2016 Season Preview: PIAA District V

By Jacob Gill
Pennsylvania Assistant Director of Scouting

Today marks the second installment of our season preview content (and the first for PIAA schools), 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.

PIAA District V Top Prospects

1. Riley Christner, 2017, RHP, Meyersdale Area
2. Trent Rider, 2016, RHP, Southern Fulton (College of Charleston)
3. Phillip Dull, 2018, 2B/RHP, Chestnut Ridge
4. George Coyle, 2017, RHP, Somerset Area
5. Brady Walker, 2016, LHP, North Star (Binghamton)

Class A

State semifinalist Southern Fulton welcomes back 80% of its innings pitched from last season as it makes a run at a third straight district crown. Extreme strike-thrower Rider (66.1 IP, 37 H, 5 BB, 104 K) will once against front the staff, while sophomore RHP Cooper Grove (23 IP, 9 H, 19 BB, 27 K) and senior RHP Zach Clark (24 IP, 27 H, 8 BB, 17 K) will continue to soak up innings as well. Coach Dustin Fischer's offense graduated three of its big power threats, but still has a solid core returning, led by junior shortstop Dylan Gordon (.424 AVG, 7 BB vs 6 K), Rider (.438 AVG, 12 XBH, 14 BB vs 3 K), and Clark (.397 AVG, 13 BB vs 4 K, 13 SB), while hulking 6-foot-5, 235-pound left-handed hitting third baseman Branden Lynch is expected to increase his production after getting his feet wet as a rookie.

Back-to-back WestPac champ Meyersdale Area will roster only one senior this spring as it looks to get over the hump after two straight agonizing district title game losses to Southern Fulton. Christner is a three-sport star who shines with his arm (20.2 IP, 17 H, 2 BB, 31 K) and bat (.406 AVG, 11 XBH, 19 BB vs 4 K). He and junior RHP Zach Hotchkiss (12 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 16 K) are the only returning pitchers to have made appearances last year from a staff that graduated 76% of its innings. In addition to Christner, coach Wayne Miller will turn to C/IF Hotchkiss (.391 AVG) and senior infielder Trevor Thomas (.300 AVG, 19 BB vs 4 K) to spark an offense that graduated five major contributors.

Coming off a district semifinal appearance that ended in a twelve-inning, 2-1 loss to Meyersdale Area, McConnellsburg returns nine seniors -- led by catcher Ryan Koontz, infielders Landon Richards and Justin Welsh, and outfielders Logan Little and Quintin Miller -- with multiple years of post-season experience and the majority of whom play together over the summer for McConnellsburg Post 561A as well. The pitching staff graduated 60% of its innings, but coach Brian Ramsey will still be able to turn to senior LHP Garrison Crouse and junior RHP Chase Novak atop his rotation.

Berlin Brothersvalley returns the majority of its line-up, led by sophomore shortstop Nick Gooden (.486 AVG, 10 XBH, .585 OBP). Junior third baseman Chandler McClucas (.286 AVG, .453 OBP) and junior outfielder Kyle Boyce (.329 AVG), plus sophomore utilityman Tyler Custer (.440 OBP, 20 BB vs 9 K), are coming off productive campaigns as well. Gooden (44.2 IP, 28 H, 15 BB, 61 K) and McClucas (28 IP, 34 H, 18 BB, 32 K) look to assume the top two spots in the rotation, while LHP Boyce (11 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 9 K) should soak up more innings for coach Stephen Stanley. Current Pitt-Johnstown freshman Brenden Bowser, who served as the staff ace and led the team in batting average and on-base percentage last year, is a big loss for the Mountaineers.

Walker returns to lead North Star with his arm (52.2 IP, 37 H, 16 BB, 78), bat (.391 AVG, .561 OBP, 14 BB vs 4 K), and legs (22 SB). He fronts a senior-laden pitching staff for first-year coach Mike Blucas that projects to keep the Cougars in ballgames if they can tighten up their defense (more than two errors per game led to 44% of runs allowed being unearned). Fellow senior Von Yoder (.350 AVG, .443 OBP) is the other top returning hitter from a line-up that graduated only two regulars and hopes to parlay its experience into enough runs to flip the script on six of eight losses last year that came by one or two runs.

Conemaugh Township welcomes back the majority of its starting nine, led by junior infielder Jake Grosik (.305 AVG), senior infielder Mike Roman (.296 AVG, .457 OBP, 15 BB vs 7 K), and senior catcher Josh McKool (.264 AVG, .424 OBP, 14 BB vs 9 K). The Indians also return 88% of their innings, with Grosik (33 IP, 25 H, 17 BB, 43 K) and sophomore RHP Cody Platt (35.2 IP, 45 H, 17 BB, 23 K) back as the 1-2 starting rotation punch. McKool and Roman chipped in on the mound last year as well, while Platt was also a starter as an infielder. Keep an eye on a pair of freshmen, LHP Devin Foster and utilityman Jordan Poznanski, to make an impact early in their careers..

Class AA (forms a sub-region with District VI)

The high-motor Dull became an immediate sparkplug out of the leadoff spot (.429 AVG) and a defensive anchor at shortstop in his rookie season for Chestnut Ridge. Seniors Matt Monko and John Deaner, junior Shawn Brady, and sophomore Ty Diehl all hit over .300 last year for the Lions. Dull should assume a significant role on the pitching staff this season as well, joining Monko atop the depth chart.

Everett Area took a big step forward as a program last year, earning five victories coming off a winless 2014 campaign. The Warriors will look to keep the momentum going behind an offense that returns five regulars, led by sophomore Austin Brown (.500 AVG, .615 OBP, 13 BB vs 4 K) and junior Cory Ullman (.375 AVG). Tightening up a defense that averaged more than four errors per game would go a long way toward supporting a pitching staff that brings back six of eight contributors.

Class AAA (forms a sub-region with District VI)

Coming off a down year (only by its own lofty standards), Somerset Area looks to get back to the state tournament for the third time in four years on the strength of a pitching staff that returns all but two contributors. Coyle (33 IP, 42 H, 9 BB, 23 K) is expected to once again lead the way on the mound, while also serving as the bellcow for coach Steve Costea's offense, which graduated four of its primary weapons. Senior RHPs Austin Clawson and Greg Walters, along with sophomore LHP Tyler Mulhollen, will jockey for innings behind Coyle.

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