2016 Season Preview: PIAA District I (Class A, AA & AAA)

By Jacob Gill
Pennsylvania Assistant Director of Scouting

The smaller greater Philadelphia area schools take center stage today for the next installment of our district preview series, which will run for three weeks up to the first official PIAA competition date on March 24. 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 received inquiries last year regarding how we decide which teams to detail. A team profiled 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.

[mouse over pics for player names]

PIAA District I Class A/AA/AAA Top Prospects

1. Nolan Jones, 2016, SS/RHP, Holy Ghost Prep (Virginia)
2. Nick O'Day, 2018, RHP/OF, Bishop Shanahan (Texas Christian)
3. P.J. Heintz, 2018, C, Bishop Shanahan
4. Charlie Connolly, 2017, RHP, Radnor
5. Aaron Feld, 2018, RHP, Octorara Area
6. Matt Benda, 2018, New Hope-Solebury
7. Connor Wilson, 2016, OF, Radnor (Dayton)
8. Jackson Ray, 2016, LHP. Octorara Area (La Salle)

Class A

Tim DiLoretoDaniel SabathJunior RHP Daniel Sabath (49.1 IP, 32 H, 12 BB, 77K) will front a pitching staff for defending district champ Christopher Dock Mennonite that otherwise lacks varsity experience. Sophomore RHP David Keller should assume a large role for coach Ed Melendez, who will also hand the ball to seniors Tyler Alderfer and Rashid Saint-Fleur. Senior catcher Tim DiLoreto (.467 AVG, 9 XBH) will shepherd the staff and power an offense that also features Alderfer (.438 AVG), junior shortstop Andrew Walters (.365 AVG, 8 BB vs 2 K), senior third baseman Isaac Brunk (.347 AVG), and sophomore infielder Nolan Bolton.

District runner-up Delaware County Christian welcomes back five 1st-team all-BAL Constitution position players, led by the senior quarter of division MVP Josh VanMeerbeke (.478 AVG, 11 BB vs 5 K, 13 SB), third baseman Kyle Winters (.419 AVG, 12 BB vs 7 K), first baseman Jack Grim (.340 AVG), and catcher Dylan Campbell (.300 AVG, 15 BB vs 3 K). The pitching staff is an entirely different story, as nearly 80% of the innings pitched departed due to graduation. Senior RHP VanMeerbeke (17.1 IP, 30 H, 7 BB, 20 K) is the only holdover to have logged more than 3.1 innings, leaving coach Jeff Wisnewski to sort through an inexperienced group that includes Winters, junior Cody Moorhatch, sophomore Clay Corcigmiglia, and freshmen Penn Schmidt and Tyler Rossini.

AJ LaBellaJenkintown did not graduate a single inning off its pitching staff from last season when five players logged double-digit innings. That staff will receive offensive support from a line-up that graduated only one regular and earned six all-BAL Constitution selections: junior second baseman Jameson Kolb (1st-team), senior outfielder Christian Geer (1st-team), senior utility Evan Misinkavitch (1st-team), junior DH Michael DiValentino (1st-team), junior third baseman John Contoudis (2nd-team), and senior outfielder Justin Nusbaum (2nd-team). The Drakes have also added George Washington-bound A.J. LaBella (a 1st-team all-Inter-Ac honoree) as a transfer from Springside Chestnut Hill.

Calvary Christian will be looking to make its typical deep playoff run following an unusually early exit from district play last season. Sophomore RHP Matt Futer will join senior LHP Matt Hollinger (23.2 IP, 38 H, 16 BB, 21 K) atop the Cougars rotation. Junior catcher Zach Lomas (.333 AVG) will handle the pitching staff and team with outfielder Hollinger (.511 AVG) in powering the offense. Coach Darrell Benjamin will also look to shortstop Futer and junior third baseman Matt Dietz to hold down the left side of the infield and increase their run production.

The senior quartet of outfielder Steve Zarycranski and Eric Diaz, shortstop John Luke Quintero, and catcher Eli Hernandez are back to power the offense for CFS - The School at Church Farm, which will be integrating a number of young players into the fold. RHP Diaz will also front the pitching staff for coach Bob McHale.

Class AA

Luke PiontekTony GalloDefending district champ Devon Prep turned over the bulk of its roster this spring, a fact that will be exacerbated early in the season while Lehigh-bound shortstop Matt Bevilacqua (.358 AVG, 23 BB vs 7 K, 24 SB) recovers from a broken hand. Talented sophomore second baseman Tyler Wright will push Lehigh-bound Tony Gallo (.394 AVG, 12 XBH) over to third base this spring, while they will be joined in the line-up by sophomore center fielder Nick Ramanjulu and sophomore catcher Luke Piontek. Coach Mark Aquilante will task senior RHP Danny Brace (27.1 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 31 K) with buoying the pitching staff while an otherwise untested group sorts itself out.

Jackson PauwelsSpringfield Township is always the toughest team to read in this classification, as its overall record routinely gets depressed by playing the entirety of its schedule against AAA and AAAA schools. Coach Dennis Primavera must replace five line-up regulars and two of his top three pitchers, including one who was 1st-team all-SOL American. Picking up the slack on the mound will be senior LHP Matt Gauss (13.1 IP, 19 H, 1 BB 9 K), junior LHP Noel Franczyk (21.1 IP, 19 H, 6 BB, 13 K), and sophomore RHPs Nick Pave (11.1 IP, 11 H, 8 BB, 15 K) and Macleod Farley. Pave and Franczyk, both first basemen, plus junior third baseman Chris Kelly, will look to assume larger roles and join a group of returning starters that includes sparkplug senior outfield Cory Cottone, junior catcher Will Jamison, 2nd-team DH Gauss, and junior infielder Jackson Pauwels in leading the offense.

Danny DohertyPhiladelphia U-bound LHP Brandon Smith, a 1st-team all-BAL Independence selection, returns to front the pitching staff at New Hope-Solebury, where he will be joined in logging innings by sophomore LHP Tucker Wittman, junior RHP Chris Thompson, and Benda. Coach Tony Vlahovic's line-up has some holes to fill, but returns a solid core in senior infielder Nate Wilson (.405 AVG), senior outfielders Tim Heffeman (.395 AVG) and Brett Edwardson (.370 AVG), and junior catcher Danny Doherty (.375 AVG).

The work really begins now for second-year Bristol coach Lou Persichetti, as this year's roster lost eight to graduation and returns only two significant offensive contributors: senior 1st-team all-BAL Independence outfielder Danny Padilla (.377 AVG, 10 XBH, 13 BB vs 12 K) and senior 2nd-team infielder Devon Gonzalez (.353 AVG, 9 BB vs 6 K, 9 SB). Honorable mention LHP Padilla (31.2 IP, 24 H, 21 BB, 39 K) and Gonzalez (27 IP, 23 H, 11 BB, 16 K) also return as the top innings-eaters on the Warriors pitching staff.

Class AAA

A host of unfamiliar faces will grace the field for defending district champ Holy Ghost Prep in coach Vince Rossomando's first year at the helm. Potential first-round draft pick Jones, ranked #14 in the 2016 PBR Draft 100, can swing the outcome of a game all by himself. It will be the responsibility of senior outfielder Julian Turner, junior infielders Peyton Birch and John McCrane, and junior C/IF Owen Foraker, among others, to make sure Jones can't simply be pitched around.  A talented, but largely untested, group of pitchers, led by RHPs Birch and McCrane, will finally get their bite at the apple, while Jones will occasionally unleash his power arm as well.

Tom JacobThe majority of the roster returns at Upper Moreland, including five all-SOL American honorees: senior RHP Joe Bates (2nd-team), senior third baseman Christian Leighton (3rd-team), sophomore DH Kevin Walder (3rd-team), junior first baseman Jon Searles (honorable mention), and senior second baseman Paul Ciampoli (honorable mention). Also helping power coach Ken Irwin's offense will be senior shortstop Connor Casey, senior outfielder Nick Delucas, and junior catcher Ryan Lowry. Joining Bates atop the pitching depth chart is the junior RHP duo of Brandon Kohn and Tom Jacob, plus sophomore RHP Dawson Ruggles.

Bishop Shanahan has a number of holes to fill on offense and the mound, but welcoming back the Ches-Mont National Player of the Year in senior 3B/RHP Riley O'Day, a player verbally committed to a program that has reached back-to-back College World Series in the younger O'Day, and their battery mate Heintz, who showed advanced feel behind the plate and an ability to barrel the baseball in his honorable mention all-Ches-Mont National rookie campaign, is a pretty good core around which to build.

Billy Hitman2014 state champ Pope John Paul II continues to remake its roster, but will still be led offensively by California of PA-bound catcher Billy Hitman (who played second base on the title team) and senior shortstop Luke DeLeo. They will be joined in primary run production duties by junior outfielder Christian Wagner, senior third baseman Rich McGarry, and junior second baseman Matt Ahmad. McGarry will pair with junior RHP Andrew John atop the pitching staff for first-year coach Josh Hartline, who will also ask sophomore RHP Ryan Schwab and junior RHP Matt Grimm to soak up innings.

Zachary MasalskiA sophomore- and junior-heavy roster awaits first-year Phoenixville Area coach Neil Herman following his arrival from Sun Valley. Junior RHP Matt Osisek-Byrne will reclaim his rotation spot, while three other RHP -- junior Zack Masalski, and sophomores Kevin Cushing and Colin Bowdish -- are expected to carve out a role on the staff. The offense will be led by sophomore C/IFs Luke LeBeau and Nick Opalkowski, infielder Osisek-Byrne, and junior outfielders Nasir Green and Kyle Bennick.

Ryan JanvierChichester will need to replace its mound ace, but has a number of experienced arms returning, including senior LHP Mike Franzini (31.2 IP, 9 H, 13 BB, 56 K), Lackawanna-bound RHP Ryan Janvier (12.2 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 12 K), and sophomore RHP Andrew Rodriguez (11 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 17 K), while senior RHP Will Mitchell is expected to earn a larger role. First-year coach Dan Singley's offense will be led by Lackawanna-bound shortstop Bobby Jones (.400 AVG), OF/1B Franzini (.308 AVG), senior infielder Pete Moseley (.303 AVG), 1B/C Mitchell (.417 AVG), and sophomore second baseman Jason Riberio (.361 AVG).

Season Preview Schedule

3/2 - PAISAA
3/3 - PIAA District V
3/4 - PIAA District IX
3/5 - PIAA District VI
3/6 - PIAA District IV
3/7 - PIAA District X
3/8 - PIAA District III (Class A & AA)
3/9 - PIAA District VII (Class A)
3/10 - PIAA District VII (Class AA)
3/11 - PIAA District II
3/12 - PIAA District XI
3/13 - PIAA District I (Class A, AA & AAA)
3/14 - PIAA District III (Class AAA)
3/15 - PIAA District VII (Class AAA)
3/16 - PIAA District I (Class AAAA)
3/17 - PIAA District III (Class AAAA)
3/18 - PIAA District VII (Class AAAA)
3/19 - PIAA District XII