2016 Season Preview: PIAA District XI

By Jacob Gill
Pennsylvania Assistant Director of Scouting

We remain on the eastern side of the state 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 XI Top Prospects

Gavin Hinchliffe1. Zach McCambley, 2017, RHP, Pocono Mountain East (Coastal Carolina)
2. Darion Jacoby, 2017, OF, Pottsville Area (Virginia Tech)
3. Kellan Tulio, 2019, LHP, Emmaus
4. Gavin Hinchliffe, 2017, RHP/3B, Pottsville Area (Virginia Tech)
5. Tevin Murray, 2016, LHP, North Schuylkill (Rutgers)
6. Harsha Bollu, 2017, RHP, Parkland (Penn)
7. Austin Mueller, 2017, C, Parkland
8. Tyler Schreiner, 2017, OF/1B, Northwestern Lehigh
Tyler Bruno9. Joseph Nahas, 2016, RHP, Marian Catholic (Scranton)
10. Eric Santiago, 2016, IF, Notre Dame Green Pond (Cincinnati)
11. Bobby Grigas, 2016, LHP/OF, North Schuylkill
12. Cullan Wadsworth, 2018, OF/LHP, Parkland
13. James Balogh, 2018, RHP/OF, Pocono Mountain East
14. Kieran Kearns, 2017, RHP, Pleasant Valley
15. Tyler Bruno, 2016, IF, Parkland (Villanova)

Class A

Dawson SchwalmFive freshmen among your top ten position players and four among your top five starters? No problem for Tri-Valley, which captured its third district title in five years last spring. So, despite the graduation of do-it-all two-way performer Hunter Bordner, the Bulldogs appear to be in good shape for the coming years. Junior Hunter Herb (.395 AVG, 11 XBH) is the leading returning hitter, while sophomores Dawson Schwalm (.300 AVG, 10 SB) and Logan Yoder (.300 AVG) are coming off strong rookie campaigns. On the mound, the sophomore duo of Will Kimmel (39 IP, 48 H, 10 BB, 23 K) and Jacob Masser (28.2 IP, 39 H, 7 BB, 14 K) appear poised to ascend to the top of the depth chart.

Daniel KeerDante SalernoMarian Catholic returns almost its entire roster -- eight of nine position player starters and all but one-third of an inning pitched -- from its district semifinal team that fell to eventual district champ Tri-Valley in the semifinals. The pitching staff has six holdovers who logged double-digit innings, led by Nahas (38 IP, 29 H, 20 BB, 50K), senior RHP Dante Salerno (23 IP, 20 H, 11 BB, 15 K), and junior RHP Daniel Keer (19.1 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 21 K). Virginia Wise-bound shortstop Salerno (.478 AVG, 18 BB+HBP vs 2 K, 28 SB) and senior catcher K.J. Sneer (.446 AVG, 21 SB) are the twin engines that makes the offense go, while first baseman Keer (.409 AVG, 10 XBH) and senior infielder Mason Evitts (.282 AVG, 9 XBH) provide pop in the middle of the line-up that hit a composite .378 last season.

Mike WinterAs Nativity BVM coach Chris Polm completes a half decade at the helm, he will rely on junior RHP/1B Riley White and senior C/OF/RHP Andrew Belding for two-way production. Sophomore LHP Dominic Dostick should also make an impact on the staff, while the senior double play duo of second baseman Marcus Renninger and shortstop Travis Hunyara, plus junior C/OF Michael Winter, will be major contributors in the line-up.

Playing as an independent, Notre Dame East Stroudsburg typically has one of the tougher rows to hoe when it comes to qualifying for the post-season. This year's version welcomes back a healthy senior shortstop Christian Bahara, who was limited due to a back injury last season, to a line-up that also features sophomore third baseman Royce Frazier and senior second baseman Conor Naughton, the Spartans leading returning hitter. Bahara should chip in as well on the mound, joining the experienced senior trio of RHPs Brendan Murphy and Tom Gallagher, plus LHP Tommy O'Malley, on coach Kevin Hezel's staff.

Class AA

Chris BurkeNorth Schuylkill, which dropped a one-run decision in the district title game last spring, appears to have the pieces in place to make another strong run. If Grigas (who hit .550 in just 11 games last year, while posting a pitching line of 19.2 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 30 K) can stay healthy all season, something he hasn't done since his freshman year, it could be just what the Spartans need to get them over the hump. Murray (38.2 IP, 15 H, 15 BB, 40 K) and C.J. Steinhilber (33.1 IP, 22 H, 27 BB, 26 K) comprise the rest of coach Nick Brayford's senior southpaw triumvirate. Like Grigas, junior outfielder Bobby Wagner returns after being limited last year, while senior outfielder Jordan Marlow (.328 AVG, 11 BB vs 5 K) is expected back mid-season from a football injury. Junior catcher Chris Burke (.379 AVG) and junior shortstop Richie Zahodnick (.318 AVG) return to a line-up that also gets contributions from Murray (.353 AVG) and Steinhilber (.340 AVG).

Schuylkill Haven Area must cope with the loss of stud pitcher Nick Behm, who logged nearly half of the district champ and state quarterfinalist team's innings last spring, but looks to still be in solid shape with the return of senior Ethan Conage (58.1 IP, 46 H, 14 BB, 35 K) and sophomore Brandon Schaeffer (16.1 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 15 K). The offense will undergo a major overhaul following the graduation of four first-team all-league performers.

If Notre Dame Green Pond is to remain a top contender in this district, it will need to find a way to replace 72% of its innings (including its top two pitchers) from last season. Junior RHP Brandon Moffitt (30.2 IP, 27 H, 15 BB, 25 K) and senior Nick Basenese (14.1 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 14 K) are the only two holdovers to have logged innings last spring, which means players like senior Zack Mills (missed last season due to illness) and junior RHP Jarod Herman will need to get up to speed quickly. A solid offensive core is led by 1st-team Colonial League all-star Santiago (.470 AVG, 6 BB vs 4 K, 12 SB) and senior catcher Kevin Dadio (.315 AVG, 7 BB vs 6 K), while coach Michael Bedics hopes to get increased production from the likes of junior second baseman Austin Kaulius and senior outfielder Eric Senior.

Chad CoopermanComing off a 12-inning semifinal loss to eventual district champ Schuylkill Haven Area, Salisbury Township will be led by the arm (40.1 IP, 41 H, 12 BB, 40 K) and bat (.364 AVG) of honorable mention all-Colonial League selection Chad Cooperman (Bloomsburg commit). He and sophomore Andrew Sukonick will each step up a rung on the pitching depth chart, while another sophomore, Cole Warmkessel, should get a chance to earn a larger role. Coach Mike Pochron will also turn to senior third baseman Nick Sikora and sophomore OF/C Joe Galantini to help make up for the loss of three all-Colonial League honorees, including the league MVP.

Veteran Pine Grove Area coach Keith Lehman will have his managerial chops tested this spring, with the graduation of two-thirds of his starting line-up and his top two pitchers leaving the roster with just one senior and a relatively small junior class. Sophomore RHP Jacob Leninger (22.2 IP, 17 H, 11 BB, 21 K) is the de facto ace coming off a solid rookie campaign, while junior RHP Tanner Levan, sophomore RHP Jason Soper, and junior LHP Ty Zimmerman will all receive their first varsity innings. The trio of offensive holdovers -- senior infielders Dilan Smith and Dylan Brown, plus catcher Levan -- will be joined by sophomore outfielder Jason Soper and junior first baseman Emory Herb in the line-up.

Panther Valley welcomes back virtually its entire roster, led by a pair of senior two-way performers in RHP/SS Darren Goida and OF/RHP Matt Hudicka. A senior-laden line-up for first-year coach Rich Evanko will also get significant contributions from sophomore first baseman Tristan Blasko, who hit clean-up as a rookie.

Two-thirds of the starting line-up is back for Northern Lehigh, which will have senior outfielder Zach Rex and senior infielder Evan Meixsell setting the pace for the offense. A trio of RHPs -- seniors Austin Lancsak and Chad Cederberg, plus junior Jake Kistler -- are slated to log the bulk of the innings for second-year coach Gregory King.

Big time roster overhaul for Catasauqua, which graduated thirteen off last year's squad. Sophomore shortstop Corey Raysley and senior second baseman Calvin Thompson (.530 AVG), a 2nd-team Colonial League all-star, are back to solidify the infield and spark the offense. Senior RHP/3B Nate Pontician and junior RHP/3B Rodney Berger will also contribute with the bat, while logging significant innings for coach Steve Bradley.

Class AAA

J.J. SpehrleyNo one or two individuals are going to replace the group (which included the Minnesota Twins 3rd round draft pick) that Pottsville Area graduated off its district champ and state semifinal squad, so it will need to be a group effort for coach Mike Welsh's young group. The pitching staff still projects to be in good shape, as Bloomsburg-bound RHP J.J. Spehrley ascends from the #2 starter spot to the role of ace, while Hinchliffe will certainly log more innings than last spring and junior RHP Ryan Kalinich could rack up more mound time as well. Jacoby and senior third baseman Trent Barnes will set the tone for the offense.

Brian WildrickA veteran group returns for district semifinalist Saucon Valley, led by 1st-team all-Colonial League LHP Brian Wildrick (Gwynedd Mercy) and senior honorable mention outfielder Nate Harka (committed to Kutztown for football). Senior Zach Thatcher and junior Ryan Meyers will assume larger roles on the pitching staff for coach Phil Sams, who can also count on first baseman Wildrick, senior shortstop Adam Hough, sophomore outfielder Alstan Wolfe, and junior third baseman Will Smith for run production.

Casey RotherTamaqua Area saw its bid for a district three-peat end in the semifinals at the hands of eventual district champ and state semifinalist Pottsville Area. Now it's time to reload for coach Jeff Reading, who must replace two-thirds of the team's innings and half of the primary line-up contributors. The senior RHP trio of Brady Akins (22.1 IP, 12 H, 8 BB, 16 K), Matt Minchoff (9.1 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 7 K), and Russell Blaker (limited last year due to a variety of maladies) will be called upon to assume larger roles. Sophomore C/OF Casey Rother (.306 AVG, 8 XBH) is back to build upon a solid rookie campaign, while OF/1B Minchoff (.264 AVG), senior 1B/C Owen Bates (.305 AVG), and junior outfielder Daylon Barron (.258 AVG) will be called upon to step up as primary run producers.

Tyler SchreinerA pair of all-Colonial League selections -- Mansfield-bound second baseman Brady Mengel (1st-team) and Schreiner (2nd-team) -- along with senior shortstop Jake Augustus (.346 AVG, 25 SB) are among seven returning line-up regulars for Northwestern Lehigh. Augustus will front an otherwise inexperienced staff for first-year coach Duran Porrino, who will look to get innings out of junior Niko Fager, and sophomores Jacob Haas and Andrew White.

Palmerton Area welcomes back the bulk of a roster that could be poised to take a leap forward this spring under coach Mike Svetik. Three senior Colonial League all-stars -- 2nd-team outfielders Jonathan Schwartz (.436 AVG, 14 SB) and Toby Sander (.517 AVG), plus honorable mention third baseman Kole Rodrigues (.315 AVG) -- are back to power a veteran offense that needs to replace only two primary contributors. Four upperclassmen who logged at least fifteen innings are back as well, led by strike-throwing Lehigh Carbon CC-bound LHP Zach Svetik (30 IP, 35 H, 3 BB, 21 K).

Brandon MillerBrandon SmithFollowing a season in which it ran out a line-up of predominantly underclassmen, Wilson Area coach Josh Hinkle hopes that experience pays off this spring. Sophomore RHP/IF Gabe Karslo made an immediate impact last year with his arm (48 IP, 47 H, 18 BB, 39 K) and bat (honorable mention Colonial League all-star at second base). He is rejoined in the line-up by sophomore catcher Brandon Smith (.333 AVG) and junior 1st-team DH Brandon Miller (.460 AVG). Also slated to log innings is the senior trio of Skyler Heft, A.J. Raso, and Bryce Bergstresser.

The college-bound battery of RHP Dylan Peiffer (Widener) and catcher Noah Adams (King's) will again lead the way for an Allentown Central Catholic squad that returns its top three pitchers and eight of nine position player starters. Nate Lesawich and Matt Davidowich complete the senior RHP trio, while the senior keystone combo of second baseman Matt Miller and shortstop Anthony Sorrentino bolster the line-up and solidify the middle of the diamond for coach Mike Brosious.

If district runner-up Blue Mountain is going to make another playoff run, it will be with a group that will almost entirely go through its growing pains together, as the Eagles top three pitchers and eight of nine line-up regulars departed via graduation. Senior RHP/3B Rob Oliver is the leading returner on both sides of the ball. As he closes in on a quarter century at the helm, coach Thomas Kramer will turn to a quintet of juniors -- IF/RHP Justin Hammer, pitchers Kyle Emerich and Brett Caufield, outfielder Dan Greenawalt, and second baseman Jon Benner -- to fill some of the line-up holes.

Class AAAA

Austin MuellerIn addition to its always significant roster turnover, which this year includes the loss of 84% of its innings pitched, district bully Parkland will also have a new hand writing out the line-up card, as Tony Galucy passed off the reins of the program to long-time assistant Kurt Weber. Last year's state semifinalist will lean on Bollu (20.2 IP, 17 H, 12 BB, 21 K) and junior RHP Michael Jenkins (8.2 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 11 K) to steady the staff, while an inexperienced group jockeys for a role behind them. Honorable Mention all-EPC infielder Bruno (.414 AVG, 11 XBH) is one of four returning position player starters, a group that also includes switch-hitting Mueller (.268 AVG), senior outfielder Andrew Roth (.397 AVG), and Wadsworth (.294 AVG).

Matt ZiminskyTwo-thirds of the regular line-up is back for Whitehall, led by junior outfielders Alex Bruneio (.317 AVG, 9 BB vs 7 K) and Matt Dobeck (.333 AVG, 7 BB vs 4 K), plus senior outfielder Gianni Sinatore (.300 AVG, 12 BB vs 10 K). Bruneio (32.2 IP, 35 H, 18 BB, 42 K) will also team with fellow junior LHP Zach Gilbert (30.2 IP, 36 H, 21 BB, 30 K) to front the pitching staff for coach Shaun O'Boyle, who will also hand the ball to junior RHP Zach Hamscher with regularity. Keep an eye on sophomore RHP/IF Matt Ziminsky, who could very well establish himself as a two-way contributor this spring.

Lots of holes to fill for Stroudsburg, not the least of which is RHP Mike Nikorak, the Colorado Rockies 1st round pick who also happened to hit .413 with 15 extra base hits last spring. Buoying the rotation will be a pair of junior LHPs, A.J. Denny and Nate Kitchell, while senior RHP C.J. Lopez could serve as the closer and junior RHP Brett Yarnall could assume a larger role. On the offensive side for coach Phil Stokes, Harford CC-bound shortstop Lopez and Scranton-bound outfielder Luc Cibiscino will team with junior utility Beau Breithaupt and infielder Yarnall to power a line-up that welcomes back senior catcher Jason Vitacco, who missed most of last season.

Shane AsterIan LubertiComing off season in which it reached the district semifinals and was the only team to hand Parkland a loss prior to the state tournament, Northampton Area welcomes back three of its top four pitchers, led by senior RHP Nick DeMieri (52.1 IP, 34 H, 11 BB, 26 K). Senior RHPs Justin Bragg (18.2 IP, 23 H, 8 BB, 6 K) and Ryan Werley (15.1 IP, 26 H, 7 BB, 13 K), along with the junior duo of RHP Kyle Serman and LHP Matt Hutchins, who could be mixed-and-matched as starters or relievers by coach Mick Sugra. The Konkrete Kids will be led offensively by a trio of Moravian commits -- catcher Ian Luberti (.385 AVG), first baseman Ian Csencstis (.429 AVG), and third baseman Will Stackhouse (.329 AVG) -- plus senior shortstop Jon Miller (.356 AVG, 7 BB vs 6 K, 9 SB) and toolsy IUP-bound outfielder Shane Aster.

Ben HudockJunior 1st-team Eastern Pennsylvania Conference all-star infielder Sam Kraihanzel (.411 AVG, 8 2B, 3 BB vs 1 K), the only underclassman to receive 1st-team recognition, is back to power a Liberty (15-8) line-up that will also feature his fellow juniors Elias Gross (.293 AVG) and Mike Perreault (.375 AVG in part-time duty). Manhattan-bound Alexis Calderon (36.1 IP, 34 H, 20 BB, 46 K), Indiana of PA-bound Ben Hudock (29.1 IP, 28 H, 7 BB, 28 K), Pereault (26.2 IP, 29 H, 13 BB, 25 K), and closer Gross (12.1 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 10 K) form the core of an experienced staff for coach Andrew Pitsilos that is almost entirely intact from last season.

Jordan MartinezJames BaloghMcCambley (34 IP, 20 H, 11 BB, 54 K) and the athletic Balogh both have a quality three-pitch mix and form a duo at the top of the rotation for Pocono Mountain East that can rival any in this district. The rest of coach Matt Loringer's roster lacks varsity experience, so he will turn to junior RHP Tyler Horvath, junior outfielder C.J. Peechatka, sophomore catcher Jake Keane, and junior infielder Jordan Martinez to play vital roles.

Bryan ReagleCorey WebbDistrict runner-up Easton Area must replace three of its top four pitchers, who logged nearly 70% of the staff's innings, with senior Ryan Greene (24.2 IP, 23 H, 11 BB, 15 K) the only returner to have a significant workload last spring. Despite the graduation of two-thirds of its line-up, the Rovers have a solid offensive core around which they can build in the trio of Lafayette-bound Trey Durrah (.348 AVG, 10 XBH, 9 BB vs 5 K), Indiana of PA-bound Corey Webb (.333 AVG, 12 BB vs 8 K), and senior Bryan Reagle (.333 AVG, 12 BB vs 8 K).

Nazareth Area scuffled to a 3-17 record last year, with twelve of those losses coming by three runs or less (including seven by just one run). Coach Bryan Wolf hopes experience will help flip the script, as his line-up has more than two returning starters for the first time in four seasons. Among those holdovers are senior catcher Jake Trenberth, senior second baseman Kevin Ryan, and junior outfielder Nick Hinkle, while junior first baseman Cade Stoneback and junior outfielder Noah McMullen are expected to fill holes that do exist. The Blue Eagles return three who logged double digit innings as well, in RHP trio of Hinkle (17.2 IP, 25 H, 11 BB, 11 K), McMullen (28.1 IP, 29 H, 4 BB, 15 K), and senior Matt Horvath (26 IP, 21 H, 10 BB, 11 K).

Six pitchers who logged double-digit innings return for East Stroudsburg South, which will be led by the senior trio of Kyle Furst (28.1 IP, 25 H, 18 BB, 29 K), Nick Boushell (29.1 IP, 36 H, 13 BB, 10 K), and Chris Randass (10.1 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 11 K) who was limited last year due to injury. Two-thirds of coach Kane Furst's regular line-up is back as well, with primary run production falling to Kyle Furst (.351 AVG), Jake Kochmansky (Lehigh commit), Boushell (.381 AVG, 5 BB vs 3 K), and junior Jake Cirillo (.286 AVG, 8 XBH).

An experienced line-up for Pleasant Valley, which includes junior honorable mention all-EPC shortstop Brett Hardy, senior 1B/OF Matthew Pierce, third baseman Kieran Kearns, and junior infielder Matthew Knopke, will be bolstered by the return of senior outfielder Brendan Kearns, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. The pitching staff for coach Charlie Inserra is a little more green, as junior RHPs Hardy, Kieran Kearns, and Dakota George, along with LHP Pierce, will be asked to assume larger workloads.

Nick AmeyMatt LanzoneIn his second season, the real work now begins for Emmaus coach Mike Mihalik, who will be tasked with replacing his top three pitchers and the middle of his line-up. Junior LHP Matt Lanzone (20 IP, 26 H, 6 BB, 17 K), the only staff holdover to have logged more than six innings last season, will be joined by junior RHP Todd Moxey atop a rotation that should receive midseason reinforcements from Tulio, who will be sidelined at the outset due to injury. Senior outfielder George Smith, a sparkplug atop the line-up, and junior shortstop Eric Cichocki are the leading returning hitters, while junior first baseman Austin Robertson and junior utilityman Nick Amey will have the opportunity to seize a larger role.

In an effort to replace its top three pitchers (who accounted for 80% of the team's innings), William Allen will turn to senior catcher Ivan Solis (.353 AVG, 10 BB+HBP vs 4 K) to shepherd an inexperienced group that includes senior RHPs Erick Reyes and Misael Sanchez, along with junior RHP Bobby Borowski. Coach Rob Leskosky's offense is a little more stable with the return of 1st-team all-EPC outfielder Sanchez (.381 AVG, 11 BB+HBP vs 9 K), senior honorable mention outfielder Angel Ruiz (.286 AVG, 10 SB), and senior shortstop Jeremy Lovera (.344 AVG, 12 SB).

East Stroudsburg North coach Matt Suarez will be tasked with managing a young roster that will lean on the trio of senior RHP Gabe Acosta, junior RHP Tom Dunleavy, and junior LHP Drew Mead to keep the team in ballgames.

With the bulk of its offensive and pitching production gone, Louis E Dieruff will need to regroup in a hurry in order to make a run at a post-season berth. Senior 1st-team all-EPC outfielder Jeison Peralta (.415 AVG, 9 XBH) will spark a line-up that will need junior utilityman Jesus Cruz, senior catcher Tama Anoai, and junior infielder Tristan Rismiller to step up their run production. Cruz and Rismiller will also be called upon to log significant innings for coach Dave Stoudt.

Virtually the entire roster, including eight senior starters and five pitchers, returns for Pocono Mountain West. Coach Steven Olizarowicz will also look to integrate newcomers such as sophomore RHP/3B Dylan Broderick, sophomore OF Zach Poppola, and junior shortstop Kieran Romney ahead of the impending mass exodus at the end of the season.

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