Westmoreland baseball preview: Several new coaches in county dugouts

Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 9:36 PM

Lou Cortazzo was as shocked as anybody when Penn-Trafford athletic director Kerry Hetrick told him he was the new baseball coach.

He was named interim coach a month ago, and he is one of several new baseball skippers in Westmoreland County.

Cortazzo took over for Dan Miller, whose contract was not renewed. Miller spent eight seasons at Penn-Trafford, where he compiled an 88-52-1 record. The Warriors were WPIAL Class 6A runners-up in 2019, and they had made the playoffs the past six seasons.

The other new coaches include Craig Spisak, who moved to Norwin from Yough. Dan Palm is now the Yough coach, Anthony Manley takes over at Greensburg Salem, Tom Kelly takes the helm at Derry and John Boyle is at Greensburg Central Catholic.

“I’m excited to keep the program rolling,” Cortazzo said. “We return 10 starters, and I’m eager to see the program continue to grow.

“My immediate goal for the team is to win the section title. If we do that, then (the goal) will be to win a WPIAL title and eventually a PIAA title.”

Penn-Trafford (11-7) defeated Hampton, 5-4, in the first round of the playoffs but dropped a 6-5 decision to Peters Township in the quarterfinals.

Cortazzo said things have gone well since he took over.

He said the players are buying into what coaches are asking.

“They are working hard,” Cortazzo said. “I have no complaints how they’ve been working.”

The Warriors welcome back senior catcher Jakob Haynes, who missed last season while recovering from an injury. He’s committed to play college ball at Seton Hill.

But Cortazzo did get disappointing news when he learned senior shortstop Jake Otto will miss the season while recovering from a football injury.

Others back are junior center fielder Jason Sabol, senior first baseball Brady Lane, senior designated hitter Chuck Fontana, senior pitcher Nolan Marasti, senior pitcher Dylan Grabowski, junior catcher Ian Temple, junior outfielder Tyler Freas, senior infielder Peyton Bigler, junior pitcher Brandon Roher and junior outfielder Carmen Metcalfe.

The Warriors find themselves in a tough section along with Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Penn Hills and Plum.

At Norwin, Spisak replaced longtime coach Mike Liebdzinski, who resigned.

The Knights return four starters from a team that finished 10-9 and fell to Central Catholic, 5-2, in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

“I’m excited about the challenge,” Spisak said. “There is definitely a difference in Class 6A. I have to adjust to the quality of pitching and better hitters.

“The players at Norwin love the game, similar to the type of players I had at Yough. There are just more.”

Spisak will count on junior catcher Ty Cupp, senior first baseman Chris Slatt (Seton Hill commit), senior pitcher Ryan Orosz and senior outfielder Justin Weaver to lead the way.

Palm was an assistant with Spisak the past few seasons. He also was head coach at Albert Gallatin and Belle Vernon.

The Cougars (11-8) return numerous starters led by senior pitcher James Showman and senior shortstop Jack Sampson.

Manley replaced Bill Wisniewski, Boyle took over for Tom Appleby, Kelly for John Flickinger and Chory and Bill Matush switched schools with Matush taking over for Chory at Bentworth.

Teams to watch

Franklin Regional (11-6): Finished second to Latrobe in Class 5A, Section 1. The Panthers return senior infielder Anthony Alesi, junior infielder Max Bernadowski, junior designated hitter Owen Sinclair and senior outfielder Daniel Luke.

Sinclair was one of the key members from the Murrysville Junior Legion team that was state champion.

Latrobe (12-8): Dropped to Class 4A and will be in a tough section that includes Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold and Uniontown.

The Wildcats return four all-section players: infielder Logan Bradish, outfielder Erick Batista, designated hitter Anthony Massari and outfielder Jacob Cramer. They were upset by Thomas Jefferson in the opening round of the playoffs.

Hempfield (8-13): Hit hard by graduation. The Spartans qualified for the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs but dropped a 4-1 decision to Seneca Valley in the first round.

Veteran coach Tim Buzzard welcomes back from injury senior outfielder Gage Wheaton.

Also back are junior pitcher Jack Kurdziel, junior catcher Carson Shuglie, junior first baseman Adam Hess and junior infielder Caden Biondi.

Others to watch

Greensburg Salem (6-10): Dropped to Class 3A into a section with Brownsville, McGuffey, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, Waynesburg and Yough. Manley will count on pitchers Owen Tutich and Ethan Wilson to show leadership.

Belle Vernon (5-13): Returns numerous key players led by senior catcher Jake Wessel. The Leopards hope to be in the mix in a tough section.

Other key players include first baseman Tanner Steeber and outfielders Jake Gedekoh and Adam LaCarte.

Mt. Pleasant (9-8): Now in a section with Yough, which ended its season in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs in 2022.

The Vikings return 10 players including senior infielder/pitcher Lane Golkosky, sophomore pitcher Cole Chatfield and junior pitcher/infielder Luke Nicotera.

Southmoreland (7-9): Reached the playoffs but fell to Avonworth. The Scotties’ key returnees are junior shortstop/pitcher Ty Keffer and junior third baseman/pitcher Kadin Keefer.

Look for outfielder/pitcher Ty Campbell to be a key contributor.

Derry (11-7): reached the WPIAL playoffs only to fall to New Brighton, 2-1. Kelly was an assistant under Flickinger for four seasons.

The Trojans return senior outfielder Antonio Hauser, senior pitcher Ashton Beighley, junior pitcher Nate Papuga and junior pitcher/infielder Roman Fridley.

Ligonier Valley (9-11): The Rams hope the drop to Class 2A will pay dividends. They are in a section that includes Jeannette, Greensburg Central Catholic, Serra, Brentwood, Riverview and Apollo-Ridge.

Second-year coach Jason Bush will rely on senior pitcher/center fielder Haden Sierocky, senior pitcher/infielder Broderick Schreyer and senior pitcher/infielder Noah Lawson to lead the way.

Greensburg Central Catholic (9-8): The Centurions and Boyle welcome back a healthy Max Kallok. The senior battled an injury last season that limited him to hitting. Boyle was an assistant the past couple of seasons.

His son, Wade Boyle, a senior center fielder, is among six returning starters. Senior pitcher Mike McCready is back along with infielder Tyree Turner.

GCC is moving up to Class 2A.

Jeannette (3-10): Looking at a bright future as coach Marcus Clarkson welcomed 17 players including 11 promising freshmen.

Clarkson said he will rely on four juniors — pitcher Michael Mason, third baseman Gavin Holemeyer, pitcher/infielder Braden Luttner and first baseman Nick Rattigan — to lead the way.

Monessen (2-15): Looking to make improvements after a challenging season.

The Greyhounds are counting on infielders Dante DeFelices and Ben Speicher to provide leadership.

Players to Watch

Anthony Alesi, Franklin Regional, Sr., INF

Erick Batista, Latrobe, Sr., OF

Wade Boyle, Greensburg Central Catholic, Sr., CF

Logan Bradish, Latrobe, Sr. INF

Cole Chatfield, Mt. Pleasant, So., P

Dante DeFelices, Monessen, Sr., SS/P

Lane Golkosky, Mt. Pleasant, Sr., OF

Antonio Hauser, Derry Area, Sr., CF

Jakob Haynes, Penn-Trafford, Sr/, C

Max Kallok, Greensburg Central Catholic, Sr., SS

Kadin Keefer, Southmoreland, Jr., 3B/P

Ty Keffer, Southmoreland, Jr., P/SS

Michael Mason, Jeannette, Jr., P

Ryan Orosz, Norwin, Sr., P

Jason Sabol, Penn-Trafford, Jr., CF

Jack Sampson, Yough, Sr., C/SS

Haden Sierocky, Ligonier Valley, Sr., P/CF

Owen Sinclair, Franklin Regional, Jr., 1B

James Showman, Yough, Sr., P

Carson Shuglie, Hempfield, Jr., C

Chris Slatt, Norwin, Sr., INF

Owen Tutich, Greensburg Salem, Sr., P

Jake Wessel, Belle Vernon, Sr., C

Ethan Wilson, Greensburg Salem, Sr., P/OF

Gage Wheaton, Hempfield, Sr., OF

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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