2016 Season Preview: PIAA District X

By Jacob Gill
Pennsylvania Assistant Director of Scouting

The first third of our season preview content, which will run for three weeks up to the first official PIAA competition date on March 24, wraps up in the northwest corner of the state, where we're pretty sure the residents would like to bottle the current weather as save it for the start of the season (which has included copious amounts of snow in recent years). 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 X Top Prospects

1. Carter Cross, 2016, RHP/OF, Cathedral Prep (Nebraska)
Casey Vincent2. Casey Vincent, 2016, RHP, Eisenhower (St. Bonaventure)
3. Austin Braendel, 2016, C, Cathedral Prep (Seton Hill)
4. Matt Bauer, 2018, OF, Cathedral Prep
5. Steven Kokoski, 2017, C, Lakeview
6. Nick Hess, 2017, 1B, Cathedral Prep
7. Jake Sniegocki, 2016, OF, McDowell (Lafayette)
8. Matt Silay, 2016, SS, McDowell (Mercyhurst)
9. Michael YaSenka, 2016, RHP, Franklin Area (Chesapeake)
10. Travis Perry, 2018, RHP, Rocky Grove

Class A

Region 1
Travis PerryComing off a district runner-up season, Rocky Grove returns a veteran club hoping to take the next step to the state tournament. A trio of RHP -- sophomores Perry (34 IP, 18 H, 13 BB, 47 K) and Connor Curran (18.2 IP, 9 H, 9 BB, 17 K), and senior Nate White (34.1 IP, 10 H, 16 BB, 43 K) -- all return from strong 2015 campaigns. Also the 4-6-3 double-play combo, White (.400 AVG, .623 OBP), Perry (.517 AVG, .647 OBP), and Curran (.382 AVG, .587 OBP) will propel coach Bill Wilson's offense. Junior P/OFs Josh Kirwin (.383 AVG, .491 OBP) and Brady Wilson (.333 AVG, .459 OBP) are also expected to have a two-way impact.

A West Middlesex offense that lost two of its top run producers to graduation, and a third to transfer, will need to provide support for a pitching staff that graduated its top two starters and only returns one member -- junior LHP Dustin Murray (17 IP, 17 H, 6 BB, 11 K) -- who logged more than three innings last year. Senior 2nd-team all-region shortstop Mitchell Murray will spark an offense that hopes to get increased production from senior second baseman Dylan Long, senior outfielder James Johnson, and sophomore outfielder Chase Staunch. Senior 1st-team catcher Don Huffman will shepherd an inexperienced group of hurlers that includes sophomore RHP Marshall Murray, Johnson, and sophomore LHP Chase Staunce, all of whom are expected to get a crack at soaking up innings for coach Todd Anthony.

Jamestown Area will lean heavily on a trio of two-way performers -- junior RHP/IF Clay Shannon, sophomore RHP/IF Matt Clark, and senior IF/RHP Hunter Goodlin -- this spring. Sophomore 2nd-team all-region catcher Cole Potase and senior OF/3B Brandon Stopar will also be primary run producers, while sophomore LHP Shane McLaughlin should grab a share of the workload for coach Jim Dutko.

Other schools and returning all-region honorees:
Kennedy Catholic - none
Mercer Area - Sr C Nate Cameron (2nd-team), So 2B Jordan Baker (2nd-team), So 2B Austin Hesselgesser (2nd-team)

Region 4
As long as all-District X selection Vincent is healthy, Eisenhower will be a strong contender to repeat its district title and state runner-up finish from last season. Junior 1st-team all-district first baseman Chase Elmquist and senior 2nd-teamoutfielder Alan Jackson, join Vincent as offensive stalwarts, while senior Louie Head comes back off a strong state tournament.

Peter JamiesonHeading into the last season as a co-op with Commodore Perry, Cochranton first-year coach Joe Hruska welcomes back five regular starters from last season, led by junior shortstop Peter Jamieson (.400 AVG, 12 SB) and junior first baseman Tyler Freyermuth (.324 AVG, 12 BB vs 6 K). A group of young strike-throwers, including sophomores Trent Hittle and Cameron Snyder, and junior Nat Ross, will vie for increased roles with 55% of last year's innings now up for grabs. Expect freshman RHP/C Curtis Freyermuth, who served as the Cardinals' starting quarterback this fall, to make an immediate impact his rookie season on the diamond as well.

Iroquois welcomes back two of its top three pitchers in 2nd-team all-region selection Chris Pearson (43.2 IP, 44 H, 12 BB, 40 K) and his fellow senior RHP Lance Bush (21.1 IP, 18 H, 12 BB, 12 K). Despite the graduation of four line-up regulars, coach B.J. Moon can still lean on senior outfielder Zach Britton (.327 AVG, 8 SB) for an offensive spark, while a full season from senior outfielder Jose Rodriguez (was hitting .350 before not playing the second half of the schedule) would help make up for some of the departed production. Senior infielder Kyle Robson, senior OF/1B Austin Smith, and junior catcher Zach Laniewicz will be counted upon to assume larger roles as well.

Other schools and returning all-region honorees:
Union City - Sr OF Clay Webster (1st-team)
Youngsville - Jr C Levi Hendrickson (2nd-team), Jr 3B Wyatt Rugar (2nd-team), Sr SS Tanner Humphrey (2nd-team)

Class AA

Region 2
District runner-up Sharon welcomes back two-thirds of its regular line-up, led by junior infielder Dante Dellibovi (.351 AVG, 25 BB vs 8 K) and a trio of senior 2nd-team all-region honorees: shortstop Andrew Tomko (.377 AVG, 17 BB+HBP vs 11 K, 13 SB), outfielder Noah Nichols (.340 AVG, 9 BB vs 6 K, 14 SB), and utilityman Jonathan Williams (.345 AVG, 10 XBH). The pitching staff is largely intact as well, although would benefit from improved strike-throwing if it is to make another post-season run, as the group combined to walk nearly one batter per inning last season and allow more walks than strikeouts.

Senior 1st-team all-region third baseman Jacob Reimold (.474 AVG, 18 BB vs 8 K) and senior Adam Ballish (.339 AVG, 11 XBH) are the leading returning hitters from a Reynolds line-up that is largely intact. The pitching staff graduated its ace, but still has the experienced duo of senior Brandon Blair (23 IP, 17 H, 6 BB, 6 K) and junior Grey DeCiancio (20 IP, 13 H, 11 BB, 22 K).

In coach Mark Thompson's first season, Hickory must find a way to replace three 1st-team all-region performers, including the region co-pitcher and co-player of the year. 2nd-team all-region catcher Tyler Cannon, a Mercyhurt North East commit, will shepherd an inexperienced pitching staff and power the line-up. The keystone combo of sophomore shortstop Brandon Myers and junior second baseman Joey Gasior are back as well. Junior RHPs Aaron Erimas and Gasior, plus sophomore RHPs Luke Brennan and Myers, will look to step into larger roles on the mound.

A lot of holes to fill at Greenville in just the program's second year, as four all-region honorees that comprised the core of the line-up are among ten graduates from last season. Two of the pitching staff's four primary arms return in junior 2nd-team all-region RHP Piercen Fenton (27 IP, 23 H, 17 BB, 31 K) and senior LHP Adam Bartnicki (19 IP, 28 H, 11 BB, 17 K). Coach John Cascio will lean on senior shortstop Scott Simcoe (.254 AVG), sophomore OF/1B Jamin Wentling (who hit .500 after he joined the line-up in mid-April,), and senior outfielder Brendan Warner (.294 AVG) to stabilize the depleted line-up.

Steven KokoskiKokoski (.475 AVG, 9 BB+HBP vs 6 K) will be tasked with powering the offense and shepherding an inexperienced Lakeview staff that graduated its top two pitchers. Sophomore RHPs Zach Urey and Trent Novak, along with senior RHP Kyle McCartney will be asked to assume larger roles on coach Bill Beith's staff, while Jake Doddo (.293 AVG, 11 SB) will provide RBI opportunities for Kokoski.

Other schools and returning all-region honorees:
Sharpsville Area - none
Wilmington Area - none

Region 3
Mike YaSenkaDespite the loss of all-region and all-district LHP/OF Zach Guth, Franklin Area welcomes back virtually its entire roster, while also reinserting back into the mix YaSenka, who should team with senior RHP Alex Huff (26 IP, 24 H, 8 BB, 34 K) as the 1-2 punch atop coach Brian Schmidt's staff. Six mainstays in the line-up are back as well, led by infielder Huff (.382 AVG, 10 BB vs 5 K), junior outfielder Nate Emerson (.431 AVG, 13 BB vs 4 K), junior first baseman Trey Weaver (.361 AVG, 11 BB vs 9 K), and senior outfielder Noah Cowles (.349 AVG, 15 BB vs 10 K).

A whopping five all-region honorees return for Maplewood: junior 1st-team catcher Tyler Mattocks, senior 1st-team SS/P Dalton Fosburg, sophomore 1st-team DH Brett Bowes, senior 2nd-team second baseman Kyle Nuhfer, and junior 2nd-team outfielder Kenyon Andrews. Along with Fosburg and Nuhfer, senior Wyatt Wright rounds out the trio of pitchers who led the team in innings last spring, while he will contribute offensively as well.

Other schools and returning all-region honorees:
Cambridge Springs - none
Saegertown - Jr C Nick Palmer (2nd-team), So SS Steve Siple (2nd-team), Jr OF Dane Rhoades (2nd-team), Jr DH Chase Leech (2nd-team)
Titusville - Sr 1B Alex Vincent (2nd-team), Sr Util Zach Richards (2nd-team)

Region 5
It's a tale of two sides of the ball for defending district champ Mercyhurst Prep, which welcomes back two-thirds of its line-up, but must replace nearly 70% of its innings (half of which came from its departed ace). Senior RHP Fred Gillespie (38 IP, 20 H, 14 BB, 36 K) steps up to the top rung of the pitching pecking order, with sophomore RHPs Brian Webb and Kaleb Brunesa, plus freshman RHP Gabe Pallo, expected to have the opportunity to log significant early-career innings. Back to power coach Randy Durkoske's offense are Penn State Behrend-bound catcher Kevin O'Connell (.302 AVG, 10 HBP), junior shortstop Nick Tyler (.309 AVG, 13 BB vs 5 K), and senior outfielder Mike Lewis (.281 AVG), while outfielder Webb could join them as a primary run-producer, if he can build off a freshman campaign in which he started nearly 75% of the team's games.

Girard welcomes back three of its five pitchers who logged between twenty and thirty innings last year, led by the senior RHP duo of Nate McKenrick (29.2 IP, 34 H, 6 BB, 21 K), a 2nd-team all-region honoree, and Ryan Lehman (26.2 IP, 18 H, 9 BB, 20 K). Two other all-region selections -- 1st-team outfielder Brenden Kohan (.345 AVG) and 2nd-team infielder Vince Monico (.297 AVG, 11 SB) -- return to spark coach Chip Gorzynski's offense, which anticipates increased production from junior outfielder Corey Mason and junior catcher Shane Boyles.

Northwestern aims to return to its winning ways in coach Craig Miller's second season, with an experienced group of upperclassmen providing leadership for a still young roster. Sophomore infielder Aaron Hull will team with the senior quartet of infielder Sam Dreistadt, 1B/DHs Pete Buckoski and Christian Linn, and 2nd-team all-region catcher Jarett Bird for primary run production duties. 6-foot-7, 240-pound RHP Buckoski will front the rotation, along with junior RHP Austin Moyer, Hull, and senior RHP Ben Smith.

Senior shortstop Nathan Mayes (.327 AVG) and senior first baseman Jarett Scotch (.298 AVG) will spark a North East offense that graduated five line-up regulars. LHP Scotch (30.1 IP, 23 H, 10 BB, 51 K) and RHP Mayes (29 IP, 18 H, 16 BB, 33 K) will also function as the primary moundsmen for coach Dave Scotch.

Other schools and returning all-region honorees:
Fairview - Sr C Mike Connell (1st-team), Jr OF Ryan Cedzo (all-District X; also 1st-team all-region as P), Jr 3B Anthony Cooper (2nd-team), Sr P Ben Coffman (2nd-team)
Seneca - Sr Util Jesse Magee (1st-team; also 2nd-team as P), Sr OF Andy Hanes (2nd-team)

Class AAA
Class AAAA (forms a sub-region with Districts VI, VIII and IX)

Region 6
Danny WilliamsSlippery Rock Area ran unscathed through regular- and post-season district play until Cathedral Prep ended the Rockets season in the district title game. Junior 1st-team all-region RHP Gunner Becker (60.2 IP, 45 H, 26 BB, 63 K) is back to once again front a pitching staff that will also get contributions from sophomore RHPs Ricky Mineo (22 IP, 23 H, 17 BB, 21 K) and Dylan Dingel. Senior all-District X shortstop Ryan Lauster (.444 AVG, 11 XBH, 8 BB vs 4 K, 13 SB) will again team with junior 1st-team all-region infielder Danny Williams (.370 AVG), senior 1st-team catcher Josh Bowser (.350 AVG, 9 XBH, 10 BB vs 8 K), and senior 2nd-team first baseman Cody Lawniczak (.286 AVG) to power coach Nathan McCullough's line-up that must replace its entire all-region outfield. Senior RHP/1B Jackson Kerchis is expected to make a two-way impact after missing most of last season with a broken hand.

Kyle ShingledeckerBrandon DennisGrove City Area must replace nine seniors, including three all-region honorees, but does return a number of multi-year starters, led by junior IF/RHP Kyle Shingledecker. He will be joined atop the pitching depth chart by senior LHP Justin Orlowski and junior RHP Tyler Simmons. Senior catcher Brandon Dennis will manage the staff and be featured in the line-up along with versatile utilitymen in sophomores Trey Adams and Ben McKnight, plus junior Nick Davies. Also keep an eye on freshman outfielder Carter Chinn to make an impact for coach Billy Herman.

Jesse RichardsColt FairbanksConneaut Area welcomes back a veteran club with seven returning line-up regulars, led by a trio of senior all-region performers -- 1st-team first baseman Taylor Williams (.421 AVG, 12 BB vs 4 K), 2nd-team 1B/OF Colt Fairbanks (.383 AVG), and 2nd-team outfielder Kris Norris (.377 AVG) -- as well as junior C/OF Jeff Millin (.300 AVG). A 2nd-team selection on the mound as well, RHP Fairbanks (53 IP, 18 BB, 40 K) returns to front coach Todd Greenawalt's rotation, with junior LHP Jesse Richards slotting in behind him and sophomore RHP Chance Lloyd likely getting an opportunity to lock down the closer role.

Andrew PiknaIn Oil City Area coach Steve Pikna's second season, he will have a senior-laden roster that graduated only two line-up regulars and returns the bulk of its pitching staff. Reprising their roles on the mound will be senior RHPs Taylor Mietus (30 IP, 36 H, 9 BB, 21 K) and Jeff Eismont (20 IP, 26 H, 10 BB, 21 K), plus senior LHP Noah Gavin (28 IP, 24 H, 17 BB, 16 K), while senior LHP Eric McMillen could grab a larger share of the workload. 2nd-team all-section catcher Andrew Pikna (.395 AVG, 21 BB vs 5 K), a Charleston (WV) signee, powers the offense along with senior utilityman Colton Schneider (.391 AVG, 9 XBH). Sophomore infielder Caden Highfield could take a big step forward after performing well in a seven-game audition at the end of his rookie season.

Dominik PruskowskiThe bulk of the run production returns for Meadville Area, where senior all-region utilityman Dominik Pruskowski (.390 AVG, 6 BB vs 1 K), sophomore C/1B Andrew Mook (.326 AVG), and senior shortstop Trevor Smith (Medaille College commit) anchor the line-up. A pitching staff that returns 87% of its innings, led by Cuyahoga CC-bound RHP Pruskowski (45.1 IP, 39 H, 44 BB, 49 K) and Smith (15.2 IP, 20 H, 11 BB, 22 K), will need to improve its collective command (80 walks in 90 innings last year for those that have returned) in order to challenge the lead dogs in this group.

Region 7
Sophomore outfielder Nick Trombetta, a 1st-team all-Region 7 selection, is part of an experienced Harbor Creek line-up that also features the senior trio of Zach Mattson, Connor Needham, and Joe Shotts, plus junior Tyler Passmore. The defending region champs also welcome back two of their top pitchers -- senior LHP Needham (37.1 IP, 15 BB, 36 K) and junior RHP Brandon Burnett (28 IP, 10 BB, 27 K) -- while coach Tim McQueeney, now in his 24th year, will look to build depth behind them from among a group that includes Passmore, Mattson, and a quartet of sophomores (Lucas Folmar, Linden Hoover, Zack Mosbacher, and Nick Oosterkamp).

Seth Baldensperger
Other schools and returning all-region honorees:

Corry Area - Sr 1B Jim Donaldson (2nd-team)
Fort LeBeouf - Sr C Tyler Miller (1st-team), Sr SS Josh Greggs (1st-team; also 2nd-team as P)
General McLane - Sr C Alex Adrzejewski (2nd-team)
Warren Area - Jr DH Seth Baldensperger (1st-team), Sr C Derek Reagle (2nd-team)

Region 8
Owen MeansAustin BraendelCross (49 IP, 26 H, 24 BB, 85 K) fronts the rotation for district champ Cathedral Prep, which welcomes back six of seven pitchers who logged double-digit innings last spring on a strike-throwing staff that posted a nearly 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It is a true pitching staff, as all five of the other holdovers appeared in at least four games (racking up 11.0 to 22.2 innings), and four notched at least two starts (with the fifth, junior LHP Mark Majewski, serving as the closer). Five members of coach Dave Hess' regular line-up return, again sparked by Cross (.465 AVG, 9 BB vs 2 K, 19 SB), who is ably supported by Braendel (.409 AVG, 11 XBH), Bauer (.394 AVG, 10 XBH, 17 SB), Hess (.317 AVG), and senior second baseman Owen Means (.382 AVG, 9 BB vs 4 K). Senior outfielder Holden Stevanus (.316 AVG, 11 BB vs 6 K, 10 SB) performed well in part-time action last year and could see an expanded role this spring.

Jake SniegockiMatt SilayDespite the need to replace its all-district ace, McDowell, the only AAAA school in the district, welcomes back an experienced pitching staff, led by junior RHP Chase Barricklow (18 IP, 11 H, 3 BB, 16 K), senior LHP Landon Oddono (22 IP, 30 H, 8 BB, 10 K), and Sniegocki (15 IP, 10 H, 9 BB, 16 K), while junior RHP Carter Ryback is expected to soak up some of the 45% of available innings. 1st-team all region selection Sniegocki and a quartet of senior 2nd-team honorees -- Silay, first baseman Oddono, second baseman Jack Baird, and third baseman Nick Doolittle -- will again power coach Nick Leslie's offense, which could have room for the junior trio of catcher Cam Petruso, outfielder Michael Ruf, and 1B/OF Adam Snyder to carve out significant roles for themselves.

Other schools and returning all-region honorees:
Central Tech - none
East - none
Strong Vincent - Jr P Joe Gammon (2nd-team)

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