Championship Breakdown

No lead in, we are getting right down to the business. The time we have all been waiting for has finally come, and let’s get into our Championship Breakdown.

 

1A champ

The rubber match. These section rivals face off for one final WPIAL contest this season, and my oh my will it be one to see. Union took game one 9-8 in dramatic fashion over the Royals. Two weeks later, VA responded with a 4-3 victory of their own. Now, the top two seeded teams in 1A will play for the conference crown.

Both teams feature several of the WPIAL’s most talented bats. Vincentian is home to Kyler Fedko, a UCONN commit who holds a .614 batting average, hit a league leading 6 homers, knocked in 33 RBI’s, and scored 30 runs. On the other side is the dynamic duo of Matt Costello and Tyler Benedict. Costello hit .571 with 19 runs, and struck out 33 hitters on the bump. Benedict raked .463 with 20 RBI’s and 21 runs. Two high flying offenses means a very exciting ball game is coming.

Both teams scored 13 runs in their previous postseason contests. However, the biggest difference in their playoff statistics is Vincentian has yet to give up a run, while Union has surrendered 7. The Scotties scrapped their way past Monessen enroute to a semi final bid, and this early scare showed their susceptible to allowing a good offense to do some major damage.

My Prediction: I am taking the Vincentian Royals to be crowned as the 1A champions. The Royals have been atop of the conference rankings all year long, and I expect them to finish there. VA – 6, Union – 4.

 

3A champ

Another conference championship where the top two seeds will be battling for the gold. Serra has dominated all season long, and it is no surprise to anyone that the Eagles have flown their way to Washington. CWNC has arguably been just as successful. The Trojans do have five losses on the year, but four of them have come against teams in higher classifications. CWNC is on fire winning 9 of their last 11, and they are searching for one more.

It would be hard breaking down this matchup without discussing Mark Black. The St. Johns commit just missed taking home the WPIAL triple crown, slashing .629, 5 homers, and 42 RBI’s. He was also second in the league with 35 runs. In front of him was teammate Zack Bowen. Oh yeah, and behind Black in third place was another teammate, Ben Bowen. Moral of the story here is Serra Catholic is a dominant force in 2A, and knows exactly what to do to win ball games.

CWNC is hoping to utilize their talent on the bump to quiet the Eagles bats. CWNC has a three headed monster pitching staff who have all put together incredible seasons. Alex Hoehn was 5-0 with 39 k’s during the regular season, Joe Alampi was 4-1, and Ryan Feczko struck out 51 hitters. The Trojans can score with the best of them as well, but what is really intriguing to me is how they will go about maneuvering their way through Serra’s lineup with their power arms.

My Prediction: I can’t go against Serra Catholic. The Eagles have been too good for too long, and I think they take home the gold here. Mark Black and the Bowen boys are going to have a hell of a day. Give me Serra – 6, CWNC – 2.

 

2A champ

The Brownsville Falcons are playing for the top spot in 3A. That is something I did not think I would be saying, not because of their talent, but rather because they had to get through Riverside in the process. The Falcons defeated the Panther powerhouse 6-5 in the Final Four and proved they were a team made for the big moments. Avonworth had a much different showing in the semis. The Lopes downed South Side Beaver 13-2, in a dominant showing against the 3 seed. Avonworth has won 6 straight, and look ready to be crowned the 3A champion.

The Lopes are headed by a fantastic pitching combination of Ryan Felter and Turner Grau. Brownsville has a stud arm of their own in Dylan Brosky. Brosky is 5-1 with 62 strikeouts on the season, ranking him fifth in the WPIAL.

My Prediction: I really like Avonworth here. I think the Lopes are due, and have had the talent all season long to pull off an incredible playoff run. This one is going to be a low scoring affair with a final score of 3-2.

 

4A champ

How about a conference where the top two seeds did not even make the final four! Early eliminations for Blackhawk and Knoch led to Ringgold and South Fayette powering their way to the top of 4A. Ringgold arrives to the title game after defeating New Castle 8-3, and Greensburg Salem 7-3. South Fayette dominated as well, winning 1-0 against a very talented West Mifflin team, and 14-4 against the Hopewell Vikings.

South Fayette is a very complete team. The Lions feature a .500 hitter in Ryan Kokoski, and also have Tyler Bedillion and Richie Dell who have combined for 9 wins and only two losses on the bump. But, Ringgold has Ryan Varley. Varley is what I would consider a hidden gem in the WPIAL world of baseball. The Alderson Broaddus commit is undefeated as a pitcher, hosting a .400 record. He has crushed his competition all season long, and he fits the Western PA-blue collared persona to a T.

My Prediction: I am rolling with the Lions in 4A. I love watching Varley play, but I think at the end of the day South Fayette is going to be too much to handle. Final score SF – 2, Ringgold – 0.

 

5A champ

Mars and North Hills. It might be shocking to some, but we could see these two teams arriving at this point all year long. Mars got off to a very rough start to their season, but flipped the switch at the perfect time. The Planets have won 8 straight leading up the Finals, and are one game away from taking home the gold. North Hills has absolutely owned their competitors thus far in the postseason. The Indians eliminated Franklin Regional 7-1, and proceeded to knock out West A 11-4.

In our opinion, North Hills is one of the deepest teams around the area. They have 3 guys hitting over .450, an offensive juggernaut that can score any time they want, and a 4-1 pitcher with 46 strikeouts named Joey Pusateri. They hold a record of 19-3, but one of those losses came in a 9-0 fashion at the hands of the Planets. Mars has three D1 pitching commits, the main story though is Will Bednar. We talked about him all season long, and rightfully so. The Junior is already committed to Ohio State, and struck out 76 batters during the year, putting him second in the WPIAL. Bednar has two playoff starts this year, and has only given up one run.

My Prediction: We predicted this 5A final, and took North Hills to come out on top, but today we are changing that answer. The Bednar train is coming, and the Indians are going to have to play superb to get out of it’s way. This is going to be the premier championship matchup, and both teams are more than deserving to have made it this far. I am taking Mars – 2, North Hills – 1.

 

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Canon Mac vs North Allegheny is a matchup that no one could have seen coming. We have been saying all year long that the Big Macs mean business, and they showcased their ability taking down Norwin, Plum, and Central Catholic. All three of those teams are loaded with talent and Canon Mac moved past them with ease. North Allegheny is by far the biggest surprise of the WPIAL playoffs. The 10th seeded Tigers upset Penn Trafford, Bethel Park, and Hempfield on their way to the championship.

Canon Mac has a true ace in Zach Rohaley. The Wheeling Jesuit commit finished the regular season 6-1, and struck out 61 batters in the process. The Big Macs can swing it too, with multiple contributors who will threaten the Tigers throughout the game. NA’s run has been fueled by an impressive offense. In three postseason games, on average the Tigers are posting 5 runs. Those are tough numbers to maintain, and even tougher ones to try and keep up with.

My Prediction: I am picking Canon Mac over North Allegheny here. The Big Macs are tough, battle tested, and ready to be #1. CM – 4, NA – 0.

 

P.S. Fans, make sure you get to Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday, because these games are going to be instant classics…

2018 WPIAL Playoff First Impressions

It’s the best time of the year. Teams are getting hot at the perfect time, the best players are shining in the biggest moments, and the WPIAL Playoff Brackets have officially been released. This year, more than ever before, we are going to provide you with a significant amount of playoff information. During the upcoming days, you will see our in-depth breakdowns, games to watch, and other unique takes on everything that could possibly happen on the road to Consol.

For now, we are going to go conference by conference describing our opinions after a quick glance at the bracket. The breakdowns below are just our first impressions, but will be described in a heavier fashion later on.

Let’s get down to business, starting with 1A.

1A

  • Vincentian has been at the top of our list all season long, and rightfully so they are the top WPIAL seed. UCONN commit, Kyler Fedko, has been an absolute monster at the dish hitting at a ridiculous pace that makes him the most dominant force 1A has to offer.

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  • Vincentian was handed a 9-8 loss earlier in the year to section rival, Union, who is one of our major teams to watch in this field of 12. However, Union will have a tough track to make it to the potential rematch. First, they would most likely have to get through the likes of Monessen, and then G.C.C., which are two squads that are very tough to beat.
  • Sleeper pick for this group is 100% Jeanette. The defending 1A WPIAL Champs put together an impressive 10 game win streak earlier in the year, and are easily capable of repeating for the gold. They are on a two game skid right now, taking L’s from GCC and Monessen, but a first round matchup against Leechburg should put them right back on track.
  • Our deep, deep, deep, sleeper is Cornell. The Raiders were highly overlooked all season long, and this Blackstone kid can really play ball. Cornell will have a tough road ahead going up against a solid West Greene team, and then the top dawg in Vincentian, but we like what we are seeing out of the Raiders this season.

2A

  • #3 Neshannock is phenomenal, #2 North Catholic is a group of absolute BALL PLAYERS, but it looks like no one can come close to taking down the powerhouse that is #1 Serra Catholic. Serra has one loss all season, and it came in a 4-3 fashion against one of the best teams in 3A (Avonworth). They are playing at a different level right now, and their 19-1 record shows what they are fully capable of, which is acquiring another gold medal.
  • If there is one Underdog team in this group I am taking Shenango. They got off to a bit of a rocky start this season, but finished out in a very strong fashion. I like their draw, and think they have more than enough talent to play for a medal in Washington.
  • We want, we want, we want a CWNC vs Neshannock final four contest. These section rivals have already gotten into two major battles earlier this season with CWNC coming out on top both times. I am not calling it now, but know that Neshannock could make a third matchup very intriguing if the oppurtunity presents itself.

3A

  • Honestly, while taking a quick glance at the 3A bracket I am pretty disappointed. There are several teams I really like out of this group and think they could scrap together a nice playoff run, however they are all on the same side this year. The heavy favorite is Riverside who has dominated on their path to a 15-1 record. But, they will have to go up against a winner of Steel Valley/Charleroi, two teams that are both very good and know how to win come playoff time, and then take down #4 seeded Brownsville who is 12-2 on the year and easily won section 3.
  • The WPIAL rewarded Avonworth and South Side Beaver for having to deal with Riverside twice a year, giving both teams the respective #2 and #3 seeds. Don’t get me wrong, I think Avonworth is the second best team in 3A, and should have no trouble making their way to Consol. I am very curious to see how SSB holds up.
  • Looking quickly at this field of 12, I could easily see it playing out in a chalk format. Higher seeds all the way through with the top two powerhouses battling for a third time this season under the bright lights of Consol Energy Park.

4A

  • I am all on board for the 4A playoffs. This group is as deep as you could ever imagine and will create some very entertaining ball games.
  • With that being said, Blackhawk is incredible. 16-1, 14-0 in section, two absolute studs in Turconi and McClymonds. It is going to be extremely tough to take these guys down.
  • You know how just above I said 3A will play out like chalk? Yeah, I am taking the latter for this conference. Give me South Park, give me New Castle, and throw in some Hopewell all to take games in round one from the higher seeds. You might call it crazy, but with this season I am calling it a comeback.
  • All three of these teams started off their seasons roughly. South Park was one of the top teams we had our eye on this preseason, and found their way back to playoff contention with an 8 game winning streak to finish the season. New Castle is a tough group of guys who really believe in their abilities this year. They started off section play 0-3, and answered that call going 9-2. Hopewell is very similar to our opinion of South Park: they have shown glimmers of greatness, but have also struggled mightily. I am a big believer in Joe Rock, Ohio commit, and think he can guide the Vikings towards the Elite Eight.

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5A

  • Moon had never once been #1 on our Power Rankings, they have gone up to as high as #2, but never controlled the top spot. The Tigers slid into the premier position by winning 13 of their last 15 contests. During that span, they handed West Allegheny their first loss, and beat the likes of 6A strongholds, Mt. Lebo and Norwin. Playoffs is a lot about pitching, and the Tigers have two Arms, Maue and Schoeneweis, who are more than capable of dominating a ball game.
  • After the Tigers, there are three teams that I would not bat an eye if they raised a WPIAL banner at the end of this season. Those squads are #3 North Hills, #4 Laurel Highlands, and #5 Mars. North Hills was the consensus #1 for majority of the season and hosts a 17-3 record. Laurel Highlands surprised us all on their way to a 15-3 season, but proved they are a fantastic ball club. And Mars, our preseason #1 that could not figure out how to win, ends their year on a 5 game dub streak. Like I said before that pitching is the key, Mars has two D1 arms controlling their staff, Bednar and Craska.
  • WPIAL Fans, if you want the best game to watch out of the entire lineup for May 15th, headover to Fox Chapel and watch #8 Hampton take on #9 Gateway. Two legit squads that have had awesome seasons.

6A

  • Vanderbilt, Penn State, Kent State. Three Major Division 1 programs who all have commits playing for none other than the Pine Richland Rams. And yet, PR is not the one seed and they failed to win their section. Instead, the top dawg is Central Catholic. The Vikings won their last 7 games, finishing with a 14-4 record in the toughest section in 6A.

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  • Now with that being said, Pine is still one of our MAJOR teams to watch out for. They are obviously battle tested at this point, and with that much raw talent in one lineup it is going to be a difficult team to beat. They would not have to matchup with Central until the finals, but wow would that make for a great WPIAL Championship.
  • One of the coolest stories of the year has been Bethel Park’s trek to the top. The #2 overall seed was not a highly touted team during the preseason, but Eastern Michigan commit, Justin Meis, has dominated Section 3 this season en route to a 17-3 record for the Hawks.
  • My favorite team to watch come playoff time are the Canon Mac Big Macs. Year in, and year out, their lineup is always filled with tough outs. They are grinders and know what to do in order to squeeze out tough ball games. This year, it is not just the lineup teams have to look out for. Their pitching staff has a huge presence on the mound that should contribute greatly towards their chances of making a deep playoff run.

These were just our first impressions and there will be a lot more playoff information coming your way! Make sure you hit the subscribe button on the left hand side of the screen, and continue to tune in on Twitter and Instagram @wpial_baseball to stay up to date on everything you need to know before the postseason officially gets underway!