Scholastic Notebook – 06/21/2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | 12:00 AM
The Serra Catholic baseball team is the first in Pennsylvania to ever make it to a state championship game three years in a row. Now the Eagles don't want to become the Buffalo Bills of Pennsylvania high school baseball.
The Buffalo Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-93. Serra has lost the past two PIAA Class A title games but the Eagles will try to change their championship fortunes Friday when they play Reading Central Catholic at Penn State at 1pm here on the MSA Sports Network. The game was originally scheduled for 10:30 a.m. but was moved to 1 p.m. to accommodate another team in the finals that has graduation ceremonies.
While Serra (20-2) has lost the past two PIAA title games things are different for the Eagles entering this year's title game. Last year and in 2009 Serra was WPIAL champion as well. But this year the Eagles lost in the WPIAL semifinals.
Serra coach Brian Dzurenda is one coach who believes a state championship is more important than winning the WPIAL. That's why the Eagles are hungry to win this game.
"It always has meant more to me to win a state championship Bucci said. I said that two years ago and I'll say it now."
Dzurenda is friends with former Canon-McMillan coach Steve Bucci who won a state title in 2008. That year the Big Macs did not win the WPIAL title but came on strong to take the state crown.
"Steve called me right after we lost in the WPIAL playoffs this year Dzurenda said, and said the state championship is a lot bigger than the WPIAL. Go get after it."
But making it to the state final has been a little surprising this year to Dzurenda.
"To be honest I didn't think we were built for the state playoffs this year Dzurenda said. I thought we were too young and too immature in certain spots in the field. I didn?Aot start believing until we beat Elk County Catholic and beat them handily."
Serra will start junior Alain Girman at pitcher. He is 23-0 in his career. But Girman will face a Reading Central Catholic team that has been on a fairy-tale ride through the playoffs. This is the final school year for Reading Central Catholic. It has closed and will merge with Holy Name to form Berks Catholic in the fall.
On top of that Reading Central Catholic's playoff run has been shocking. The team lost its first seven games and started 2-12. The Cardinals bring an 11-13 record in the final. It makes you wonder if there has ever been a team in the state finals with a record below .500.
Serra simply hopes it doesn't leave Penn State with a state championship record of .000.
PIAA Class AA Baseball Final
Riverside coach Ken Oliastro won his 500th game earlier this season. Friday he has a chance to win his third state title.
Riverside (19-5) plays Salisbury Township (20-6) in the Class AA championship at Penn State at 3:30 Friday here on the MSA Sports Network. Riverside has a chance to become only the sixth baseball team in Pennsylvania history to win three titles.
Salisbury Township is trying to win the first state championship in school history in any sport. Looking at the youth of Salisbury Township you could say it's a surprise they are here. The Falcons start three sophomores two freshmen and two juniors.
Freshman Brand Vangoli is batting .378 with 28 RBIs and Justin Aungst .330 with 20 RBIs.
Zach Harper will most likely be the starting pitcher but Salisbury Township coach Mike Pochron said he still hasn't decided on whether to start Harper or Aungst.
Riverside will go with Pollio who has a 3-1 record and was the winning pitcher in the WPIAL title game a few weeks ago. He missed part of the season with a knee injury. Rob Hardy is 8-0 but pitched in the semifinals Monday.
PIAA Class AAA Softball Final
Valley is the only WPIAL softball team to make it to a PIAA championship. The Vikings play in the Class AAA final against Manheim Central Friday at 5 p.m. at Penn State and here on MSA Sports.
Valley is led by senior pitcher Caitlin Nealer. Two of her three PIAA playoff wins have been by 1-0 scores. Manheim Central will counter with senior Alexa Campbell who is an IUP recruit.
"We've played excellent defense and our pitching has been strong all year said Manheim Township coach Steve Ginder. But we were 3-3 at one point this season. We were making a lot of errors early in the season. One game we had eight errors. We just weren't playing well defensively but we've turned things around."
Manheim Central is an extremely young team. Only two seniors are in the starting lineup. Six sophomores start.
First Time at Penn State
This is the first time the baseball and softball championships are at Penn State. The baseball games are played at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park which is the home of the Pirates' Class A affiliate.
The softball games are at Nittany Lion Softball Park. This is a new stadium that just opened this spring.
Big 33 Saturday
The Big 33 high school football all-star game is Saturday in Hershey. The game pits Pennsylvania against Ohio.
Thirteen players from the WPIAL are on the Pennsylvania team and four are from Woodland Hills. They are running back-defensive back Lafayette Pitts linebacker Ejuan Price defensive end Quinton Jefferson and offensive lineman Julian Turner.
Clairton and North Allegheny both have two players in the game. Clairton's are defensive end Desimon Green and defensive back Josh Page. North Allegheny?Aos are linemen Justin Haser and Vince Czerniewski.
The other WPIAL players on the Pennsylvania team are Mount Lebanon lineman Vince Czerniewski Beaver Falls linebacker Devin Cook McKeesport lineman Delvon Simmons Gateway receiver Armstead Williams and Thomas Jefferson kicker Mike Wainauskis.
Price Wants Out
Woodland Hills' Price signed with Ohio State in February but last month he requested a release from his letter of intent. Woodland Hills coach George Novak said Price wanted a release because he didn't feel comfortable with all the turmoil surrounding Ohio State's program recently. When Price chose Ohio State his other finalist was Iowa.
He is the second WPIAL player to request a release from his letter of intent. McKeesport's Simmons signed with North Carolina but requested a release a few weeks later. The Tar Heels granted a release and Simmons signed with Texas Tech.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic quarterback Perry Hills has made a verbal commitment to the University of Maryland. Hills made the decision last Saturday shortly after Maryland offered him a scholarship. Hills attended a camp at Maryland last Saturday.
Hills was recruited by former Pitt assistant Greg Gattuso who played high school football at Seton-LaSalle.
"Coach Gattuso came in earlier this year and a week after that [Maryland's] quarterbacks coach came to see me Hills said. He was filming me with his Ipad. They told me I was in their top five prospects for quarterback and they told me to come to their camp."
That's where Maryland decided to offer Hills.
He is the third WPIAL player in the class of 2012 to make a verbal commitment. South Allegheny lineman Jesse James chose Penn State and Upper St. Clair lineman Ian Park chose Northwestern.