Scholastic Notebook – 04/04/2014

Friday, April 4, 2014 | 8:22 PM

It has been proven the Blackhawk baseball team is close to unbeatable when Brendan McKay pitches. That is the main reason the Cougars are the MSA Sports No. 1-ranked WPIAL Class AAA team.

But the No. 1 question with Blackhawk remains what kind of team are the Cougars when McKay doesn’t pitch?

It’s a natural question, especially after last season. McKay, one of the most successful pitchers in the WPIAL the past few decades, was 7-0 last year to lift his career record to 22-1. McKay was phenomenal, allowing only three runs and one earned run in 53 innings pitched. But the rest of the season, Blackhawk was 3-7.

The playoffs were a good example of how Blackhawk was two different teams last season – one when McKay pitched and one when he didn’t. Blackhawk beat Mars, 2-0, in the first round of the playoffs when McKay pitched. In the next round, McKay didn’t pitch and Blackhawk lost to Hopewell, 13-3.

So far this season, Blackhawk is 3-0. The Cougars beat Shenango, 7-0, when McKay tossed a one-hitter and struck out 20. He didn’t pitch the other two games when Blackhawk beat Mohawk, 7-0, and Mars, 10-3.

So, does anyone have any idea how Blackhawk will be this year when McKay doesn’t pitch? How about McKay?

“I think we can be good,” said McKay. “I think we were still good last year and this year I think people are ready to step up now that some of the sophomores who played became juniors and have some experience.”

Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia also likes the promise of this team, even when McKay isn’t on the mound.

“We have our top three pitchers back from last year, with Brendan, Cody Bain and Richie Rowe,” said Amalia. “That’s good and they’ve gotten better. Plus, Dante Parente will pitch some.”

McKay also is one of Blackhawk’s top hitters. He batted better than .400 as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

“We should have more protection, hitting-wise, with some people batting around him,” said Amalia.

WPIAL and All-State Hoop Teams

The all-state basketball teams for boys and girls came out Friday, and the teams have a heavy WPIAL players flavor.

This should tell you about what kind of year it was in the WPIAL: There were eight players of the year picked for every boys and girls classification – and six of the eight were from the WPIAL.

The boys players of the year were Hampton’s Ryan Luther (Class AAAA) and Lincoln Park’s Maverick Rowan (Class A). The girls players of the year were Fox Chapel’s Erin Mathias (AAAA), Blackhawk’s Chassidy Omogrosso (AAA), Seton-LaSalle’s Naje Gibson (AA) and Vincentian’s Brenna Wise (A).

On top of that, a coach of the year award went to five WPIAL coaches. They were New Castle’s Ralph Blundo (AAAA) and Lincoln Park’s Mark Javens (A) on the boys side, and Blackhawk’s Steve Lodovico (AAA), Seton-LaSalle’s Spencer Stefko (AA) and Vincentian’s Ron Moncrief (A) on the girls side.

Overall, 14 WPIAL boys and 14 girls made all-state (either first, second or third team).

Besides Luther and Rowan, the other three WPIAL boys who made first-team all-state were New Castle’s Malik Hooker (AAAA), Seton-LaSalle’s Dale Clancy (AA) and Lincoln Park’s Elijah Minnie (A).

The second-teamers were New Castle’s Anthony Richards (AAAA), Chartiers Valley’s Matty McConnell (AAA), Seton-LaSalle’s Levi Masua (AA), Greensburg Central Catholic’s Brian Graytok (AA), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s Cameron Johnson (A) and Western Beaver’s Nick Miller (A).

The third-teamers were Hempfield’s Kason Harrell (AAAA), Vincentian’s Ryan Wolf (A) and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic’s Dom Robb (A).

On the girls side, the other first-team selections besides the players of the year were Burrell’s Sydney Bordonaro (AA), McGuffey’s Sammie Weiss (AA) and Seton-LaSalle’s Cassidy Walsh (AA).

The second-teamers from the WPIAL were Penn-Trafford’s Maria Palarino (AAAA), Central Valley’s Seairra Barrett (AAA), South Park’s Hallie Torris (AAA) and Seton-LaSalle’s Yacine Diop (AA).

The third-teamers were South Park’s Allison McGrath (AAA), Greensburg Central Catholic’s Carolyn Appleby (AA) and St. Joseph’s Mallory Heinle (A).

Surprising Coaching Moves?

Two WPIAL basketball coaches who have WPIAL and PIAA championships on their resumes apparently are out of their jobs.

Ernie Koontz has resigned as girls coach at Upper St. Clair, but Koontz said he was told to either resign or retire.

Koontz was Upper St. Clair’s coach for 29 seasons and had a record of 535-232. He is one of only six coaches to win five WPIAL titles. He also won a PIAA title. But Koontz reportedly was told recently by Upper St. Clair athletic director Matt Mellinger to either resign or retire. Koontz, 63, handed in his letter of resignation a little more than a week ago.

Meanwhile, Jeff Ackermann will reportedly be out as boys coach at Moon. The school board apparently plans to open his position at an April 14th meeting.

Ackermann was Moon’s coach for 13 seasons and enjoyed plenty of success, going 224-116 with three consecutive WPIAL Class AAA titles from 2004-06 and one PIAA title in 2004. His teams made the playoffs eight times.

While Koontz and Ackermann were similar with their resumes, they also were similar with their records in recent years. Ackermann had missed the WPIAL playoffs four of the past five seasons and had a 51-59 record in that time. The Tigers were 9-13 this year.

Meanwhile, Koontz’s record was only 70-69 the past six seasons.

Where Are They Now?

Some former WPIAL baseball players are having big impacts on the Kent State team.

* Sophomore Zarley Zalewski of Valley is the team’s leading hitter with a .410 average. He has started 26 games for Kent State, which has a 17-13 record. He has nine doubles, one triple and 18 RBIs.

* Senior Jon Wilson of North Allegheny is the team’s fourth-leading hitter with a .329 average. Wilson started his career at Maryland before transferring to Kent State.

* Junior Eric Dorsch of North Allegheny leads the team in ERA at 1.69. He has appeared in 11 games, all in relief, and has four saves. He has an 0-1 record and has allowed nine hits in 16 innings.

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