WPIAL Class 2A baseball preseason breakdown
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | 7:52 PM
The largest classification numbers-wise in WPIAL baseball has grown out of its three-section shell.
For the first time since the expansion to six classifications three years ago, the district has a four-section class, Class 2A.
Twenty-four teams a year ago is now 27 teams, thus the addition of a fourth section.
It’s not just quantity, its quality too as seven teams in the classification reached the Final Four in their class a year ago.
While last year’s WPIAL Class 2A champion, North Catholic, has moved up to 3A, a straight up trade was in play as 2018 Class 3A champion Brownsville dropped to Class 2A.
Here is a look at the new district alignment, along with the baseball teams and players to watch in Class 2A.
Preseason Top 5
Team (2018 record)
1. Avonworth (16-6) — The Antelopes were a finalist a year ago in Class 3A and now move down to 2A with their entire pitching staff and nearly their entire lineup back. Senior Turner Grau was first-team all-section last year as both a pitcher and a shortstop. He was 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA during the regular season while hitting .404. Seniors Ryan Felter, Jack Reed and Danny Manko are back on the hill and at the plate for Avonworth, along with juniors Jax Miller, Park Penrod. Seniors Jacob Gustic, Timmy Stewart and Jake Sommers make for a loaded lineup for the ‘Lopes.
2. Shenango (14-9) — After finishing tied for third place in tough Section 2-2A, Shenango enjoyed a nice postseason run with victories over Bishop Canevin and Carmichaels before losing to Serra Catholic in the semifinals and Neshannock in the consolation game. Senior Ryan Perretti was a first-team all-section player a year ago with a .435 batting average and a 2.93 ERA, along with senior catcher Anthony Ryan. Sophomore Marcus Fuller returns after picking up three wins his freshman year. Junior Bill Fry, senior Brock Keyser and sophomore Shane Cato all are back after big years at the plate in 2018.
3. Laurel (12-6) — The Spartans finished tied for third place with Shenango behind North Catholic and Neshannock a year ago, and they have a nice one-two punch in the rotation returning. Both righty Will Shaefer and lefty Robert Herr are juniors who enjoyed success a year ago. Senior Matt Mincher, junior Parker Giddings and sophomore Landin Esposito also are back for Laurel. The Spartans reached the quarterfinals of the WPIAL playoffs last season, their first postseason trip since 2013.
4. Serra Catholic (18-3) — Since expansion to six classifications, Serra Catholic has been the top seed in the Class 2A playoffs the two previous seasons. Last year, the Eagles fell to North Catholic, 5-2, in the Class 2A finals. One of the top players in the district is Serra catcher Mark Black, who committed to St John’s and has been named a College Baseball Magazine All-American. He is projected as a top 10 draft pick next summer. Senior Patrick Brennan returns at shortstop for the Eagles, while junior Alex Glumac will lead the pitching staff and also play second base for Brian Dzurenda’s squad.
5. Neshannock (19-5) — The Lancers won their first WPIAL baseball championship 28 years ago and have added on five additional crowns. Mike Kirkwood always has the Lancers in the mix and this season should be no different with Gerald Taylor and Chris Bouye leading the offense. Senior Rob Fundoots, junior Matt Dubois and sophomore Gavin Wooley all saw time on the hill last year for a Neshannock team that reached the district semifinals and once again qualified for the state playoffs.
Players to watch
Matt Barrish, Sr., OF/P, Carmichaels
Mark Black, Jr., C, Serra Catholic
Turner Grau, Sr., SS/P, Avonworth
Seth Howard, Sr., OF/P, Jeannette
Ryan Perretti, Sr., OF/P, Shenango
Jimmy Sadler, Jr., IF, Chartiers-Houston
Will Shaffer, Jr., P, Laurel
Drew Speicher, Sr., C, Riverside
Gerald Taylor, Sr., IF, Neshannock
D.J. Zimcosky, Sr., C, Brownsville
• Class 2A increased by five teams with realignment growing from 24 to 27 teams. The many changes include Riverside, Avonworth, South Side, Mohawk, Brownsville and Seton LaSalle dropping from 3A. Beth-Center, North Catholic, and Freedom moved up to 3A. California, Aliquippa and Bishop Canevin moved down to Class A while Jeannette, Western Beaver and Sewickley Academy moved up from A.
• By far, the deepest class and the toughest to rank coming into the season, with good teams just missing the cut on the Top 5 include defending Class 3A champ Brownsville, Carmichaels, Riverside, PIAA 3A runner-up South Side, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and a loaded young team in Seton LaSalle.
• Since the return of the baseball program at Sto-Rox in 2016, the Vikings have struggled with a 4-38 combined record in three years, including a winless 0-14 campaign a year ago.
• The 12 Class 2A playoff teams from 2018 were almost the same group from 2017 with three exceptions. Bentworth, OLSH and Freedom made the playoffs in 2017, but were bumped from the 2018 postseason field by Fort Cherry, Laurel and Shenango.
• This season marks 40 years of WPIAL Class AA baseball with Freeport winning the crown in 1979, Center in 1989, Waynesburg in 1999 and Shady Side Academy in 2009. Only three schools have repeated as Class AA champs: Ford City (1987-88), Center (1989-90) and Washington (1997-98).
Section 1: Bentworth, Brownsville, Burgettstown, Carmichaels, Chartiers-Houston, Frazier, Fort Cherry
Section 2: Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, Riverside, Shenango, South Side, Western Beaver
Section 3: Apollo-Ridge, Brentwood, Jeannette, Riverview, Serra Catholic, Seton LaSalle
Section 4: Avonworth, Carlynton, Northgate, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Sewickley Academy, Sto-Rox, Summit Academy
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.