Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Goetz retires

Just got off the phone with Ed Goetz, who spent the past six years as the Burgettstown High School head boys basketball coach, and Goetz told me he is retiring from coaching.

Goetz guided Burgettstown to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs in each of his six years at Burgettstown, which is quite an accomplishment when considering where the program was at when he was hired before the start of the 2002-03 season.

Before Burgettstown, Goetz spent six years at McGuffey, where he led the Highlanders to the 2001-02 section championship. It's the only section title for boys basketball at McGuffey.

Goetz also served as head coach for two years at Sto-Rox and he won the WPIAL Class AA title in his first year (1993).

Goetz won everywhere he coached, from the traditional powers to McGuffey. His teams always played hard, made their free throws and won.

And, in my opinion, he was one of the area's top coaches in any sport.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Celebrity Look-alike

Behind the scenes, the Varsity Letters toyed with the idea of starting a new segment called Celebrity Look-Alike where we take a well-known student-athlete or coach from the local scene and compare them to a celebrity.

Well, thanks to O-R staff writer Kevin Jacobsen, we're getting started with a rather humorous one.

On the left is Canon-McMillan boys basketball coach Rick Bell, on the right is some guy named Brett Favre.

Look-alikes? According to at least one C-M basketball fan, these two are splitting images of each other.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

West Greene's wild weekend

WPIAL Class A softball appears to be a wide-open field these days and West Greene looks as solid as any in the classification heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Pioneers lead Section 2-A by a half-game over Carmichaels. Since a season-opening loss to the Mikes, West Greene is rolling.

Winners in 13 of 14, West Greene is 13-2 with the lone loss against to Liberty, a larger-classification high school in West Virginia during the Cee-Bee Tournament over the weekend.

Pitcher Rachel Burns has struck out more than 100, rarely walks a batter and the Pioneers are getting timely hits all over the lineup. They even beat Morgantown High during the tournament.

Oddly enough, West Greene advanced to the championship of the Cee-Bee Tournament but were forced to forfeit their spot in the final. The reason? If West Greene played, it would have exceeded the maximum number of games (20) permitted by the PIAA.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ranting and raving

First, the Varsity Letters wants to commend the few callers out there who know how to call in a score. Sounds simple, right? Well, you'd be suprised how many kettleheads can't do it.

Any time a varsity baseball or softball game is reported, the Observer-Reporter always needs the same information. Final score, score by innings, runs, hits, errors, winning pitcher, losing pitcher, battery, relief pitchers, extra-base hits, first and last names,

Amazing how many times we can't get the above information. Amazing how many times coaches, statisticians or students call in and say, "They didn't give me first names" or, better yet," I don't know who pitched after the starter left."


Next time, ask for first names. Ask for the opponent's record. We're not asking for a social security number. We just want to know is a guy's name is Tom and Terry. It's lazy and irresponsible.

It also makes one wonder the type of instruction some of these student-athletes receive.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Building the fence

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt rankled Penn State coach Joe Paterno and former West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez when he stated that he planned to not allow recruits from the Western Pennsylvania area to leave.

Technically, Wannstedt meant he wanted every four and five-star recruit to stay near home and play for the Panthers.

Over the past three years, Wannstedt and his staff have done an excellent job recruiting locally, though no player from the Washington-Greene region has committed to Pitt. Still, many of the top players are leaving.

Most aren't going to Penn State.

And they aren't heading to WVU.

Pitt is losing the big-time guys to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes snagged Trinity linebacker Andrew Sweat with its most recent class, as well as Jeannette quarterback Terrelle Pryor, considered by most to be the nation's top recruit.

Recently, Ohio State received oral commitments from two of the top juniors in the WPIAL.

Gateway linebacker Dorian Bell is the area's most sought-after player and he selected Ohio State earlier this week. A day later, Jeannette running back Jordan Hall said he will follow Pryor to Columbus.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Prank call

Early Tuesday evening, I concluded a phone interview with the upcoming Observer-Reporter Athlete of the Week. It turned into a pleasant, informative conversation but not one I was thinking about after taking my 98th track meet of the night.

A few hours following the interview, fellow sports staffer Dale Lolley told me I needed to take a call from the athlete of the week. Luckily, the call prevented me from taking another result so I gladly fielded it.

The call came from another student-athlete (who shall remain nameless from another school in a different county). When he identified himself, I recognized the name but couldn't quite but it was a sport or school.

He then said, "You left a message for me that said I was the athlete of the week. I'm just returning your call."

I sat in silence for a couple seconds, trying to find a polite way to break the news.

Before I could, the fella said, "I'm guessing my boys played a prank on me."

And a good one.

We've taken a few prank calls at the O-R over the years and though I'm not encouraging any, my favorite came about 6-7 years ago. A former staffer named Mark Lazerus hadn't been at the paper very long when some pranksters from McGuffey called in with a hole-in-one from the rugged course at Prosperity Country Club. It ran in the paper.

I'm wondering what are some of the better pranks my readers have pulled. After sharing a few, I guarantee one me a few buddies pulled in high school will top them. Until then, I'm not sharing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ianno out for year

Peters Township's softball team received bad news Friday when it learned senior pitcher Shaylee Ianno would be out for the year.

"I did not take it well at all," Indians coach Bea Rhodes said.

Ianno, consistently ranked among WPIAL strikeout leaders and the 2007 Observer-Reporter Player of the Year, blew out her left knee while delivering a pitch during the fourth inning of a game last Monday against Section 4-AAAA opponent Baldwin.

In Ianno's place, Peters Township will rely on sophomore Olivia Bovalina and freshman Morgan Meadows. Neither will produce the number of strikeouts Ianno did, but the Indians are 3-1 since Ianno left the lineup.

"This is probably the best hitting team we've ever had and that's how we're going to have to win games for a while," Rhodes said. "And our defense knows they have to make plays."

Peters Township (6-2, 11-2) is tied with Mt. Lebanon for first place in the section. Trinity is lurking and the Hillers face the Indians on Tuesday.

Friday, April 18, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Letters' last All Points Bulletin issued for former Trinity baseball standout Brian Kimutis went unanswered.

Undeterred, this week's APB goes out for former Carmichaels softball superstar Nikki Gasti.

A hard-throwing right-hander, Gasti led Carmichaels to hallowed ground – the 1998 PIAA Class AA championship after the Mikes defeated South Williamsport, 5-2. A year later, the state went to three classifications.

Gasti is considered by many to be the best softball pitcher in Greene County history and one of the best to hail from a smaller classification school in the WPIAL. After Carmichaels, Gasti spent four years on the softball team at Pitt and occasionally helped the Panthers' Sports Information Department.

Anyone with information on Gasti is urged to post to the Varsity Letters.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A look back

Quick, who's the last high school runner to beat Olympic medalist and former Rochester High School star Lauryn Williams in the 100-meter dash?

Give up?

The answer is Tam Nixon, a Wash High graduate who beat Williams in the 1998 PIAA Class AA finals her senior year. Williams was a freshman at the time. Nixon ran a 12.14, while Williams finished with a time of 12.18.

These days, Nixon is working at the Meadows Casino and is a volunteer assistant for the Bentworth track team, which is coached by her father Jerome Nixon.

"I raced her in college at the Penn Relays and she was half-way down the track by the time I got out of the blocks," Nixon said during Thursday's meet between Bentworth, Chartiers-Houston and Monessen. "I felt like I was just sitting there. It's amazing how good she got. I can remember racing her and she'd be sitting there eating a sandwich right before the race and it didn't bother her at all."

AAU basketball

The Washington Warriors AAU boys basketball team, coached by former Chartiers-Houston standout Brendan Cypher, gets an unique opportunity starting Friday at Pitt's Petersen Events center.

The Warriors were invited to participate in the Hoop Group Jam Fest Pittsburgh, one of the country's top AAU tournaments and it's open to Division I coaches. The Jam Fest runs Friday through Sunday at the Pete and nine other venues. Weekend passes and individual tickets are available at the gate.

Blessed IJN is the Warriors' first opponent and the game tips Friday at 6:30 p.m. Blessed IJN includes Mason Plumlee, a 6-11 Duke recruit.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tsk Tsk "C-M fan"

At the Varsity Letters, we pride ourselves on providing a forum for high school student-athletes, fans, coaches and parents to offer opinion on various topics. Through the blog's first eight months, we've done this without censoring comments and hope to continue this.

However, if recent posts like the one left by some kettlehead from C-M concerning Peters Township baseball continues, all posts will need my authorization for publication. Your ridiculous, cowardly post Anon did not work. Rather than make Peters Township look bad, you made Canon-McMillan and its proud, vocal fan base look bad.

Sadly, this marks the second time the C-M crowd got a little out of control.

We're here to have fun and one can poke fun without being vulgar or malicious. IMO, this blog has been a success, in part, to some thoughtful criticisms leveled by posters, including some great reads by people in the Ringgold area.

Let's keep it clean folks.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Petras goes bonkers

Chartiers-Houston senior Andy Petras enjoyed the finest game of his varsity career Monday during a 14-1 victory over Chartiers-Houston in Section 2-A action.
Petras belted a grand slam, hit a three-run double, a two-run double and walked in a run for 10 RBI. Over his last two games, Petras is 7-for-8 with two home run, four doubles and 15 RBI.
That’s only his offensive stats.
Petras picked up the win as Chartiers-Houston improved to 5-0 in section and 6-2 overall. It’s his second win in as many games. Last time out, Petras pitched a no-hitter
"Andy kind of had a career game," Chartiers-Houston coach Dan Alderson said. "If he keeps hitting like that I’ll be a happy guy."
And the Bucs will be a force in the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
Fifteen RBI in two games! With a no-hitter!

The Varsity Letters is asking its baseball historians if they can recall the last time a WPIAL player reached double-digit RBI in a game.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

APB update

The Varsity Letters recently chatted with former Wash High three-sport standout Diontae Walker, who was gracious enough to make a few attempts to get in touch and answer the All Points Bulletin issued for him a few weeks ago.

Walker is going quite well for himself, working full-time outside of Washington County and maintaining strong status in our nation's military corps.

Thanks to cousin Ramonte Barfield, a senior at Wash High and a first-year standout on the Prexies track team, Walker keeps tabs on Wash High sports teams.

Prexies fans will remember Walker as a great football player but also for the no-hitter he pitched in the 1998 WPIAL Class AA championship game. The 10th anniversary of Walker's incredible feat is fast approaching.

"It's been a long time," Walker admitted. "I remember my defense the most. Joe Gregula made several plays in the middle and without those, I would have never had the no-hitter. It was just a good game all around."

The Varsity Letters wished Walker the best in all future endeavors.

Monday, April 7, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

The wildly popular All Points Bulletin returns but, first, let's update the previous APB issued by the Varsity Letters. Currently, the Varsity Letters and former Wash High standout Diontae Walker, who pitched a no-hitter in the 1998 WPIAL Class AA championship game, are playing phone tag. An update will be issued as soon as we get time to talk.

This APB goes out for former Trinity baseball standout Brian Kimutis.

One of the better infielders in Hillers history, Kimutis excelled in baseball and football. He earned a scholarship to the University of Akron for baseball, where he was a standout for the Zips.

Anyone with information on Kimutis is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Big Macs attack

Looking for the best-kept secret in WPIAL baseball? Then, take a gander at Canon-McMillan.

At 7-0, the Big Macs, who compete in Section 3-AAAA, are tied with Class A Serra Catholic for the best record in the WPIAL. No other Quad-A club owns more than five wins.

Canon-McMillan beefed up its record by winning five games during a trip to North Carolina and South Carolina. Since returning, wins came against Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon for a 2-0 start to section play.

So far, the Big Macs are getting great pitching from Chris Dittmar and Matt Pierpont, whom head coach Steve Bucci refers to as 1 and 1A. Dittmar is coming off a week where he hit two home runs and drove in six.

Last year was Bucci's first with the Big Macs after a very successful stint at South Park. Canon-McMillan reached the playoffs and were led by ace Brian Muransky, currently at Xavier University. Muransky may have been the best pitcher in the WPIAL a year ago.

The Big Macs play three important games this week. The first comes Monday against Baldwin, followed by Wednesday at Bethel Park and Friday at home against unbeaten Peters Township.

Should Canon-McMillan win all three, or even two of three, it's a safe bet that talk of a section title will intensify. At this rate, Canon-McMillan will not remain a secret much longer.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Who's the best?

Eye-popping statistics are not a recent trend for girls softball pitchers. Still, the start to the 2008 season looks extremely promising for many local throwers.

It's difficult finding any pitcher off to a better start than Peters Township senior Shaylee Ianno, the reigning O-R Athlete of the Week and Girls Softball Player of the Year.

So, this is the question, is Ianno the area's best pitcher?

What about Waynesburg's Lauren Minor or Beth-Center's Geri Whitman? Could Chartiers-Houston freshman Kiersten Conwell already be developing into an ace?

Time for your thoughts. Who is the best?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Story time

Did a little reminiscing this afternoon and a humorous story popped into my mind.

This happened approximately eight years ago.

During the hectic holiday basketball tournament season, the sports phones ring constantly for hours. Results of games come in quicker than a hiccup. It's a maddening time for sports writers working the desk.

Every now and again, a call breaks up the monotony and can't help but make a sports writer laugh.

So, during a holiday tournament, I received a call from a mother of one of the area's leading boys scorers. The conversation went something like this:

"Mike, this is (insert name here), I'm calling from the back of an ambulance. We're taking my son to the hospital."

"Oh, no. Why?"

"He broke his foot. It doesn't look good."

At the time, the player was leading the area in scoring average. If memory serves correctly, he was around 21 points per game.

"Mike, we have a question for you."

"Go ahead."

"We want to know if this game will count against his scoring average."

"Well, did he play?"


"Then, yes it does."

"OK, we have another question. Will the games he miss count against his scoring average?"