WPIAL Class A baseball preseason breakdown
By: Don Rebel
Thursday, March 21, 2019 | 7:35 PM
In the world of Class A baseball in 2018, the Royals were kings.
After winning a state championship in 2016, Vincentian Academy captured its first WPIAL championship last May and then added a second PIAA crown in June.
Union tied Vincentian for the Section 1-A title, and then the Scotties lost the rubber game with the Royals in the district finals, 6-1.
Here is a look at the new district alignment, along with the baseball teams and players to watch in Class A:
Preseason Top 5
Team (2018 record)
1. Vincentian Academy (20-4) — While there are changes to the lineup for the defending WPIAL and PIAA champs, the cupboard is not bare. For the first time since 2013, the Royals will not have a Fedko on their roster as both Christian and Kyler graduated the last two years and are now teammates at UConn. However, five starters are back for Vincentian, including senior shortstop/pitcher Danny Morgano, senior catcher Jake Stotsky, senior first baseman Nate Stover, junior center fielder Jared Katz and junior Sam Basso, who can play just about anywhere on the diamond.
2. Union (14-5) — A memorable 2018 season in which the Scotties won a share of the Section 1-A title and knocked off Monessen and perennial power Greensburg Central Catholic in the WPIAL playoffs, ended with back-to-back losses in the finals to Vincentian Academy and in the first round of the state playoffs to Homer-Center. Union has seven starters returning and most are still juniors. They are led by first-team all-section players in senior outfielder Seth Pinkerton and junior second baseman Tyler Benedict. Also back are five juniors, including outfielders Vince Fuleno and Brayden Porter, shortstop Nathan Meeks, first baseman Sean Louis and third baseman/catcher Bryce Smith. Matt Costello is gone from the rotation, but seniors Rob King and Cam Brown will make a nice one-two punch.
3. Quigley Catholic (13-2) — In 2017, the Spartans enjoyed their first winning record in 13 years. They followed that up a year ago with a Section 3-A championship with a 13-1 record. However, Quigley Catholic was stunned in the WPIAL quarterfinal, losing 5-3 to Jeannette. Now, the Spartans look to follow up on their 2018 success with plenty of faces back, including a pair of sophomore pitchers in John Evans and Alex Tomsic. Others returning to the Spartans’ lineup include seniors D.J. Summers and Luke Evans, juniors Joe Lucci and J.T. Vukovcan and sophomore Nick Price.
4. California (9-8) — In the first year of the six-class expansion in 2017, California hoisted gold by winning the Class 2A championship. Last year, the Trojans finished in fourth place in Section 1-2A, and their postseason stay was short after a 14-8 first-round loss to Carlynton. Now, Cal is back in Class A where it won a WPIAL championship five years ago. This year’s Trojans team includes a couple of returning starters who enjoyed success as freshmen last spring in Payton Conte and Jacob Piktel. A pair of seniors lead the pitching staff as Jacob Swarta had four wins a year ago and Nathan Zemany had a win and averaged a strikeout per inning.
5. Greensburg Central Catholic (16-7) — For all the success the 2015 Class A champs had in 2018, they just couldn’t clear the Final Four hurdle. In the WPIAL playoffs after beating Eden Christian, Greensburg Central Catholic fell to Union in the semifinals. The Centurions won the Class A consolation game to earn a spot in the state playoffs and beat DuBois Central Catholic and Homer-Center before falling to eventual state champ Vincentian Academy in the state semifinals. After graduating four pitchers a year ago, now senior Joel Lonigro will head the staff while the Centurions welcome back junior Tom Voelker, junior Paul Rice and senior Bryce Kurpiel to their lineup.
Players to watch
Bryce Bedilion, So., OF, Jefferson-Morgan
Payton Conte, So., IF/P, California
Brian Deschon, So., OF/P, Bishop Canevin
John Evans, So., P, Quigley Catholic
Hayden Hoffman, Sr., P, Cornell
Kadin Mersing, Sr., 3B/P, Rochester
Danny Morgano, Sr., SS/P, Vincentian Academy
Ryan Perretti, Sr., OF/P, Shenango
Seth Pinkerton Sr., OF/P, Union
Paul Rice, Jr., C, Greensburg Central Catholic
• Class A holds steady with three sections of 20 total teams like the previous two years. The few changes include California, Aliquippa and Bishop Canevin dropping down to Class A, while Jeannette, Western Beaver and Sewickley Academy moved up to 2A.
• With no defending champion returning in Class 4A, 3A and 2A because of realignment, Class A bucks the trend and not only has its defending champion back, but three of the four semifinalists, as well.
• After snapping a 107-game losing streak the previous year, Aliquippa struggled again in 2018 with a winless 0-16 campaign. The Quips’ current skid is a modest 23 in a row. Meanwhile, after back-to-back winless seasons, Clairton had dropped 24 in a row. The Bears last diamond victory was a 12-8 win over Geibel Catholic in the final game of the 2016 season.
• Three of the four playoff teams in each section were returning teams in 2018 from the 2017 postseason. The exceptions were Leechburg replaced Springdale in Section 1 last spring, West Greene bumped Jefferson-Morgan in Section 2 and Cornell took the place of Western Beaver in the 2018 playoffs.
• This season marks 20 years of WPIAL Class A baseball. Four teams have won multiple Class A championships, including Neshannock with four and California, Carmichaels and Serra Catholic with three each. Western Beaver has been the Golden Beavers twice. The single winners are Vincentian Academy, Jeannette, Greensburg Central Catholic, Springdale and South Fayette.
Section 1: Aliquippa, Bishop Canevin, Cornell, Eden Christian, Quigley Catholic, Rochester, Union
Section 2: Avella, California, Geibel Catholic, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene
Section 3: Clairton, Greensburg Central Catholic, Leechburg, St. Joseph, Springdale, Vincentian Academy
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.