2017 Season Preview: PIAA Class 5A, Part III

By Jacob Gill
Pennsylvania Assistant Director of Scouting

We turn our attention to one of the largest district-classification pairings in the state for the next installment of our season preview content, which will run for four 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. The number in parenthesis after each header is the number of state tournament bids allotted to that district or sub-region.

We received inquiries in the past 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 recently 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.

District III (4 bids)

Top Prospects:
1. Kyle Hess, 2018, OF, Donegal (Pittsburgh)
2. Luke Wagner, 2020, LHP/OF, Red Land
3. Bobby Whalen, 2019, OF, Cedar Cliff (Louisville)
4. Austin Bradbury, 2019, OF/RHP, Cedar Cliff
5. Nick Stoner, 2017, RHP, Elizabethtown Area (Bloomsburg)
6. Kris Kremer, 2017, IF, Hershey (Penn State)
7. Brendan Rivoli, 2017, C, Daniel Boone Area (Virginia)
8. Curtis Robison, 2017, OF/LHP, Northern York (Penn State)
9. Adam Schwartz, 2018, OF/RHP, Ephrata Area (Connecticut)
10. Nick Lucky, 2018, SS, Cocalico (Coastal Carolina)
11. Kris Pirozzi, 2018, RHP, Lampeter-Strasburg
12. Nathan Starliper, 2018, LHP, Greencastle-Antrim (Maryland)
13. Jared Payne, 2019, C, Red Land (Kentucky)
14. Taylor Rohrer, 2018, LHP, Manheim Central (George Washington)
15. Zeb Stough, 2018, 3B/RHP, Red Land (High Point)
16. Brock Kauffman, 2017, IF, Garden Spot (East Stroudsburg)
17. Scott Leitholf, 2017, RHP, Northern York (Lock Haven)
18. Michael Geesaman, 2017, OF, Lower Dauphin (Lackawanna)
19. Matt Kephart, 2017, C, Lower Dauphin (Mount St. Mary's)
20. Colin Hartey, 2017, OF, Twin Valley (Lafayette)
21. Tommy Savastio, 2017, 1B/OF, Cedar Cliff (Mount St. Mary's)
22. Drew Mummau, 2019, SS, Manheim Central (Liberty)
23. Mason Walker, 2019, SS, Red Land
24. Connor Buggy, 2018, C, Lower Dauphin
25. Tommy Bramley, 2018, C Lower Dauphin

After falling one win shy of a state tournament berth last season, Daniel Boone Area features an experienced, upperclass-laden roster that will try to get over the hump this spring. Coach Jason McCord welcomes back into the fold the RHP trio of Indiana (PA)-bound Luke Heffner, Penn State Abington commit Zach Brightbill, and junior Carson Zuber. Shepherding the staff and powering the offense will be Rivoli, who will be joined in primary run production by senior outfielder Devon Garner, Lock Haven-bound infielder Joey Moyer, and Immaculata-bound infielder Ty Esenwein.

A veteran roster returns for Northern York, including a pitching staff that welcomes back four of its top five pitchers -- ace Leitholf, Messiah-bound LHP Trent Culver, Robison, and senior RHP Louis Peiffer -- who accounted for 80% of the team's innings last spring. Also an outfielder, Penn State signee Robison provides power from the left side of the plate and an element of speed on the base paths. Also returning to coach Brian Robison's line-up are junior third baseman Alex Lilja (who could feature his mid-80s fastball on the mound as well) and senior outfielder Jared Sutch, as well as outfielder Culver and infielder Peiffer.

Coming off a season in which it came up just short in two attempts to earn a state tournament berth, Cedar Cliff welcomes back the bulk of a still-youthful roster. A trio of remaining RHPs -- junior Dennis Snyder, plus La Roche-bound Maddux Ryan and senior Grant Breneman (who is committed to Colgate for football) -- combined to log nearly 80% of the staff's innings last spring. A solid line-up core includes returning starters in the physical duo of Savastio and third baseman Breneman, junior infielder Jimmy Losh, and Whalen. A quartet of sophomores could vault themselves into the discussion for coach Scott Lackey as well, including the athletic 6-foot-2, 190-pound Bradbury, multi-sport catcher Donovan Ball, physical first baseman Justin Resto, and infielder Trey Law.

One year after grabbing the last seed in the district playoffs, Red Land has the talent on hand to push toward the top of the power ratings this spring. Even with Frederick CC-bound RHP Brayden Coe sidelined for at least the beginning part of the season, the Patriots can still feature the polished-beyond-his-years Wagner, physical competitor Stough, junior Keith Pate, senior RHP Ben Green, and senior LHP Josh Snyder. Senior infielder Nate Chapman provides a steadying presence for an otherwise youthful offense that could feature Stough, Wagner, Payne, and Walker.

A good chunk of a talented offense returns for Lower Dauphin, with perhaps the biggest challenge being how to get Kephart, Buggy, and Bramley -- all primary catchers -- in the line-up at the same time. Toolsy left-handed hitter Geesaman provides an offensive spark as well as logging innings on the mound. Senior Jared Dunkle also provides two-way production, while junior RHP Will Manley shows solid command of a three-pitch mix.

The majority of the roster (minus the staff ace) returns for Spring Grove Area, including a trio of senior pitchers -- LHP Jonathan Sager and RHPs Logan Miller and Cameron Sterner -- each of whom logged at least 35 innings last spring. An offense looking to take a collective step forward for coach Kevin Stiffler will feature outfielders Sager, Sterner and junior Trent Baker, plus senior catcher Derek Hoiles.

Elizabethtown Area will feature just four seniors on this year's roster, although Stoner will give his team an edge in virtually every game in which he toes the rubber. The athletic 6-foot, 170-pounder features a long, loose, quick arm with a fastball that has touched 91 mph, and also comes equipped with three quality secondary offerings. With Stoner's junior season cut short due to injury, senior RHP Logan Yohn and junior RHP Chad Caley logged significant innings and will slot in behind the Bears now-healthy ace. Stoner is also the leading returning hitter for coach Bill Templin, who will again turn to Yohn, Caley, senior outfielder Justin Shelly, and senior DH/1B Casey Cooper for offensive production.

Eight of nine position player regulars return for Manheim Central, led by the steady Mummau, Lebanon Valley-bound infielder Tyler Lyons, senior catcher Tyler Lutz, and speedy junior outfielder Nate Loser. Mummau and Rorher provide a solid right-left combo atop the Barons staff, which could also see contributions from junior LHP Bryce Eberly, junior RHP Tyler Simon, and senior RHP Trevor Hosler.

After earning the first district title and state tournament appearance in program history,  Ephrata Area coach Adrian Shelley is tasked with replacing eight of nine line-up regulars and his top two pitchers. The team, while filled primarily with sophomores and juniors, is not bereft of talent, however, headlined by the physical Schwartz who has big power in his bat that matches the life on his fastball. Sophomore RHP/3B Zac McGillan is expected to assume larger roles on the mound and at the plate after getting his feet wet at the varsity level as a rookie. Also expected to help replace the departed production is sophomore LHP Hunter Johns, sophomore catcher Ric Brominski, and junior shortstop Andrew Thomas.

Just three everyday position players and one pitcher who logged double-digit innings return as coach Jeff Hartman takes the reins at Donegal. Left-handed hitting Hess just keeps getting faster (6.44 laser-timed 60-yard dash at the Preseason All-State Showcase last month) even as he adds strength to his now 6-foot, 185-pound frame. He will be joined in sparking the top of the order by junior shortstop Dale Houser, who can scoot in his own right, while junior second baseman Seiler Edwards will be called upon to assume a more prominent run-production role. Junior RHP Dawson Magar will front the rotation, with fellow junior RHPs Hess and Ryan Buckius also slated to toe the rubber.

Unlike in recent seasons, Greencastle-Antrim has some big question marks surrounding a largely inexperienced group this spring. The Blue Devils graduated three of their primary pitchers and their starting catcher, but do have a couple of arms with varsity experience in 6-foot-3, 210-pound Starliper and senior RHP Cade Bender. Coach Eric Shaner's unproven line-up will feature junior shortstop Tanner Rock (who will also see time on the mound), outfielder Starliper, senior outfielder Ty Haldeman, and senior IF/OF Noah Brown.

Hershey welcomes back more than half of its line-up, led by the athletic, toolsy Kremer, who will receive support from senior first baseman Owen DeFlitch, junior third baseman Pat Blackall, and junior outfielder Grant Santangelo. An inexperienced pitching staff for coach Shane Zellers will look for the senior RHP trio of Eric Larson, Juniata-bound Cade Cieszynski, and Quinn Richards to assume larger workloads this spring.

Four of the five pitchers who logged double-digit innings and virtually the entire line-up return for Gettysburg Area. Marywood-bound RHP Michael Tempel and junior RHP Logan Carbaugh saw the most mound time last spring, while sophomore RHP Josh Topper is expected to shoulder a larger workload after getting his feet wet as a rookie. Penn Tech-bound infielder Ethan Ketterman, Tempel, and Southern Virginia-bound catcher David Buxton will power coach Ryan Brady's offense.

Exeter Township coach Justin Freese's line-up card will look quite different this spring, following the graduation of seven line-up regulars, three of whom combined to log 86% of the team's innings. The overhauled pitching staff, from which no holdover logged more than 6.2 innings, will be fronted by senior RHPs Jon Wack and Brandon Stern, along with senior LHP Nick Klee. The lone returning position player starters -- senior outfielder Joe Fylypowycz and senior catcher Jon Lach -- will be joined by an in experienced group that includes junior outfielder Andrew Barlow and junior infielder Nathan Serba.

The projectable Pirozzi is the only roster holdover for Lampeter-Strasburg who saw significant action on the mound or with the bat last spring. Coach Keith Lehman's overhauled squad will turn to a pair of Pirozzi's classmates, junior RHP Todd Shelley and junior LHP Aaron Jacoby, to assume large roles on the pitching staff, while the line-up makeover will feature the senior trio of C/IF Caleb Danehower, IF/OF Jack Drummond, and outfielder Ioanni Kovack, along with junior catcher Luke Weigel.

Garden Spot welcomes back two-thirds of its regular line-up, but must find a way to replace two of its three most-used pitchers. A full season from senior LHP Ryan Smith, who logged nearly 50 innings as a sophomore, but was unable to pitch most of last spring, should help fill some of the void, while junior LHP Jordan Petersheim is the leading returning innings-eater. Kauffman was one of the toughest outs in the area, showing the ability to hit, drive the baseball, plate discipline, and on-base skills. Junior Austin Wanner, Smith, and Petersheim are also among the team's leading returning run producers.

South Western will roll out a fairly young group this spring, albeit with a senior presence on the mound in LHP Austin Yancheski, and in the line-up with infielder Luke Small and outfielders Adam Reed and Jimmy Harris. Junior catcher Garrett Moore will manage a pitching staff that will also feature junior RHP Trevor Bean and sophomore LHP Ethan Stalnecker.

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