Scholastic Notebook – 05/22/2015

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Friday, May 22, 2015 | 11:32 PM


Neshannock High School’s baseball team has made it to the WPIAL Class AA championship game. It’s another chapter in one of the most successful coaching stories in the WPIAL.

You might not think of Mike Kirkwood as one of the elite coaches in the WPIAL. Maybe because Neshannock is on the edge of the WPIAL and doesn’t get a ton of publicity in the Pittsburgh area, the heart of the WPIAL.

But consider this: Kirkwood has won four WPIAL championships. No other active coach has four WPIAL titles. And next Tuesday, Kirkwood will go after one for the thumb when Neshannock plays Quaker Valley for the WPIAL Class AA championship.

Making it to the title game this year is impressive for Kirkwood. The Lancers had competed in Class A, but moved up to Class AA in 2013.

Kirkwood is a graduate of New Castle High School and played at Geneva College. He was hired as Neshannock’s coach in 1987. Four years later, he guided Neshannock to its first WPIAL title.

In 1998, Kirkwood took the coaching job at New Castle. While at New Castle, Neshannock won a WPIAL title in 2002 under Gene Currie.

Kirkwood stayed at New Castle until coming back to Neshannock in 2004. In his first year back, he won his second WPIAL and also won a PIAA title that year.

Kirkwood won back-to-back WPIAL championships in 2011 and 2012. Could it be time for title five?

New Faces

The four WPIAL baseball championships are Tuesday and Wednesday, and three of the eight teams have never won a championship – Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Knoch and Greensburg Central Catholic.

Knoch has never made it to a WPIAL final, although the school didn’t have a baseball program until 1990. Central Catholic and Greensburg Central Catholic joined the WPIAL in the mid 1970s. Central Catholic has made the title game only once (1979) while Greensburg Central Catholic has lost in a title game three times – 1999, 2002 and 2006.

Two other finalists have won only one championship – Norwin and Quaker Valley. Norwin, which will play Central Catholic in the AAAA final, won a WPIAL title in 1960 when it beat Aliquippa, 1-0.

Quaker Valley’s only championship came in 1984.

Coach’s Son Out

It’s been a great ride for Pittsburgh Central Catholic coach Frank LaCava. In his seventh year as head coach, LaCava has guided the Vikings to the WPIAL final for the first time since Dan Marino’s senior year of 1979. But the downside to the story for LaCava is his son won’t be able to play in the title game.

Nick LaCava is Central Catholic’s starting second baseman. But in the semifinals Wednesday against Shaler, the home plate umpire tossed Nick LaCava from the game in the ninth inning. LaCava said something to the umpire after striking out in the ninth.

Under PIAA and WPIAL rules, an athlete thrown out of a game can’t play in the next game. So Nick LaCava will have to watch the Vikings play Norwin in the Class AAAA final Wednesday.

Perfect Storm at Mohawk

The Mohawk girls softball team is certainly one for the ages at the school.

Mohawk has made it to a WPIAL softball championship for the first time in school history. It will play Deer Lakes for the Class AA title Thursday. Deer Lakes, on the other hand, is in the title game for the fourth consecutive year.

Making it to the final is one thing, but also consider that Mohawk is undefeated. The Indians are 16-0 and have been impressive offensively. In the playoffs, they have won games by scores of 15-5, 5-1 and 6-1.

The leader of the team is undoubtedly Tristan Voss. She has a 16-0 pitching record with 89 strikeouts, but also has six home runs and 44 RBIs.

PIAA Matters

There is still a possibility that high school football in Pennsylvania will go to six classifications in 2016. But the idea is moving along at a snail’s pace.

There was talk of the 6A idea at the PIAA board of directors meeting in March. Then eight proposals were put together. The PIAA board met again Wednesday in Harrisburg and the board could have voted to pass one proposal. Two more votes would be needed before going into effect in 2016.

But all the board did was pass all eight proposals on a first reading basis. The board’s idea was for the 12 districts around the state to take a closer look at the proposals in the next two months.  

The PIAA strategic planning committee will now meet in July and decide on one proposal. That proposal will then go to the PIAA board of directors for a vote at the July meeting. That would be the second vote. One more vote would be needed in the fall.

There is one proposal that reportedly is getting the most support. It is termed the “Super 700.” Under the plan, 6A in football would have any schools with 700 or more boys in the top three grades. The remaining five classes would be made up of the rest of the schools in the state, split evenly among the five classes.

The only WPIAL schools that would be 6A under the PIAA “Super 700” plan are North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Butler.

The WPIAL is against the 6A idea. If the “Super 700” plan passed, it makes you wonder what the WPIAL would do with North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Butler for the playoffs.

In other noteworthy news from the PIAA front, the idea of the league going back to true East-West brackets in basketball is dead.

In recent years, there have not been true East-West brackets for boys and girls basketball. Some eastern teams play through the western side of the bracket. So you sometimes have teams driving 300 miles to play a quarterfinal or semifinal game.  Then there have been a number of instances where two teams from the east meet in the final.

The PIAA basketball steering committee had made a recommendation to the PIAA board that it go back to East-West brackets. But the PIAA  board ignored its own committee and voted down the plan.

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