2016 PIAA State Championships Preview

By Jacob Gill
Pennsylvania Assistant Director of Scouting

The March to Medlar concludes Thursday with a quartet of state championship games on the Penn State campus. A primer on each match-up is below, listed in the order in which the games will be played.

Post-publication update: The PIAA announced Thursday morning that it postponed the Class A game to 11:00am and the Class AAA game to 1:30pm on Friday.

Class AA (Thursday, June 16, 11:00am)

Neumann-Goretti Saints (19-6)
Head Coach: Kevin Schneider
Regular-season: Tied for 5th place in the Philadelphia Catholic League
District XII: beat Roman Catholic 2-1 (5 innings), beat Bonner-Prendergast 9-3, beat St. Joseph's Prep 3-2, beat MaST Community Charter 6-0
State: beat Lancaster Catholic 5-1, beat North Penn-Mansfield 1-0 (9 innings), beat North Schuylkill 3-0
Top Prospect: 2016 RHP Ethan Pritchett
Projected Pitcher: Pritchett
College Commitments: 2016 RHP Jeff Ciocco (Western Kentucky), 2016 3B Nicky D'Amore (Wagner), 2016 1B Lou Testa (Rowan College at Gloucester County), Pritchett (Wagner), 2016 OF Brian Verratti (West Chester)
Notes: The only team in any classification to reprise its 2015 trip to the state championship game. With an offense that isn't as potent as previous seasons, the Saints have leaned on the college-bound duo of Pritchett and Ciocco (unavailable Thursday following his 2-hit shutout on Monday), who have combined to allow just seven runs while logging 46 of the team's 49 postseason innings. Speedy 2018 outfielder Colin Eiser (8-20, 5 R, 3 SB in the postseason) is emerging as the heir apparent to Verratti as the table-setter atop the order.

Bishop McCourt Catholic Crushers (22-5)
Head Coach: Chris Pfeil
Regular-season: Tied for 2nd place in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference
District VI: beat Bellwood-Antis 7-5, beat Juniata 4-0, beat Philipsburg-Osceola 4-0, beat Central 9-3
State: beat Keystone Oaks 4-3, beat Neshannock 2-1, beat Riverside 1-0
Top Prospect: 2017 Util Boston Bradley
Projected Pitcher: 2016 RHP Billy Wilson or 2016 RHP Nick Beblar
College Commitments: 2016 IF Blake Wade (Saint Vincent), 2016 C/OF Logan Wade (Saint Vincent)
Notes: After running through the WPIAL's top three teams to get here, should the Crushers be declared the de facto District VII champs? Blake Wade is the team's primary power source, while Logan Wade is its top threat on the bases. Offense is averaging roughly four stolen bases per game for the season and has 21 in seven district/state contests. 2018 LHP Brett Seitz, who has pitched 29.1 out of the team's 49 postseason innings, will be unavailable Thursday after logging a complete game win in Monday's semifinal.

Class AAAA (Thursday, June 16, 1:30pm)

Boyertown Bears (23-6)
Head Coach: Todd Moyer
Regular-season: Co-champion of the Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC-10)
District I: beat Pennsbury 4-3, beat Perkiomen Valley 5-4, lost to Pennridge 3-0, lost to Downingtown West 2-0
State: beat Olney Charter 18-0 (5 innings), beat Wyoming Valley West 4-2, beat Cumberland Valley 3-1
Top Prospect: 2016 IF Mitchell Pinder
Projected Pitchers: 2017 RHP Pat Hohlfeld and 2016 RHP Andrew Bauer
College Commitments: Pinder (Kutztown), 2016 C Ryan Weller (Kutztown)
Notes: After being limited to DH duties the entire spring, the slick fielding Pinder, who has been a catalyst out of the leadoff spot (8-24, 5 SB, 4 RBI in the postseason), was cleared to return defensively for the state tournament. Hohlfeld and Bauer have quality stuff and a good feel for pitching, and have logged 35.2 of the team's 46 postseason innings.

Plum Mustangs (25-1)
Head Coach: Carl Vollmer
Regular-season: WPIAL Section 4 champion
District VII: beat Woodland Hills 4-0, beat Peters Township 2-0, beat Hempfield Area 3-0, lost to Norwin 7-3
State: beat McDowell 3-2, beat Hempfield Area 5-0, beat Marple Newtown 6-2
Top Prospect: 2016 OF/1B Alex Kirilloff (selected in the 1st round, 15th overall, in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft)
Projected Pitcher: 2018 LHP Ryan Kircher
College Commitments: Kirilloff (Liberty), 2016 OF Ethan Winesburgh (Patrick Henry CC)
Notes: Only loss came in the WPIAL title game. Employ a true pitching staff, as at least two of four primary arms have appeared in every postseason game. 2016 RHP Zach Nolan (Georgetown for football) is unavailable Thursday, but the youthful Kircher has yielded just a lone unearned run this postseason (9.2 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 14 K). As his draft position might indicate, Kirilloff is an offensive force to be reckoned with out of the leadoff spot and has hit safely in every postseason game (10-22, 7 R, 5 RBI, 8 XBH, 2 SB), as has Winesburgh (8-18, 3 R, 6 RBI, 3 XBH).

Class A (Friday, June 17, 11:00am)

Meyersdale Area Red Raiders (22-5)
Head Coach: Wayne Miller
Regular-season: WestPAC South champion
District V: beat Conemaugh Township 2-1, beat Forbes Road 6-0, lost to Southern Fulton 4-1
State: beat Juniata Valley 12-11, beat Forest City 10-3, beat Millersburg Area 3-2
Top Prospect: 2017 RHP Riley Christner
Projected Pitchers: 2018 RHP Bryce Kretchman or 2017 RHP Zach Hotchkiss
Notes: Took full advantage of the district getting a second state bid this spring after falling in the district title in a one-bid district the previous two seasons. Live-armed Christner is unavailable to pitch on Thursday, but could still make his presence felt with the bat (10-17, 3 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR since the start of district play). Kretchman is no stranger to the mound this postseason, however, having appeared in five of six games (16.1 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 15 K), while Hotchkiss is nearing full strength after being limited most of the season.

Vincentian Academy Royals (20-7)
Head Coach: Paul Quarantillo
Regular-season: WPIAL Section 4 co-champion
District VII: beat Bentworth 2-1 (9 innings), beat Brentwood 6-0, lost to Serra Catholic 4-1, beat Union Area 11-1 (5 innings)
at DuBois Central Catholic 4-3 (13 innings), beat Southern Fulton 4-3 (8 innings), beat Serra Catholic 2-0
Top Prospect: 2017 IF Christian Fedko
Projected Pitcher: 2016 RHP Nick Kempa
College Commitments: 2016 LHP Mark Cyterski (Ohio Northern), Fedko (Connecticut), Kempa (Allegheny)
Notes: It hasn't been an easy road, with half of the team's postseason wins coming in extra innings. As a catalyst in the leadoff spot, Fedko has hit safely in every game since the start of district play (9-28, 5 R, 3 RBI, 4 2B, 3 SB). Cyterski is unavailable Thursday following a 1-hitter in the semifinal, but Kempa, along with the sophomore RHP duo of Garrett Barto and Aidan Thompson are all available and have contributed to the postseason mound work (37.1 of 55 innings).

Post-publication update: With this game being postponed until Friday, per PIAA rules, both Christner and Cyterski will be available to pitch.

Class AAA (Friday, June 17, 1:30pm)

Susquehanna Township Indians (19-8)
Head Coach: Robert Martin
Regular-season: Mid-Penn Keystone 2nd place
District III: beat Northern York 4-2, beat Twin Valley 8-3, lost to Hamburg Area 9-3 (8 innings), beat Bishop McDevitt 5-4
State: beat Archbishop Wood 6-5, beat Palmerton Area 10-0 (6 innings), beat North Pocono 1-0
Top Prospect: 2016 OF Christian Ciotti
Projected Pitcher: 2016 RHP Dan Warshawsky
College Commitments: 2016 IF Jordan Caruso (Penn State Altoona), Ciotti (La Salle)
Notes: 2016 RHP Austin Dressler is unavailable following a 5-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts in the semifinal, but Warshawky has played a capable Robin to Dressler's Batman this spring and has been lights out in two postseason starts (11 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 18 K). 2016 infielder Ben Moser has been hot since the start of district play (8-21, 3 R, 5 RBI, 2B, HR).

Post-publication update: With this game being postponed until Friday, per PIAA rules, Dressler will be available to pitch.

Bellefonte Area Red Raiders (15-11)
Head Coach: Dan Fravel
Regular-season: Tied for fifth place in the Mountain League
District V/VI Sub-Regional: beat Greater Johnstown 12-2 (5 innings), beat Somerset Area 2-0, beat Hollidaysburg Area 7-5
State: beat Chartiers Valley 2-1, beat Cathedral Prep 1-0, beat Hamburg Area 5-4
Top Prospects: 2017 1B Logan Mathieu
Projected Pitchers: 2016 LHP Kyler Mellott, 2016 RHP Dom Masullo, and/or 2018 LHP Adam Armstrong
College Commitments: Masullo (Morehead State), Mathieu (Liberty), Mellott (Clarion)
Notes: First-year coach Dan Fravel was named to the position one month prior to the start of the season. It'll be all-hands-on-deck for the pitching staff, which has its three primary weapons available and has employed a multi-pitcher approach in four of six postseason games. Mathieu (10-21, 3 R, 1 RBI, 4 2B) plus seniors Storm Smith (8-18, 3 R, 6 RBI, 3 2B, SB) and Nick Jabco (7-21, 3 R, 3 RBI, HR, 3 SB) have each hit safely in all but one postseason game.

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