Trib HSSN’s 2023 Baseball Player and Coach of the Year for each classification

Sunday, June 25, 2023 | 10:43 AM

This spring, those sitting at head of the baseball class had a chance to see a lot of unexpected title runs and in one case, perfection.

Two teams showed April baseball means nothing as both Mt. Lebanon and Hopewell rose from the ashes of bad starts to win district titles in 6A and 4A, respectively. Bishop Canevin won Class A gold without a senior in its starting lineup, and two teams won double championships as Shaler in 5A and Riverside in 3A captured district and state crowns.

The Panthers became the first WPIAL team to win a PIAA title with an undefeated record, finishing their golden season at 25-0.

Trib HSSN salutes all the players and coaches for their work on the baseball diamond this spring, however these players and coaches receive a special gold star on the forehead, a tip of the cap and a seat up front as they are at the head of the class in 2023.

Class 6A

Player of the year: David Shields, Mt. Lebanon

At the plate, Mt. Lebanon sophomore David Shields batted a respectable .338 with three doubles, a home run and 14 walks in 77 at-bats, with seven RBIs and 13 runs scored. But while Shields got respect at the plate, he drew fear form opponents on the mound. In 67 1/3 innings pitched, he allowed 32 hits and 16 walks while striking out 106. He finished with a 5-2 record and a 0.94 ERA. The highlight of the season was when the Miami commit no-hit North Allegheny in the WPIAL championship game.

Coach of the year: Patt McCloskey, Mt. Lebanon

It was the greatest turnaround in WPIAL baseball history orchestrated by Mister Mt. Lebanon baseball. Patt McCloskey won a WPIAL championship as a Blue Devils player under his father Ed in 1993, he was an assistant when Lebo won gold again in 2002, and now has three crowns as a head coach (2006, 2022, 2023) after winning gold in unique style. Mt. Lebanon started the season 0-3 in Section 2-6A and 0-8 overall before finishing with 16 wins in its last 19 games. The Blue Devils blanked North Allegheny in the district finals and reached Penn State before losing to Father Judge in the PIAA title game.

Class 5A

Player of the year: Miguel Hugas, Shaler

The senior dominated in his third season at Shaler and in the United States after moving with his cousin, former Titans and current Philadelphia Phillies prospect Bryan Rincon from Caracas, Venezuela. Hugas excelled on the mound, in center field and in the batter’s box. Hugas batted .444 with five home runs, 11 doubles, 19 walks and 34 RBIs. On the mound, the right hander was 11-0 in 78 innings with seven walks, 91 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.71. A candidate to be selected in next month’s MLB draft, Hugas is an Alabama commit.

Coach of the year: Brian Junker, Shaler

Shaler has had a rich baseball tradition started by the great Jerry Matulevic, who coached the Titans for 31 years before retiring in 2002 with 519 wins, three WPIAL championships and a PIAA title in 1980. Following seven years with Bob Hinds as head coach, Bryan Junker took over the program in 2010. He has now guided the Titans to a pair of WPIAL Class 5A championships in the last four seasons, and the team capped off a 23-4 campaign with a dramatic, come-from-behind 9-8 win over Strath Haven to capture a second PIAA crown.

Class 4A

Player of the year: Landon Fox, Hopewell

Much like Mt. Lebanon, two-time 3A finalist and 2021 district champion Hopewell was having a forgetful April. The Vikings quietly entered the district playoffs with an overall record of 8-11 and as the No. 14 seed in a 16-team field. Thanks in part to senior Landon Fox, Hopewell won WPIAL gold. Fox batted .321 with a .402 on-base percentage, .779 OPS and 17 RBIs. On the mound, he finished with a record of 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. Fox was the winning pitcher in the district first round, quarterfinals, championship game and state quarterfinals upset of top-ranked Cathedral Prep.

Coach of the year: Bill Thompson, Indiana

The 2023 season was starting to feel a lot like 2022 for the Indiana baseball team — a second-place finish with the hopes of a win or two in the playoffs. However, this Little Indians team wasn’t happy with one or two postseason victories; they reached the final four in the district playoffs and the elite eight in the state playoffs. Bill Thompson’s team rolled past Laurel Highlands and stunned No. 2 Blackhawk before falling to eventual WPIAL champion Hopewell in the semifinals, 7-5. In the PIAA postseason, Indiana surprised District 3 champion East Pennsboro before falling to eventual state champion Bellefonte in the state quarterfinals.

Class 3A

Player of the year: Mason Horwat, Avonworth

The senior first baseman and pitcher has helped Avonworth win 48 games the last three years, reach the WPIAL 3A semifinals three years in a row and earn a spot in the PIAA postseason this spring. Horwat batted .375 this season (24 for 64) with four doubles, two triples and four home runs, with 19 runs scored and 25 RBIs. He had a .461 on-base percentage and a .687 slugging percentage. He had a 5-0 record on the mound with a 0.93 ERA. Horwat is a Penn State commit.

Coach of the year: Dan Oliastro, Riverside

In 55 years as head coach at Riverside, Dan Oliastro has earned a lot of bling along with plenty of district and state silver and gold, but he has never witnessed perfection, until this spring. Riverside finished the regular season undefeated at 17-0 before beating Burrell, Freeport, East Allegheny and Neshannock for district gold for a sixth time, and Tyrone, Fairview, Punxsutawney and Camp Hill for the program’s fifth state crown. The 25-win season this spring leaves the legendary Oliastro four wins shy of 700 career victories.

Class 2A

Player of the year: Gio LoNero, Seton LaSalle

Seton LaSalle had a three-headed monster at the top of its lineup in senior Nate Georgiano, junior Gio LoNero and senior Brian Reed. While the three were a huge part of a district championship run for the Rebels, DiMaggio LoNero provided the loudest roar both at the plate and on the mound. LoNero batted .565 (39 for 69) with 10 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 30 runs scored and 31 RBIs with a .620 on-base percentage and a .971 slugging percentage. On the hill, he had a 0.43 ERA and was on the mound to close out the Rebels’ 2A title game win over Serra Catholic. LoNero is a North Alabama commit.

Coach of the year: Brad Bestic, Seton LaSalle

In his first season as head coach, Brad Bestic followed in the footsteps of Shawn Trainor and Mike Wagner in bringing diamond gold to Seton LaSalle. A recent baseball coach at Vincentian Academy, Knoch and St. Joseph, Bestic brought out the best in a Rebels team that only had one loss in the regular season, but had their 2022 campaign end with a quarterfinals loss to Neshannock. Seton LaSalle edged out New Brighton, South Side and OLSH to win the tough Section 2-2A crown before defeating Riverview, New Brighton and Serra Catholic to claim district gold.

Class A

Player of the year: Tyler Maddix, Bishop Canevin

The sophomore pitcher does not spell his last name the same as hall of fame pitcher Greg Maddux, but his numbers this season are similar to the former Cubs and Braves great. Tyler Maddix finished his season with an 8-1 record and a 1.58 ERA in 53 1/3 innings pitched. He walked 39, but struck out 123 batters. At the plate, Maddix batted .419 (26 for 62) with 10 extra base hits (six doubles, three triples and a home run) 21 runs scored and 21 RBIs.

Coach of the year: Bill Varley, Bishop Canevin

Bishop Canevin did not win its section championship this spring, coming in second place in Section 3-A, one game behind Eden Christian Academy. However, when the rubber pellets settled on the field turf at Wild Things Park, the Crusaders were raising gold for the first time since 2000 and for the third time in school history on the 30th anniversary of their first WPIAL baseball title in 1993. Bill Varley’s squad was young, with six juniors and four sophomores in the starting lineup as BC is set for success over the next few springs.

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