WPIAL champions and three PIAA winners totaling eight state championships.

Wright is a member of the Pittsburgh Marathon Hall of Fame, is on the PIAA selection committee and is a voting member of the PIAA Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Wright is the race director for the Brentwood Firecracker 5K Run and is the creator of the following races: Red, White & Blue Classic, which is the biggest cross country meet in the state, Bald Eagle Invite, Youthtowne Clash and Bunny Run.

He also had a consecutive day running streak that spanned more than 29 years.

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