Sunday, June 29, 2008

The voting process

It's time to briefly explain how the Observer-Reporter sports staff selects its boys and girls athletes of the year.

First off, I come up with a list of candidates. Until last year, only seniors were considered but Trinity's Andrew Sweat had such a good junior campaign, the time came to add underclassmen.

From the list, the six members of the sports staff vote for their respective top three with five points going to a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote. After all votes are in, I add up the point totals.

This year, the selection was anything but unanimous. On the boys side, Burgettstown's Dan Conley narrowly edged Canon-McMillan's Mike Hull. And Wash High's Jenna Phillips edged Waynesburg's Rachel Rohanna.

Arguments can be made for many athletes but, remember, who sees more high school teams from our coverage area than the O-R sports staff? We take many things into consideration (such as Hull decisioning Conley in wrestling, the number of sports) and make our selections. We also do not fault athletes for their classification.

Here's how the final tally went down:
1. Dan Conley Burgettstown 21 points
2. Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan 18 points
3. Charles Murphy, Canon-McMillan 12 points
4. Shane Pruitt, Peters Township 8 points
5. Jon Kennedy, Bentworth 6 points
1. Jenna Phillips, Washington 24 points
2. Rachel Rohanna, Waynesburg 23 points
No one else close in girls voting

Saturday, June 28, 2008

O-R baseball/softball all-stars

Observer-Reporter Baseball All-Stars

Player of the Year
Jordan Jankowski, Peters Township
Sr., C/P

First team
Evan Bukowski, Trinity
Jr., C/P
Chris Dittmar, Canon-McMillan
Sr., P/LF
Alex Frey, Trinity
Jr., P/CF
Chuck Gasti, Carmichaels
Jr., SS/P
Joby Lapkowicz, Carmichaels
Jr., P/CF
Andy Petras, Chartiers-Houston
Sr., P/IF
Matt Pierpont, Canon-McMillan
Jr., P/SS
Jim Rider, Peters Township
Sr., SS
Pete Ross, Peters Township
Sr., 2B

Second team
Pat Gallagher, Peters Township
Sr., RF
Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan
So., CF
Chris Khouri, Avella
Sr., P/IF
Nick Merich, Peters Township
Sr., P/DH
David Montibeller, Jefferson-Morgan
Sr., SS/P
Charles Murphy, Canon-McMillan
Sr., C
Jason Paris, Chartiers-Houston
Jr., INF
Marcus Robinson, Carmichaels
Sr., 3B
Tyler Schrader, Trinity
Jr., P

Observer-Reporter Softball All-Stars

Player of the Year
Jaci Timko, Chartiers-Houston
Sr., SS/P

First team
Emily Bosworth, Waynesburg
So., 3B
Amanda Heitmeier, Peters Township
Sr., C
Jordan Jackson, Washington
Sr., SS
Alyson Johnson, Waynesburg
Sr., C
Brittany Jones, Chartiers-Houston
Sr., C
Alexis Lopez, Washington
Sr., CF
Jenna Phillips, Washington
Sr., 2B
Geri Whitman, Beth-Center
Sr., P
Kristen Zelenka, Trinity
Sr., P

Second team
Brynne Bashioum, Bentworth
Jr., P
Larissa Bistarkey, Washington
Sr., 3B
Shaylee Ianno, Peters Township
Sr., P
Kristina Kowalski, Chartiers-Houston
Sr., 2B
Samantha Milliken, West Greene
Jr., 1B
Ashley Morran, Trinity
So., 1B/OF
Breanna Morris, Waynesburg
Fr., SS
Morgan Pratt, Carmichaels
Sr., 3B
Heather Pulver, Burgettstown
Sr., C

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Your best guess

The Varsity Letters is back from a sun-soaked vacation and preparing the Observer-Reporter Baseball and Softball All-District teams as well as the player of the year stories in both sports in addition to the year-end Athletes of the Year.

Out of curiosity, I'm wondering which athletes readers believe deserve these recognitions.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Inside the folder

One topic of discussion during the PIAA Class AAAA baseball championship between Canon-McMillan and Spring-Ford concerned the contents of the folder carried everywhere by Big Macs pitching coach Tim Miller.

Well, Miller, who called some excellent games during the playoff run, was happy to fill me in.

Miller wrote in an e-mail:
"It is a standard three-ring binder. On the right side I keep a pitching
chart of the current game. I record every pitch to every batter there, if
they swung at the pitch or took it, and ultimately the result of each
batter. I also make many notes there throughout the game. Typically these
notes include: mechanical "issues" that a pitcher may need to address (for
example, Chris Dittmar dropping his elbow well below shoulder height while
trying to throw an off-speed pitch), future ideas I may get about attacking
a certain hitter, swing flaws that I notice in a hitter that may open up the
door for a certain pitch in a particular situation, and a record of
"borderline" pitches that went both in our favor and against us.

On the left side, I have my preparation notes for the current opponent.
Obviously I have a lot more information when we play a team like Peters Twp
than I do when we play a team like Spring-Ford. Yesterday, I was fortunate
enough to have printed out a few articles on Spring-Ford from the internet
with different paragraphs containing pertinent information. I also had the
batting averages for their starting lineup and a copy of their season
schedule with results. Additionally, I keep a copy of the pitching
eligibility rules (we all remember North Hills), a spare pitching chart, and
our current pitching and defense "game plan" on that side of the folder.

I take the folder out to the mound with me during my visits because I never
know when our pitchers are going to ask what a certain hitter did in a
certain situation or have another question along similar lines."

So, there you have it. Some of the inner working of a state champion.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Stats needed

I know some coaches check out this site:

Baseball and softball coaches from the Washington and Greene counties are urged to compile and send final statistics to the Observer-Reporter to help compile our annual all-star teams.
Offensive and pitching stats are needed.
Statistics can be e-mailed to,, faxed to 724-225-2077 or call 724-222-2200 between 5-9 p.m.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Well done

The Varsity Letters congratulates Canon-McMillan for its impressive showing in winning the PIAA Class AAAA baseball championship. Well done.

Kudos also to the Carmichaels baseball team, who played a good game but came up a little short in the PIAA Class A championship. Well done.

Both teams gave its fans many, many memories.

Also, let's not forget the great seasons for Trinity baseball, Peters Township baseball and Washington softball. All represented its communities extremely well.

Just want to say this baseball/softball season was the most fun I've had covering spring sports in several years - and spring sports is almost always my favorite season anyway.

There's a lot of talent, a lot of great kids, great coaches, good people and, of course, the occasional idiot who'd rather yell at me on the field while their kid is posing for pictures with a gold medal around his neck. Never understood that behavior but it comes with the territory. And it makes me and the rest of us get a good chuckle.

Awesome season guys and gals. One I'll remember for a long time.

Keep checking back here during the summer. We'll have updates on occasion before football and soccer get into full swing.

Over the next couple weeks, I'll be vacationing along the beach in Corolla, N.C., but I'll also be compiling the O-R all-district baseball and softball teams in addition to the Boys and Girls Athlete of the Year package. It's a lot of work but I'm looking forward to getting started.

Friday, June 13, 2008

PIAA Class A baseball Carmichaels vs. Camp Hill

Hi folks,

After one inning, it is scoreless in the Class A title game between the Mikes and Camp Hill. Carmichaels left a runner on third base in the top of the first.

PIAA Class AAAA baseball championship game: Canon-McMillan vs. Spring-Ford@1 p.m.

Mike & Kevin live from Altoona's Blair County Ballpark

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Picking the winners, state championship edition

After an impressive 3-0 performance in the semifinals, I carry an even more impressive 11-2 record into the PIAA baseball championships. It's time for the final two picks of the 2007-08 school year.

Class AAAA championship
Canon-McMillan over Spring-Ford
Don't see this one being close after the fifth inning.

Class A championship
Carmichaels over Camp Hill
I've said all year that Carmichaels had one of the best one-two pitching combos in the state. Chuck Gasti gets to prove that Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Yancich injured at Big 33

Just finished talking to Trinity's Mike Yancich, who is in Hershey for the Big 33 Football Classic. Yancich suffered a couple injuries to his left arm during a pile-up at Monday's practice. He will not play in the game and faces three to four weeks of recovery time.

The injury triggers an oft-discussed topic. Should all-star football games be played? I'm not for them.

Yancich, however, disagrees.

“Someone asked me at practice that if you could still come out here even after getting injured, would you. Absolutely I would,” Yancich said. “Whether it’s soccer, football, baseball or basketball, you always run the risk of injury.”

Lapkowicz out

Here's a story from Wednesday's O-R:

It's easy to say the ace of Carmichaels High School's pitching staff is Joby Lapkowicz.

The junior lefthander is 9-0 and struck out 100 batters in just 56 innings, with a 0.75 ERA, proving he's deserving of the praise he's received in the last three years.

Right behind him is another pitcher who doesn't get talked about as much but might be just as good.

Chuck Gasti, a junior righthander, upped his record to 9-0 to match Lapkowicz's after pitching five innings of relief in the PIAA semifinals Monday. Gasti has 75 strikeouts in 52 innings with an ERA of 0.96.

It's more of a 1A, 1B situation to the pitching rotation. Except now the "A" is out of the equation.

Lapkowicz hurt his ankle in a collision at home plate after trying to score on a passed ball. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors inserted six screws and a plate in his leg Tuesday morning.

The length of his recovery time is unknown, but he almost certainly will not play in the PIAA championship game against Camp Hill Friday.

That means Gasti is likely the starter, which would suit the Mikes just fine. Gasti threw a shutout in the PIAA first round and was stellar Monday in the semifinals.

Offensively is where Carmichaels is likely to miss Lapkowicz the most. The junior is the No. 3 hitter in the lineup with a .484 average, 10 extra base hits - including two home runs - and 23 RBI.

Phil Zack was inserted into the lineup Monday after Lapkowicz left the game.

If Gasti pitches the Mikes to a state title, he'd join some elite company. His older sister Nikki pitched Carmichaels to the 1998 PIAA Class AA softball title. That team remains the only one from the Washington-Greene region to win a softball championship.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Jacobsen coming to you from Consol Energy Park where Carmichaels is playing Serra in the PIAA Class A semifinals. Serra struck in the top of the first but Carmichaels countered with a big inning due to some Serra miscues. 4-1 Mikes after one.

Picking the winners

After an impressive 3-1 showing in the quarterfinals, my record is up to 8-2 for the PIAA playoffs. We're down to three teams and I have three winners.

PIAA Class AAAA baseball
Canon-McMillan over Central Mountain
If Matt Pierpont keeps runners off base, the Big Macs will cruise. If not, it's going to be a close one.

PIAA Class AAA baseball
Somerset over Trinity
This is, by far, the toughest to pick. Trinity is playing exceptionally well and woke up its bats with the win over Hickory. Really, this seems like a coin flip but there are a couple nagging injuries for the Hillers that may prevent them from advancing.

PIAA Class A baseball
Carmichaels over Serra Catholic
Probably will be closer than the previous 7-3 win but no other team is on a 21-game win streak.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

R.I.P. Young James

The Varsity Letters regrets to inform its readership on the death of James Montecalvo on Saturday, June 7, 2008.

Montecalvo is a Bethany College graduate and a proud graduate of Washington High School. His father Guy Montecalvo currently coaches football at Canon-McMillan and is the school's athletic director.

He's loved, respected and admired by all who've crossed his path. Honestly, I don't know anyone else I can say that about.

Fortunately, the O-R sports staff spent the past three years working with Montecalvo, a.k.a. Young James, on the high school beats.

One of the most amazing things about Jimmy, in terms of the sports writing business, is he never made an enemy while working for the O-R. He never complained about anything. He also tackled every assignment with passion because he truly cared about sports - and the people they involve - in this area.

R.I.P. Young James.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

PT-CM baseball

About 30 minutes before the start of the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals between Peters Township and Canon-McMillan. Not too many people here yet.

I'll be updating live from the game so keep checking back for scores and some game information.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Picking the winners

Including the bonus pick, I went 5-1 in the first round with the lone miss being the Wash High girls. Time to pick the quarterfinals winners.

PIAA Class AAAA baseball
Peters Township over Canon-McMillan
PIAA Class AAA baseball
Trinity over Hickory
PIAA Class A baseball
Carmichaels over Homer-Center

PIAA Class AA softball
Bald Eagle Area over Washington

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

PIAA baseball/softball quarterfinals sites

As posted by a reader, the much-anticpated C-M/PT baseball games will take place at Consol Energy Park Thursday night at 6 p.m. Expect a big crowd. And thank goodness they kept the game in Washington County.

Here are the sites and times for all local teams (all games are Thursday):
PIAA Class AAAA baseball
Peters Township Indians (19-6) vs. Canon-McMillan Big Macs (19-5) at Consol Energy Park, 6:00 p.m.
PIAA Class AAA baseball
Trinity Hillers (17-7) vs. Hickory Hornets at Slippery Rock University, 3:00 p.m.
PIAA Class A baseball
Carmichaels Mighty Mikes (21-1) vs. Homer-Center Wildcats at Seton Hill University, Greensburg, 2:30 p.m.
PIAA Class AA softball
Bald Eagle Eagles vs. Washington Prexies (21-4) at Indiana University of Pennsylvania,2:00 p.m.

Editor's note:
Not that readers care considering all the talk likely to take place between C-M and PT fans the next two days, but two members of the O-R sports staff made a friendly wager during Monday night's Penguins game on a PIAA Class AAA baseball game and it's being made public so the loser must pay up or face public humiliation.

Mike Kovak (myself), a Somerset High grad, is being spotted four runs and taking his alma mater against WPIAL Class AAA champs West Allegheny, the alma mater for sports intern Jamie Schumacher. A fresh $5 hoagie is on the line. Early line: West Allegheny by 8 1/2.

Monday, June 2, 2008

PIAA baseball/softball scores

All five teams from Washington-Greene won their first round games.

PIAA baseball playoffs
Western Bracket
Class AAAA
First round
Monday, June 2
Conestoga 9, Warwick 6
Central Mountain 9, Plum 7
Peters Township 10, Erie McDowell 0 (5 innings)
Canon-McMillan 8, Allderdice 7
Thursday, June 5
Sites and times to be determined
Conestoga vs. Central Mountain
Peters Township (19-6) vs. Canon-McMillan (19-5)

Class AAA
First round
Monday, June 2
Somerset 7, Susquehanna Township 2
West Allegheny 15, Perry Traditional Academy 1
Trinity 1, Punxsutawney 0
Hickory 6, Blackhawk 2
Thursday, June 5
Sites and times to be determined
Somerset (17-6) vs. West Allegheny (20-3)
Trinity (17-7) vs. Hickory

Class A
First round
Monday, June 2
Carmichaels 10, Keystone 0 (6 innings)
Homer-Center 6, Curwensville 2
Serra Catholic 3, Cameron County 2
Rochester 2, Villa Maria 1
Thursday, June 5
Sites and times to determined
Carmichaels (21-1) vs. Homer-Center
Serra Catholic (22-2) vs. Rochester (19-5)

PIAA softball playoffs
Western Bracket
Class AA
First round
Monday, June 2
Iroqois 2, Riverside 1
Everett 14, Moniteau 3
Bald Eagle Area 4, South Park 2
Washington 4, Villa Maria 3
Thursday, June 5
Iroqois vs. Everett
Bald Eagle Area vs. Washington (21-4)

Picking the winners

OK, we did this during the state basketball playoffs. Why not have a little fun to close out the 2007-08 scholastic sports year?

PIAA baseball
Class AAAA
Peters Township over Erie McDowell
Canon-McMillan over Allderdice
Class AAA
Trinity over Punxsutawney
Class A
Carmichaels over Keystone

PIAA softball
Class AA
Villa Maria over Washington

Bonus pick
PIAA Class AAA baseball
Somerset over Susquehanna Township