Springdale’s John Hughes again named Valley News Dispatch Baseball Player of Year

Saturday, June 22, 2024 | 7:23 PM

John Hughes had a season to remember at Springdale in 2023, winning the WPIAL batting title to go with 78 strikeouts on the mound.

His encore was almost identical.

Hughes backed up his junior season by hitting .558 this spring for the Dynamos with three homers, three doubles, two triples and 16 RBIs. His numbers on the mound were equally impressive with 79 strikeouts and a 2.14 ERA in 3913 innings.

And for the second consecutive season, Hughes is the Valley News Dispatch Baseball Player of the Year.

After the numbers he put up last year, Hughes knew a lot more eyes would be on him, but he stayed true to himself and performed once again.

“Going into the season I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I had high expectations for myself,” Hughes said. “On the mound pitching, I’m comfortable. I just stick to my stuff. There were a couple games where I got intentionally walked and struck out a couple times, so I was stressing a little bit, but it ended up being pretty good in the end.”

When Hughes says he struck out a couple times, that’s an almost literal interpretation.

He only struck out three times in 2024. In 107 plate appearances over the last two years, he’s had just three strikeouts after not striking out once his junior year. His batting average was top five in the WPIAL again.

It’s a testament to the work Hughes puts in on his off days. When he wasn’t playing in a game, he was in the batting cages.

“I hit every day,” Hughes said. “I take videos every time I hit to watch what I did in the games, so I knew what to tweak if something went wrong. I’m really into the fundamentals of hitting. In my mind you can hit any ball, it’s just the way you get to it.”

Aside from the personal goals, one of Hughes’ main goals for this season was to help Springdale get back to the postseason. The Dynamos accomplished that feat for the first time since 2017 when current coaches Dante Mahlmeister and Josh Lepich were playing for Springdale.

The Dynamos fell to Avella, 5-3, but it was a positive step for the program.

“We were really excited about making it,” Hughes said. “We had two really good freshmen; Andrew Redman and Luke Bransom help out tremendously. Redman on the mound and Bransom behind the plate. He’s a young catcher that is always looking to get better. That’s always a good thing to have.”

Hughes will play collegiately at Allegheny. He’ll follow in the footsteps of another former Dynamo great Joe Killian, who went on to be an All-American for the Gators.

“Academics was a big thing because I want to major in business, and they have a good business program,” Hughes said. “The coaches are great. They are great people, and so are the players there. The campus is beautiful. I have a couple buddies who went there, and they have a good opinion of it.”

He leaves Springdale, but the name John Hughes will be talked about around the baseball program for a long time. He hopes he left a good image for the current and future players.

“I want them to know that hard work pays off,” Hughes said. “I want to be remembered as a guy that you could smile around. I never wanted to be harsh-tempered with anyone.”

First-team all-stars

Ryan Cochran, Sr., OF/P, Deer Lakes

An Edinboro football commit, Cochran finished off a strong baseball career by hitting .470 with 10 extra-base hits, including four homers, and was named the Section 3-3A most valuable player. He was also the ace of the pitching staff, posting a 2.78 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 45 13 innings.

Tyler Danko, Sr., P/OF, Valley

Danko was a two-way performer for the Vikings, hitting over .400 on the season and was a part of the Vikings’ strong pitching staff, going 3-0 with a 1.58 ERA over 26 23 innings. He struck out 33 and allowed just 14 hits all season.

Eli DeVita, Jr., INF, Riverview

DeVita hit .508 this spring and drove in 23 runs. He had nine doubles, a pair of triples and a homer, which helped the Raiders achieve a playoff spot in Class 2A.

Jaden Floyd, Jr., UTIL/P, Leechburg

A two-way standout for the Blue Devils, Floyd hit .417 with eight doubles, a triple and had 18 RBIs. He struck out 28 hitters in 17 innings pitched and had a 2.47 ERA.

Jeremy Haigh, Jr., P/OF, Fox Chapel

The lefty Haigh provided quality again both on the mound and at the plate. He hit .410 with a pair of homers and 17 RBIs and pitched to a 1.26 ERA and 45 strikeouts.

Nicholas Heakins, So., INF/OF, Valley

Heakins followed up a fantastic freshman season by hitting north of .400 and belting a pair of homers. He was a first team all-Section 3-3A outfielder and helped the Vikings secure a section championship.

Isaac Lacinski, Jr., OF/P, Burrell

Lacinski hit .469 with five doubles, a pair of triples, drove in 24 runs and struck out only five times to help Burrell reach the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals and the PIAA playoffs. In 29 23 innings on the mound he sported a 3.54 ERA with 39 strikeouts.

AJ McLafferty, Sr., OF, Burrell

McLafferty hit .371 with a .480 on-base percentage, finishing with nearly as many walks (13) as strikeouts (14). The Saint Vincent recruit had four doubles, a triple, a homer and 15 RBIs.

Wesley Schrock, Sr., P/INF, Valley

Schrock was outstanding on the hill for the Vikings, pitching to a 4-2 record with a 1.76 ERA. In 43 23 innings pitched, he allowed only 24 hits and had 41 strikeouts to 18 walks, which helped him earn all-Section 3-3A honors.

Colin Watson, Sr., P/INF, Plum

A strong performer as a reliever last year, Watson moved into a starter’s role and put together a 6-1 record to help the Mustangs earn a four-way share of the Section 1-5A title. Watson was named to the Section 1-5A first team.

Second team all-stars

Jack Anderson, Sr., C, Plum

Ryan Bates, Jr., INF, Burrell

Ryan Claypool, Sr., OF, Freeport

Logan Cypher, Sr., OF, Knoch

Stevie Hasson, Jr., P, Burrell

Chase Henry, Jr., INF/P, Leechburg

Antonio LeDonne, Jr., INF, Fox Chapel

Jack Loughren, Sr., P/INF, Riverview

Erik Streussnig, Sr., P, Plum

Nate Witt, Sr., INF, Kiski Area

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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