WPIAL Class 6A baseball preseason breakdown
By: Don Rebel
Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 9:56 PM
Baseball teams in WPIAL Class 6A in 2018 could not deal with the Big Mac attack.
Canon-McMillan used an outstanding one-two punch of pitchers Zach Rohaely and Cam Weston to win not only the school’s first WPIAL championship, but also PIAA gold.
However, Rohaley has graduated and there are plenty of standout players returning for other teams, thus opening up the Class 6A chase for a championship between 19 district teams.
Here is a look at the new district alignment, along with the baseball teams and players to watch in the WPIAL’s largest classification in 2019:
Preseason Top 5
Team (2018 record)
1. Canon-McMillan (21-5) — Can the Big Macs follow up on their golden season last year with another title run? The return of Cam Weston is a good start as the Michigan recruit will take over the top spot in the rotation. Two other returning seniors who played a big part of the championship runs a year ago are shortstop Cam Walker (St. Joseph) and catcher Brandon Rea (Gannon).
2. Pine-Richland (14-7) — The 2017 champs finished second in Section 1 and lost in the district quarterfinals. Coach Kurt Wolfe returns a handful of Division I players, along with two of the Rams top three starters from a year ago in Matt Schietroma and Tommy Beam. Also back are catcher Matt Wood (Penn State), Troy LaNeve (Vanderbilt), shortstop J.D. Armstrong (High Point) and outfielders Josh Johnson (Kent State) and Wesley Bird.
3. Bethel Park (17-4) — The Black Hawks swept Canon-McMillan in the regular season on their way to winning the Section 2 title, but Bethel Park lost in the WPIAL quarterfinals to North Allegheny. Bethel Park returns six starters, including a pair of junior first-team all-section selections in third baseman Kevin Kogler and center fielder Sean McGowan, along with second-team honorees sophomore pitcher Eric Chalus and junior catcher Brandon Cole. Two big holes to fill on the mound were left by the graduation of Justin Meis and Corey Fischer.
4. Seneca Valley (9-11) — Last year was a rare miss of the playoffs for Eric Semega and his Raiders, who have won three WPIAL championships in the last eight years. Seneca Valley has its two top starting pitchers returning in Cory Greiner and Jon McCullough, to go along with the return of catcher Cam Vozel, shortstop Mark Trotta, first baseman Gabe Lawson, outfielder Josh McLean and designated hitter Drew Robertson.
5. Hempfield (16-6) — Hempfield won the Section 2 title last year and ousted defending champion Pine-Richland in the quarterfinals before falling to North Allegheny, 6-4, in the WPIAL semifinals. Tim Buzzard looks to build on last season’s success with the return of a pair their top players from 2018 in senior outfielder Luke Hudson and senior infielder Tyler Dancu. Dancu and junior Tyler Wiederstein bring some experience to the mound.
Players to watch
Brandon Gelpi, Sr., OF, Central Catholic
Cory Greiner, Sr., P, OF, Seneca Valley
Anthony Hattrup, Sr., P, 2B, North Allegheny
Luke Hudson, Sr., OF, Hempfield
Bobby Lane, Sr., OF, Penn-Trafford
Troy LaNeve, Sr., 2B, Pine-Richland
Sean McGowan, Jr., OF, Bethel Park
Dax Ploskina, Sr., SS, Peters Township
Cam Weston, Sr., P, OF, Canon-McMillan
Matt Wood, Sr., C, Pine-Richland
• Class 6A has the same number of teams as last year with 19, however realignment moved Shaler and Penn Hills to 5A and brought Brashear and Latrobe up to 6A.
• With a three-way tie for third place in Section 3 last year, 13 of the 19 teams qualified for the WPIAL Class 6A postseason.
• Central Catholic won the Section 1-6A title a year ago, but only three starters return, including sophomore Ty Casiato who had a huge freshman season.
• Since City League teams started playing baseball in 2013, only one team has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs, Allderdice in 2015. The Dragons lost in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs to Fox Chapel, 7-3.
• The last time a team repeated as champion in the WPIAL’s largest classification was Seneca Valley winning back-to-back crowns in 2011 and ‘12.
Section 1: Allderdice, Butler, Central Catholic, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley
Section 2: Connellsville, Hempfield, Latrobe, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Plum
Section 3: Baldwin, Bethel Park, Brashear, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.