Top 10 Westmoreland County sports stories of 2021

Thursday, December 30, 2021 | 4:32 PM

They lined roads and highways to welcome their championship teams home, the night sky glowing red with the flashing lights of fire trucks.

Championship teams in football, wrestling, baseball, softball and other sports brought titles home to Westmoreland County.

They lined fairways at Oakmont to watch their local boy chase a title.

They waved one last time to their favorite coaches who walked off into the sunset.

And they mourned the loss of coaches who helped shape young lives.

Fans had a balance of exhilaration and heartbreak in what was another emotional year for local sports, the covid pandemic still lurking in the shadows.

Here are the top 10 stories from 2021:

10 — Franklin Regional wins WPIAL baseball title. Andrew Muraco singled home Luke Treloar in the seventh inning for a walk-off win as the Panthers celebrated their third baseball title, the last coming in 2001.

Coach Bobby Saddler: “This legitimizes everything that we worked for. To be a WPIAL champion, it’s something special and lets you know you’re an elite team.”

9 — Mt. Pleasant softball wins WPIAL, PIAA titles. Rallying from an early deficit, Mt. Pleasant defeated Mid Valley, 5-3, for the PIAA Class 3A title at Penn State. Courtney Poulich, Haylie Brunson and Katie Hutter each had two hits as the Vikings won their second state title in five years.

The team clubbed Ellwood City, 15-0, to win the WPIAL title. They had 16 hits, 12 of which went for extra bases and 10 of them doubles.

Poulich: “That last out when everyone came together (at Penn State), it felt amazing.”

8 — GCC girls golf wins 7th straight WPIAL title; P-T field hockey wins 6th straight WPIAL title. Greensburg Central Catholic’s girls golf dynasty continued as the Centurions topped second-place Central Valley by 49 strokes to claim their seventh straight title at Cedarbrook. Meghan Zambruno shot 72 to set the pace.

Penn-Trafford, meantime, won its sixth straight WPIAL Class 2A title in field hockey as standout sophomore Ava Hershberger scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over host Fox Chapel in pouring rain.

Zambruno: “It’s still special to us. We know we have to go out and have a good day. We can’t just show up.”

Penn-Trafford coach Cindy Dutt: “All of these girls have never known anything else than a championship season.”

7 — Pitzer wins states, commits to Pitt. Mt. Pleasant junior Dayton Pitzer came back from injury to win his second PIAA wrestling title, claiming a 2A championship at 215 pounds in Hershey. The blue-collar Pitzer, who finished 42-2, later committed to Pitt. He is 85-3 in his career with 62 pins.

Hempfield junior Briar Priest(132) and Franklin Regional junior Finn Solomon (138) also won state titles.

Pitzer: “Coming back from my injury last year definitely feels good.”

6 — Mark Goetz stroke play medalist U.S. Amateur. Greensburg’s Mark Goetz, a grad student at West Virginia, carded a 36-hole total of 8-under-par 132 to claim the top match-play seed at the 121st U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club. He shot a 2-under 68 at Oakmont to follow a 6-under 64 at Longue Vue Club, the other stroke-play course.

Goetz, who went to The Kiski School, was upset by Sweden’s David Nyfjall in the first round of match play.

Goetz: “I had a big Hannastown crowd following me. That was awesome. I could name most of those guys in that crowd.”

5 — Longtime coaches Kalp, Botta retire. One of the most successful coaches to come out of Westmoreland County, Hempfield’s Bob Kalp, stepped down at age 76. Kalp won seven WPIAL championships and four PIAA titles in his 25 seasons as head coach.

At nearby Franklin Regional, longtime football coach Greg Botta retired after 27 years on the sidelines. He finished with 177 wins, seven conference titles, 21 WPIAL playoff trips, a WPIAL championship and a PIAA title.

Kalp: “It’s bittersweet, but I’ll grow into it. I always said I was born to be a teacher, and softball was an extension of teaching.”

Botta: “People say you’ll know when it’s time. I want to see my family. I have a grandchild I’ve never met, and that hurts. People don’t realize how much we as coaches sacrifice.”

4 — Lee wins third national wrestling title, second Hodge Trophy. With a 7-0 victory in the finals, Iowa senior Spencer Lee, the former Franklin Regional stud, won his third NCAA Division I wrestling title at 125 pounds. Lee won 35 straight matches and admitted after the national finals that he had competed with a torn ACL.

Lee: “I went through a lot. It was definitely my toughest. It’s been a struggle.”

3 — Jeannette football decimated by transfers, wins one game year after WPIAL title; Hall resigns. A year unlike few that came before it, Jeannette had to overcome the loss of nine transfers. The Jayhawks, who have more wins than any school in WPIAL history and were coming off a WPIAL title and PIAA runner-up finish, had to basically rebuild from scratch, even recruiting band members to play and help fill out the roster.

The Jayhawks finished 1-9 and tied for last in the Class A Eastern Conference at 1-6.

Longtime coach Roy Hall announced before the season this would be his last year. He was on staff at Jeannette for 37 years. He had 116 wins, two WPIAL championships and a PIAA title.

Hall’s last game was at Clairton and the Bears honored him with a pregame ceremony, a respectful sendoff by the rival Bears.

He graduated from Jeannette in 1982 and was a member of the Jayhawks’ 1981 WPIAL championship team.

2 — GCC football coaches die a week apart; team plays on. Greensburg Central Catholic was overcome with sadness when two assistants died within five days of another, one of them while driving to the other’s funeral.

The unfathomable turn of events happened just as the team was preparing to begin the WPIAL playoffs.

Joseph Oslosky was killed in a vehicle accident the day before the playoff opener against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. He was 44. William “B.J.” Farrell, 41, died the previous Sunday at his home. The men coached the lines at GCC.

The Centurions decided to play the game, falling to OLSH, 28-8. On their opening series, only five linemen took the field for GCC and the team took a delay of game penalty, which OLSH declined.

GCC coach Marko Thomas: “I lost two of my best friends in a matter of days. They coached with me for a long time. It’s heartbreaking.”

1 — Penn-Trafford wins WPIAL and PIAA football titles. They’re calling home Harrison City of Champions these days. Penn-Trafford rocked a closely knit and title-starved community by winning its first WPIAL and PIAA championships in its 50th year as a school.

The team first celebrated a 24-21 win over Moon at Heinz Field to claim the WPIAL Class 5A title. Senior leader and Wisconsin commit Cade Yacamelli scored on a 92-yard pass from quarterback Carter Green and also ran for a 53-yard score as the Warriors rallied from a 14-3 deficit. Penn-Trafford had lost in three previous trips to the finals.

They weren’t done, though, as the Warriors doubled down with a PIAA title.

In Hershey, they turned back Philadelphia-area power Imhotep Charter, 17-14, in overtime to take states and finish 13-2.

A tight-end-to-tight-end trick play was the highlight as Conlan Greene flipped a jump pass to Jack Jollie for the tying score. Nathan Schlessinger then sent a 24-yard field goal through the uprights in overtime and the defense held for the win.

Yacamelli: “We had confidence from the start. We always have confidence. Everybody says we’re the underdog, and everyone said we’re going to lose. Guess what? We freaking win. That’s what we planned to do and that is what we did.”

Honorable mention

• Other notable deaths included legendary Laurel Valley football and baseball coach Jerry Page, former Norwin athletic director and coach Joe Pellis, longtime Hempfield track coach and historian Roger Sullenberger and Hempfield softball pitching coach Ralph Snyder.

Norwin’s Ty Bilinsky overcome several health issues, including a stroke and a blood disorder, to play basketball again.

• The Yough girls basketball team broke a 99-game losing streak.

• Local football players Quinton Martin of Belle Vernon and Brad Birch of Jeannette named MaxPreps Freshmen All-Americans. Birch, who picked up a scholarship offer from Oregon, later transferred to Gateway.

• Seton Hill had a big spring as the baseball team reached the NCAA Division II Tournament and the softball team made the PSAC finals for the first time.

Ligonier Valley softball pitcher Maddie Griffin was dominant in her first season in the WPIAL. She finished with 316 strikeouts, while throwing 11 no-hitters and four perfect games for the PIAA runner-up Rams.

• Lily Wasmund, the lone girl on the Southmoreland football team, scored a rushing touchdown in a 41-0 win over Derry.

• Penn-Trafford sophomore Nick Turowski won the WPIAL Class 3A golf championship. Leading up to the finals, he shot a 7-under-par 29 in a nine-hole match at Manor Valley.

• Eighth grader Erica Gribble of North Huntingdon, a fast-rising basketball talent, was offered a Division I scholarship from St. Joseph’s.

Greensburg Salem grad Brennan Marion, in his first year as wide receivers’ coach at Pitt, won an ACC title.

• Greensburg Central Catholic girls soccer coach Olivia Kruger returned 11 days after having a baby to help guide the Centurions to the PIAA championship game in Hershey.

• Franklin Regional soccer star Anthony DiFalco received his third All-American nod after a brilliant career. He later committed to Duquesne.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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