Prep Baseball Report

2015 Season Preview: PIAA District VII (Class AAAA)

By Jacob Gill
Philadelphia Region Director of Scouting

Our final stop of the western side of the state is for the penultimate installment of our district preview articles, the main component of our season preview content, which is running 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, as well as 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 AAAA Top Prospects

Jake JessellAlex KirilloffJordan FiedorMatt TarabekCorbin Kessler

Domenic DeRenzo1. Dominic DeRenzo, 2015, C, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Oklahoma)
2. Jake Jessell, 2016, C/RHP, Woodland Hills (Pitt)
3. Alex Kirilloff, 2016, 1B/LHP, Plum (Liberty)
4. Jon Dignazio, 2016, LHP, North Allegheny (Maryland)
5. Corey Augenstein, 2015, LHP, Bethel Park (Pitt)
6. Austin Kitchen, 2015, LHP, Mt. Lebanon (Coastal Carolina)
7. Jordan Fiedor, 2017, OF/RHP, Hempfield Area
8. Jake Potock, 2015, RHP, Shaler Area (West Virginia)
9. Vince Augustine, 2015, OF, Seneca Valley (Cincinnati)
10. Connor Ollio, 2018, IF/RHP, Butler Area
11. Matt Tarabek, 2016, SS, Hempfield Area (Fordham)
Patrick Ferguson12. Patrick Ferguson, 2016, 1B, Pittsburgh Central Catholic
13. Corbin Kessler, 2016, SS, Seneca Valley
14. Charlie Varriano, 2017, 3B, Hempfield Area
15. Dom Coconcelli, 2016, LHP, Penn-Trafford
16. Austin Hoffman, 2016, IF, Moon Area (Southeastern Louisiana)
17. Shane Churma, 2015, IF, Penn-Trafford (Slippery Rock)
18. Frankie Jezioro, 2015, OF, Peters Township (Slippery Rock)
19. Justin Wright, 2018, 3B, Hempfield Area
20. Ryan Okuda, 2017, LHP, Pine-Richland

Charlie VarrianoDom CoconcelliShane ChurmaJustin WrightRyan Okuda


Class AAAA

Section 1
NOTE: With the realignment of Moon Area and Pine-Richland from Section 4, all six teams in Section 1 participated in the WPIAL playoffs last season.

Mark GrossSlippery Rock-bound all-section honoree Wyatt Daugherty (44 IP, 37 H, 10 BB, 38 K) will team with fellow senior RHP Mark Gross (27.2 IP, 24 H, 11 BB, 22 K; right) to front the Butler Area pitching staff, which could also get contributions from Jeremy Moorehead, sophomore Cade Negley, and Ollio (who was selected to participate in the USA Baseball 15U National Team trials). While coach Todd Erdos will be turning over most of his line-up due to graduation, plus the transfer of Delaware-bound infielder Nick Patten to IMG Academy in Florida, he can count on senior third baseman Garret Goslaw (.325 AVG, .471 OBP, 11 BB vs 8 K) and junior outfielder Nathan Kibbie (.387 AVG, .500 OBP) to steer the ship as returning starters.

Colton HowerComing off a state tournament appearance last season, Moon Area can once again turn to UMBC-bound RHP Colton Hower (left) and senior LHP Nick Rozzo to lead its pitching staff. Coach Dom Santeufemio will be looking for a few other position players to step up and help his all-section middle infield duo of shortstop Hoffman and senior second baseman Rocco Maue generate offense.

Trevor SmithTwo-thirds of the North Allegheny line-up departed due to graduation, leaving junior infielder Garrett Hagen (.300 AVG, .444 OBP), junior third baseman Blake Young (.283 AVG, .350 OBP), and senior catcher Ryan Hamm (.348 AVG, .404 OBP) as the only offensive holdovers. Despite the loss of their top two innings-eaters, the Tigers could have a bona fide ace on their hands if Dignazio (23.2 IP, 14 H, 24 BB, 27 K) can sharpen his command. Juniors Jake Fischbaugh, Ben Marsico and Trevor Smith (right), plus seniors Ben Gross and Blaise Smiley, should vie for an increased role after pitching limited innings last spring.

Brendan BurkeA senior-laden line-up returns for North Hills, which graduated only two regular starters. Otterbein-bound all-section infielder Vince Ruggieri (.283 AVG, .362 OBP, 7 BB vs 3 K), infielder Tyler Volz (.304 AVG, .420 OBP, 11 BB vs 8 K, 9 SB), Baldwin Wallace-bound C/OF Tyler Pusateri (.327 AVG, .400 OBP, 6 BB vs 5 K), and outfielder Brandon Wagner (.419 AVG, .480 OBP, 6 BB vs 2 K, 14 SB) are the top returning hitters. The pitching staff is less settled after the loss of the Indians top two pitchers, but junior RHPs Andrew Toplak (25 IP, 26 H, 18 BB, 15 K), Brendan Burke (14 IP, 19 H, 5 BB, 12 K; left), and Mike Serpa (10 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 3 K) should push to move up the depth chart.

Joey ProfessoriA trio of seniors -- La Roche-bound catcher Joey Professori (right), third baseman Zach Grguras, and outfielder Sam Gessner -- are the lone holdovers in a Pine-Richland line-up that graduated two-thirds of its starters. On the mound, juniors Tyler Deluca and Robert Riggatire, sophomore Hunter Treece, and senior Chris Gantwang will look to pick up the slack following the departure of three of the Rams primary pitchers.

Lane PalmerFollowing a season in which it became one of the best .500 teams in state history, Seneca Valley graduated twelve off its roster. However, can you ever really count out a team that has won three of the past four WPIAL titles? With the return of quality athletes like Kessler and all-section selection Augustine, plus others such as junior outfielder Lane Palmer (left) waiting in the wings, the Raiders are much more likely to reload than rebuild. 

Section 2
Seth HollerGreater Latrobe will be developing a young roster that returns only four seniors. A quintet of sophomores -- LHP Zach Kokoska, plus RHPs Jared Kollar, Ryan Shawley, Tom Gerusky, and Mason Petrosky -- will be fighting for innings on coach Matt Basciano's staff. The Wildcats offense will be sparked by Frederick CC-bound first baseman Seth Holler (right) and shortstop Kollar.

Jacob RifeDespite the departure of ten to graduation, Hempfield Area has enough talent still on hand to defend its section crown. The senior duo of third baseman Noah Beasley (UMBC) and catcher Eric Loucks (Alderson Broaddus) are joined by Tarabek as college-bound Spartans. Two-way contributor Fiedor, toolsy Varriano, the polished Wright, and 6-foot-4 sophomore RHP Jacob Rife (left) are just a few of the underclassmen in the program who have the talent to join that list prior to the end of their high school careers.

Scott KoschoA literal handful of college-bound players return for Penn-Trafford. In addition to Churma, outfielders Shane Mallon (Alderson Broaddus) and Chris Common (Pitt-Greensburg), catcher Scott Koscho (Navy; right), and OF/RHP Luke Smeltz (Pitt-Johnstown) will all continue their careers beyond this season. Projectable Coconcelli has experienced a velocity jump from last year and has a chance to develop into one of the top pitchers in the area by the end of his tenure in a Warriors uniform.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Albert Gallatin - none
Connellsville Area - none
Norwin - junior IF Nick Amendola

Section 3
NOTE: Section 3 received almost a complete makeover, as Central Catholic is the only remaining member from last season. Fox Chapel realigned from Section 1, Kiski from Section 2, and the other three schools from Section 4.

Cameron CocoCentral Catholic graduated nearly two-thirds of its innings, including its top two pitchers, leaving the door open for senior RHP Joel Shaffer (16.1 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 14 K) and junior RHP Cameron Coco (14.2 IP, 15 H, 10 BB, 12 K; right) to assume larger roles. The slugging right-left all-section due of DeRenzo (.381 AVG, .500 OBP, 14 BB vs 6 K, .571 SLG) and Ferguson (.364 AVG, .509 OBP, .614 SLG) will power a senior-laden Vikings offense that also returns outfielder Ryan Sproule (.306 AVG, .353 OBP), infielders Shaffer (.378 AVG, .446 OBP, 8 BB vs 7 K) and  Nick LaCava (.385 AVG, .447 OBP), along with catcher Ryan Ray (.533 OBP, 11 BB vs 6 K).

Fox Chapel Area welcomes back the majority of its roster, having graduated only one pitcher and two line-up regulars. The Foxes pitching staff will be led by the junior duo of RHP Jacob Pilarski (40 IP, 21 H, 23 BB, 41 K) and LHP Patrick Monteverde (20.2 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 20 K). A pair of junior all-section performers -- senior catcher Zack Burkhart (.322 AVG, .474 SLG) and junior infielder Josh Anderson (.373 AVG, .439 OBP) -- are back to spark coach Michael Frank's offense as well.

Noah HansenFollowing the graduation of ten, Kiski Area will turn to a large junior class for production in coach Joe Culler's second year at the helm. Two of the Cavaliers top three innings-eaters departed, leaving junior RHP John Bowser (21.1 IP, 21 H, 5 BB, 28 K) atop the pecking order, with junior RHP Josh Bell, senior RHP Mike DePanicis, and junior LHP Noah Hansen (right) looking to earn larger roles. An inexperienced line-up will be led by junior C/OF Jake Poremski (.316 AVG, .469 OBP, 8 BB vs 6 K), with 1B/OF Hansen and infielder Bell looking to move from part-time to full-time action.

Trevor MillerPenn Hills returns a solid offensive core consisting of senior outfielders Cameron Franklin (.500 AVG) and all-section honoree Mason Murray-McDonough (.417 AVG), senior infielders Tyler Reis (.321 AVG, 10 SB) and Trevor Miller (left), and sophomore OF/C Jamal Colbert. An unproven group of pitchers, including sophomore RHP Nick Coleman, Miller, and Murray-McDonough, should get an opportunity to log innings for coach Ed Carr behind senior staff ace Steven Zang.

Jake PotockThe bulk of the line-up, as well as the top two starting pitchers, are back for Shaler Area. Junior infielder Sam Ireland (.389 AVG) will team with senior outfielders Noah Hernandez (.357 AVG) and Andrew Mueller (.356 AVG) to power the Titans offense. The strength of coach Brian Junker's team may be on the mound, however, with the return of Potock (52 IP, 9 BB, 55 K; right) and his fellow senior RHP Gavin Cannon (35 IP, 11 BB, 48 K).

Other schools and returning all-section players
Woodland Hills - none

Section 4
NOTE: Section 4 might as well be called Section 3 Part Deux, as Franklin Regional, Plum, Gateway, and McKeesport were all in Section 3 last season. Brashear also realigned over from Section 5.

Allderdice coach Jeremy Askin welcomes back eleven seniors, including three college-bound players -- infielders Nate Fichtner (Memphis) and Evan Cheng (Youngstown State), and outfielder Demetrius Haskins (Lock Haven) -- who will power the offense. A couple of two-way guys in senior RHP/C Mark Pfleger and junior IF/RHP Sam Greenberg will join the previous trio in the line-up, as well as teaming with Cheng and senior RHP Nick Bucci to form the core of the Dragons pitching staff.

Brashear coach Brian Matts will lean on his senior class this spring. RHP/utilitymen Mike Zwigart and Jeff Arnold will impact the Bulls with their arms and bats, while senior shortstop Chad Gregorius will also contribute to the team's run production.

Luciano BeshThe entire infield -- senior third baseman Matt Frey, sophomore shortstop William Constantin, senior second baseman John Bondi, and junior first baseman Bryce Halleck -- returns as part of a veteran team for Franklin Regional. Junior outfielder Luciano Besh and Lake Erie-bound outfielder Ryan Grieco will also play large roles in the Panthers run production. Coach Bob Saddler also has a balanced pitching staff, including four returners who logged double-digit innings last spring: La Roche-bound LHP Justin Johnson, senior RHP Alex Gessinger, LHP Besh (right), and junior RHP Anthony Falce.

Brian AlbertA spread-the-wealth Plum pitching staff that had six members log between 15 and 30 innings is back almost in its entirety. Kiriloff (29.1 IP, 27 H, 20 BB, 24 K), senior LHP Nick Satovich (21.1 IP, 5 H, 17 BB, 29 K), senior RHP Phil Mahr (18.2 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 24 K), and junior RHP Ethan Winesburgh (16 IP, 16 H, 15 BB, 12 K) will be joined by RHP Brian Albert (left), an IUP commit who suffered a shoulder injury that rendered him unable to pitch a large chunk of the season. Sophomore catcher Alex Terrell and junior outfielder Taylor Vivino will look to earn their keep in coach Carl Vollmer's line-up, which will feature all-section honoree Kirilloff (.406 AVG, .455 OBP, 9 BB vs 2 K, .625 SLG), Albert (.300 AVG, .444 OBP, 11 BB vs 9 K), and Winesburgh (.254 AVG, .353 OBP).

Other schools and returning all-section players
Gateway - none
McKeesport Area - none

Section 5
Bo WilliamsComing off a season in which it rostered only three seniors and still finished above .500 despite losing six one-run games, Bethel Park returns seven starters, led by senior all-section infielder Zac Forsyth. Other line-up holdovers include senior second baseman Luke Hahey, senior outfielder John Scarsella, junior outfielder Tylar Shoemaker, and junior third baseman Colin Loughman. Junior outfielder Bo Williams (right) and sophomore infielder Rob Morosetti are two newcomers looking to make an immediate impact. Coach Tony Fisher has an experienced 1-2 punch atop his rotation as well, in Augenstein and Lock Haven-bound RHP Joe Zufall.

Canon-McMillan welcomes back the starting RHP duo of senior Jake Trainor and junior Matt Mish. In addition, the feel-good story of the pre-season has to be the return of senior RHP Luke Blanock, who expects to be back in action after missing last season while being treated for Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Senior outfielder Chandler Palyas will set the table for Gannon-bound all-section outfielder Jared Beach in coach Frank Zebrasky's line-up.

Robert KlinchockDefending section champ Mt. Lebanon will once again be able to call on the senior LHP duo of all-section honoree Kitchen, who is arguably the most college-ready pitcher in the state, and 6-foot-3 Robert Klinchock (right). A veteran offense that returns almost entirely intact will be led by senior all-section infielder Vince D'Orazio and junior outfielder Dante D'Alesandro.

Frankie JezioroPeters Township will be looking for a few good arms this spring, following the graduation of its top five innings-eaters, who took with them 81% of last year's innings. Seniors Phil Mary (12.2 IP, 10 H, 10 BB, 15 K), Matt Gummersbach (9 IP, 8 H, 7 BB, 8 K), and Bob Finn (5 IP, 9 H, 0 BB 1 K) are only returners to see the mound last spring. The line-up appears to be more settled, with the return of six senior starters, led by George Mason-bound shortstop Ryan Tassone (.264 AVG, .391 OBP, 7 BB vs 4 K), toolsy Jezioro (.439 AVG, .484 OBP, .701 SLG; left), and first baseman Tim Swoope (.344 AVG, .447 OBP, .593 SLG).

Jesse SlingerIt'll be an open competition for innings on Upper St. Clair between senior RHPs Jesse Slinger (right), Jeff Ardolino and Ben Boyd, junior RHP Andrew Wheeler, sophomore RHPs Tom Bash and Rob Saghy, and freshman LHP Dom Cepullio. A quartet of seniors -- utilityman Mason McGuire, infielders Chas Mertz and Kevin Marthinsen, and outfielder Clayton Dubbs -- will be joined by sophomore infielder Ronaldo DelDuca as the primary run-producers for coach Jerry Malarkey.

Other schools and returning all-section players
Baldwin - senior OF Jordan Gitzen [realigned from Section 3]
Carrick - none [reclassified from AAA-Section 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