Scholastic Notebook – 03/30/2012

Friday, March 30, 2012 | 4:27 PM

The high school baseball season is young and maybe it still isn’t clear as to who are all the best teams are in each classification. But it is quite clear a team worth watching is in Class AAAA.

Mount Lebanon.

Through the first week of the season, Mount Lebanon just might be the biggest surprise. After all, the Blue Devils weren’t in the MSA Sports preseason top 10. They weren’t in the Post-Gazette top five, either.

But heading into Friday, Mount Lebanon had a 3-1 record and had knocked off some of the big boys, namely three teams in the MSA top 10. Mount Lebanon started the season last Friday with a 7-4 victory against No. 5 Pine-Richland. The Blue Devils beat No. 8 North Allegheny, 9-6, on Tuesday. Yesterday, they knocked off No. 1-ranked and defending WPIAL champion Seneca Valley, 10-9.

In between the Pine-Richland and North Allegheny games was a 10-4 loss to Chartiers Valley. But Chartiers Valley is the No. 2 Class AAA team.

Section play begins next week in the WPIAL. Watch out for Mount Lebanon.

Coaching News

Over the past two weeks, there has been a plethora of coaching news in the WPIAL, both in football and basketball. The biggest news came in basketball at Ambridge and Greensburg Salem, and in football at Mount Lebanon.

First, in football:

* Mount Lebanon hired Mike Melnyk as its new coach. Melnyk takes over for Chris Haering, who resigned to become a Pitt assistant. Melnyk comes to Mount Lebanon from Manheim Township in Eastern Pennsylvania (not to be confused with perennial power Manheim Central). At Manheim Township, Melnyk was 75-63 in 13 seasons and made the district playoffs six times. During his career at Manheim Township, he coached Pat Bostick, who went on to play quarterback at Pitt and is a now a broadcaster for Pitt games.
Two other coaches who were strong candidates for the Mount Lebanon job were North Hills defensive coordinator Pat Carey and North Allegheny defensive coordinator Doug Brinkley. But they and Mount Lebanon parted ways somewhere along the process.

* Fort Cherry has a football coach and for the first time it’s not a Garry. Jim Shiel was hired earlier this week. He has been the junior-high coach at the school, and he is a 1981 Fort Cherry graduate. Shiel takes over for Tim Garry, who resigned after nine seasons. For the first 44 years of the school’s existence, Tim’s father, Jim, was the Rangers’ coach.

* Valley hired Chris Walsh as its new football coach, taking over for Mark Kaczanowicz, who was not retained as coach. Walsh was a former assistant at Valley under Troy Hill. He also has been an assistant at Highlands and West Shamokin.

* Shaler and Trinity still have not filled their football coaching positions.

Now, onto basketball coaching news:

* A week ago, there was a significant hiring in WPIAL basketball as Ambridge tabbed Mark Jula as its coach. Jula coached in the WPIAL for a few decades and was closing in on 500 career wins a few years ago when he was Center’s coach. But when Center and Monaca merged to form Central Valley, the new school hired Brandon Ambrose as coach. Jula did not coach the past two seasons. Besides Center, Jula also has coached in the WPIAL at Moon, Butler and North Allegheny. He began his career with two stints in eastern Pennsylvania at Solanco and Boyertown. His all-time record is 467-303. Jula is a 1971 Ambridge graduate and takes over a program that was 5-37 the past two seasons under Joe Falletta.

* The heart of the Lions is leaving. Longtime Greensburg-Salem Lions coach Paul Sapotichne resigned earlier this week after 29 seasons with the Lions. He had a 399-306 record at Greensburg-Salem and also coached three years at Wilmington before coming to Greensburg Salem. His all-time record was 427-343.

* Al Campman has resigned as Ellwood City’s coach. Campman coached two seasons in his second stint at the school. He also coached the Wolverines from 1981-2001.

Philadelphia Influence

If you don’t think the addition of the Philadelphia Public and Catholic League schools has had a big effect on Pennsylvania basketball, just look at the results of the state championship games last weekend.

Of the eight champions, five were from the Philadelphia leagues. Archbishop Wood and Archbishop Carroll won girls titles while Constitution, Imhotep Charter and Neumann-Goretti won boys titles.

The Philly Public League schools joined the PIAA in 2004 and the Catholic League joined in 2008.

More for Cross-Country

There will be a third classification in boys and girls cross country this upcoming season. The WPIAL and PIAA has had only two classes in the sport. But there will a third starting next season. Last week, the PIAA passed, on a third and final reading basis, the addition of a third classification.

Where Are They Now?

* When Duquesne University shut down its baseball program two years ago, former West Allegheny player Rick Deveraux didn’t know where to turn. It’s safe to say, he found a comfortable new home. Deveraux, a senior, is in his second season playing at Pitt and this season he is the Panthers’ leading hitter with a .417 average. He has started all 22 games for the 11-11 Panthers and has eight doubles, one triple, four home runs and 31 RBIs.

* Also at Pitt, former North Allegheny pitcher Tanner Wilt has five saves. He has pitched in five games and has a 3.24 ERA. Wilt is a freshman.

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