2015 Season Preview: PIAA District VII (Class A)



By Jacob Gill
Philadelphia Region Director of Scouting

Back to the western side of the state we go for installment number eight of our district preview articles, the main component of our season preview content, which will run for three weeks up to the first official competition date for PIAA schools on March 20. Each article includes a list of top prospects from amongst the cohort of schools; for example, today is a top seven in District VII (class A). Each article also contains write-ups of a number of teams in the cohort.

We have received inquiries regarding how we decide which teams to detail. A team having or not having its own paragraph in the article is less an indication of what type of season we expect it to have and more a function of how much information we are able to compile. For example, if we have not seen a team in person (there are over 600 baseball-playing high schools in the state), stats are not available on-line, and a school district spam filter gobbled up our e-mails to the coach that contained the questionnaire, we might not have enough information to write a full paragraph on that school.

To view all district previews as they are released, please visit our District Previews 2015 page.

PIAA District VII Class A Top Prospects

Collin Liberatore1. Collin Liberatore, 2015, RHP, Greensburg Central Catholic (Campbell) ==>
2. Aaron Previsky, 2015, OF, California Area (Seton Hill)
3. Jay Cortese, 2015, RHP/OF, Vincentian Academy
4. Christian Fedko, 2017, IF, Vincentian Academy
5. Tommy Pellis, 2016 IF, Greensburg Central Catholic (Penn)
6. Cole McCombs, 2017, LHP, Serra Catholic
7. Louden Conte, 2016, IF/RHP, California Area

Class A

Section 1
Aaron PreviskyIn the ultimate stomach-punch to end a season, at-the-time undefeated California Area dropped a 2-1 decision to Cranberry Area (and its highly-ranked ace pitcher) in the first round of the state tournament. Conte (.503 AVG, 14 SB) and Previsky (.467 AVG, 17 SB; right) return from all-section campaigns to spark an offense that will also get contributions from junior outfielder Casey Zajicek (.340 AVG). Coach Nick Damico will turn to senior RHP Garitt Woodburn and sophomore Nathaniel Luketich to front the pitching staff, as the Trojans make a push for their fourth straight state tournament appearance.

If Carmichaels Area is going to get over the hump with Cal this spring (three of the Mighty Mikes four losses last season came against the Trojans), it will have to reload a roster that graduated two-thirds of its line-up and 83% of its innings. Senior all-section catcher Mike Blasinsky (.424 AVG, .521 OBP, 8 BB vs 6 K, 13 SB), sophomore OF/1B Joel Spishock (.375 AVG, .490 OBP), and junior third baseman Billy Bowlen (.303 AVG, .467 OBP) are the offensive holdovers, while Bowlen (15.2 IP, 22 H, 13 BB, 13 K) is the only returning pitcher to log more than three innings last spring.

Following the graduation of six seniors, Jefferson-Morgan coach John Curtis will turn to senior P/IF Austin Clark, junior third baseman Jake Bissett, and sophomore P/OF Gage Clark to lead the way for his Rockets.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Bentworth - none [reclassified from AA-Sec 2]
Mapletown - none
West Greene - none

Section 2
Tommy PellisGreensburg Central Catholic reclassified from AA section 4 and could make some noise this year with the return of its entire starting rotation. All-section honoree Liberatore (19.1 IP, 16 H, 10 BB, 28 K), who missed almost the entire month of April last year with a broken wrist, is a sleeper for this year's MLB First-Year Player Draft. He will team with sophomore RHP Neil McDermott (28.1 IP, 21 H, 15 BB, 38 K) and senior RHP Cole Reese (31.1 IP, 37 H, 13 BB, 21 K) atop the Centurions staff. The offense is in good shape as well, with seven regulars back, led by all-section Pellis (.404 AVG, .478 OBP, 9 BB vs 7 K; right), Washington & Jefferson-bound outfielder Cole Reese (.449 AVG, .554 OBP, 12 BB vs 5 K, 12 SB), and Liberatore (.348 AVG, .545 OBP, 9 BB vs 3 K, .608 SLG). Junior LHP J.P. Pellis, junior catcher Zack Skatell, sophomore second baseman Jack Liberatore, and junior infielder Kyle Stack could push coach Anthony Manley for playing time as well.

Serra Catholic returns virtually the entire roster from its 2014 section championship team, as the Eagles attempt to return to the state tournament for the first time since their 2011 state title. Sustained success could be in the offing, as sophomore all-section LHP Cole McCombs and sophomore RHP Neil Hartnett logged the majority of varsity innings as rookies last spring. Senior RHP Zach Quattrone provides a veteran presence at the back end of games. Senior catcher Parker Janosko, who hit .402 on his way to all-section honors, and junior outfielder Noah Kinser (.313 AVG, 23 SB) will drive coach Brian Dzurenda's offense.

Josh KucmeroskiOther schools and returning all-section players
Clairton - none
Geibel Catholic - none
Jeannette - senior IF Zack Altieri, senior P Tony Mash [reclassified from AA-Sec 4]
Monessen - senior IF Josh Kucmeroski (right)

Section 3
Coming off a third place finish in the WPIAL tournament, Sewickley Academy which realigned from section 5 this year, welcomes back its top two starting pitchers: senior all-section honoree Joe Nagel (39.2 IP, 44 H, 16 BB, 35 K) and senior Drew Johnson (34.1 IP, 36 H, 14 BB, 37 K). Joe Nagel (.389 AVG, .492 OBP, 9 BB vs 6 K), senior John Nagel (.327 AVG, .410 OBP), and Johnson (.344 AVG, .432 OBP) will power the Panthers offense, along with sophomore Derrick Littlefield, who showed quality plate discipline (7 BB vs 4 K) for coach Andrew Heck as the everyday catcher in his rookie campaign.

Cody AconFive line-up regulars graduated off a Western Beaver squad that went undefeated in section play last season. Two senior all-section selections -- catcher Austin Allison and outfielder Hunter Roknich -- will by joined by senior infielder John Petrosky and senior first baseman Cody Acon (right) to power an offense that may have to carry a Golden Beavers team that graduated the majority of its innings. Coach Chad Miller will turn to an older, but inexperienced, group to rebuild his pitching staff, led by RHP Acon and junior RHP Adam Brozich.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Aliquippa - none
Quigley Catholic - junior C Tanner Ambrose, senior SS Jakob Shuster
Rochester Area - senior 3B Brandon Hopkins, senior OF Chaz Verrico
Union Area - junior OF Anthony Bertolino

Section 4
Saint Joseph expects to have a deeper pitching staff this spring than in years past, with coach Joseph Luciana III able to call on senior LHP Jake Stearns, junior LHP Ethan Swierczewski, freshman RHP Brody Cowan, and sophomore RHP Jordan Van Thiel for innings. Shortstop Cowan, first baseman Swierczewski, and junior infielder Brandon O'Hara will join senior utility Nick Pleva and first baseman Stearns as the Spartans offense looks to replace the production of seven graduated seniors.

Senior RHP Michael Banachoski, also the starting catcher, threw limited innings last year for Springdale, but his mound work should increase this spring, as he joins junior RHP Alex Pane (23 IP, 20 K) and senior RHP Austin Kline (13 IP, 13 K) on the Dynamos staff. Those three will team with senior all-region outfielder Adam Lock (.376 AVG, 13 XBH) and junior OF/C Zach Simcic (.346 AVG) to power the offense.

Jay CorteseVincentian Academy returns a deep and balanced pitching staff that boasts a better than 2.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio from last season. Senior RHP Jay Cortese (33 IP, 23 H, 14 BB, 48 K; right), senior LHP Ian Taylor (30.1 IP, 25 H, 14 BB, 28 K), junior LHP Mark Cyterski (19 IP, 22 H, 2 BB, 18 K), and junior RHP Nick Kempa (10 IP, 9 H, 5 BB, 7 K) will all be viable options for coach Paul Quarantillo. Taylor (.415 AVG, 6 BB vs 3 K) and Cortese (.367 AVG, .474 OBP, 10 XBH), both all-section 5 as outfielders, join all-section Fedko (.548 AVG, 11 BB vs 4 K, .739 SLG) as primary run-producers in a Royals offense that returns seven regulars.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic - senior IF Jake Matschner, senior P Nick Tunstall
Leechburg Area - none
Riverview - none

Section 5
Senior Giovanni DeMarzo (.543 AVG, 10 XBH, 7 SB) and junior Sam Smallhoover (.393 AVG, .564 OBP, 11 BB vs 4 K), both all-section 2 outfielders, are the leaders of a solid returning offensive core for Bishop Canevin. Senior all-section RHP Mitch Taufer (27.2 IP, 21 H, 6 BB, 39 K) will front coach Dale Checketts' pitching staff, with Smallhoover (11 IP, 4 H, 7 BB, 12 K), junior RHP/3B Justin Dix (14 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 14 K), and sophomore RHP Tyler Lampus (7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K) all slated for larger roles.

While Cornell may still be a few years away from competing for a section title, with less than a handful of junior and seniors on a team, a large group of underclassmen will continue to gain valuable experience this season. Senior RHP/IF Noah Blackstone, junior RHP/OF Derek Dillard, and sophomore RHP/1B Billy Welsh are the primary returning contributors for coach Kevin Quigley, who may call on freshman P/IF Stefan Blackstone to step up his rookie year.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart senior all-section RHP Santino Platt (47 IP, 48 K) will front a Chargers rotation that could also feature sophomore RHPs Dylan Osheka (27.1 IP, 27 K) and Tyler Talerico. Platt (.379 AVG, .550 OB) also sparks coach Phil McCarren's offense, along with senior second baseman Nate Marko (.354 AVG), junior OF/1B Mike Roussey, and infielder Osheka (.357 AVG). Sophomore 1B/RHP Kiefer Bishop (.338 AVG, .538 SLG) could add mid-season reinforcements to the line-up and pitching staff once he returns from a pre-season ankle injury.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Avella Area - senior 3B Santino Paris [realigned from Sec 1]
Brentwood - none [reclassified from AA-Sec 1]
Eden Christian - none [realigned from Sec 4]

Season Preview Schedule

2/27 - PAISAA
2/27 - District V
2/28 - District IX
3/1 - District VI
3/2 - District IV
3/3 - District X
3/4 - District III (Class A & AA)
3/5 - District VII (Class A)
3/6 - District VII (Class AA)
3/7 - District II
3/8 - District XI
3/9 - District I (Class A, AA, AAA)
3/10 - District III (Class AAA)
3/11 - District VII (Class AAA)
3/12 - District I (Class AAAA)
3/13 - District III (Class AAAA)
3/14 - District VII (Class AAAA)
3/15 - District XII