Sunday, May 31, 2009

Handling pressure in the clutch

(Blogger's note: The writer attempted to see how many sports cliche's he could fit into the title.)

The American Heritage Desk Dictionary defines "in the clutch" as in a tense or critical situation. "Pressure" is defined as urgent claim or demand.

As for the 2008 Trinity High School baseball team, well, the Hillers have certainly been clutch and they've definitely handled pressure throughout the spring.

And both characteristics to Trinity's third consecutive appearance in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs. The Hillers face District 10 champion Grove City today, 6 p.m. at Slippery Rock University.

After advancing to the 2008 WPIAL Class AAA title game and the PIAA semifinals, expectations were heavy on these Hillers. With the top three pitchers - Alex Frey (pictured), Tyler Schrader and Evan Bukowski - back as well as key players in Dustin Norris, Sean McKnight, Buck Gnagey, Joe Havrilak and Nate Catalado who spurred last year's run, Trinity certainly possessed the talent to put together another strong season.

For some Hillers' fans, however, nothing short of an undefeated season and a state championship were acceptable. A few went as far to blog such statements here on the Varsity Letters.

Talk about pressure.

Then again, Trinity's players and coaches put pressure on themselves. Before the first practice, the Hillers goal was to win a title.

"Coach Levi (Bristor) is a state championship guy," Frey said after he helped Trinity rally for a thrilling 4-2 victory over Hopewell in the WPIAL Class AAA third-place game. "Every one wants the WPIAL but states is what is on our minds."

Hopewell, the top seed in the district playoffs, led 2-0 through 4 1/3 innings of the third-place game. That's how far the game went Thursday before rain's forced a postponement. The contest, played at Washington & Jefferson College's Ross Memorial Park, was picked up Friday and, heading into the bottom of the sixth, Trinity still trailed, 2-0.

That's when Frey, McKnight, Havrilak, Norris, Bukowski and Gnagey strung together key at-bats and scored four runs to take the lead and clinch a berth in the state tournament.

"We've always been good under pressure," said Bukowski, whose two-run single tied the game.

That's a big reason why Trinity is in the state tournament for a third straight year, a school record, in a sport when so many factors can go against a team on any given day. Whether the Hillers win an elusive PIAA title or not, there's little denying this has been the best era of Trinity baseball since the early 1940s.

"The key is they believe," Bristor said Sunday. "We work on so many things in practice and there's consequences if they don't do things properly. They're used to the pressure."

APB, Where are they now?

Three-sport athletes are nothing new, particularly at the small-school level, but it's also easy to say the numbers dwindle every year. For every Joby Lapkowicz at Carmichaels, there are five or six student-athletes who focus on one sport during the final years of high school.

Lapkowicz is enjoying an excellent senior year at Carmichaels - he was the starting quarterback, a starting guard and one of the WPIAL's top pitchers - as one of several standout three-sport athletes in the area. Guys like California's Ben Carson, Burgettstown's Sean Tunno and Tyler Lonchar, and Waynesburg's Nick Patton are among a handful who were instrumental to their respective teams.

Earlier this decade, California High School produced a long list of three-sport guys who won at everything. This week's All Points Bulletin is for one of them - former Trojans' standout Ryan Robinson.

Robinson was a featured running back on the football team and a guard/forward for a basketball team which made a run to the PIAA Class A quarterfinals. He also started in the outside for California's 2001 WPIAL Class A championship baseball team.

After graduation, Robinson was slated to join California University's football team.

Anyone knowing of Robinson's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

PIAA sites and times

Three local teams – Trinity baseball, Trinity softball and Carmichaels baseball – advanced to the PIAA playoffs, which begin Monday.

In Class AAA baseball, Trinity (19-4) – the WPIAL's third-place team – plays District 10 champion Grove City, Monday, 6 p.m. at Slippery Rock University. Trinity has won state playoff game at SRU in each of the past two years.

In Class A baseball, WPIAL runner-up Carmichaels (18-3) plays District 6 champion Bishop McCort, Monday, 4 p.m. at White Township Park (Indiana). In 2004, Bishop McCort beat Carmichaels in the first round of states at Cal U.

In Class AAA softball, WPIAL runner-up Trinity (12-8) plays City League representative Perry Traditional Academy (7-5), Monday, 3 p.m. at Moore Park's McGibboney Field No. 2 in the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Going for four

Winning a WPIAL team championship is difficult, ask any coach fortunate to have won a title. It takes talent, dedication, discipline and, often, a little/lot of luck or the right draw.

Winning multiple WPIAL championships is even tougher. For coaches, it's a rather exclusive club.

Carmichaels baseball coach Dave Bates can win a fourth WPIAL Class A baseball championship if the Mikes get past Serra Catholic Thursday afternoon at Consol Energy Park, home of the Washington Wild Things. Bates coached Carmichaels to titles in 2003, 2005 and 2008. The Mikes finished second in 2004.

Should Bates win a fourth title, it puts him in elite company among the coaching fraternity in Washington and Greene County.

According to information obtained by the Observer-Reporter, Bates could become the 13th coach to win at least four WPIAL championships in one sport, while two others have won at least four in multiple sports.

The following is the list of coaches who won at least four WPIAL titles in one sport:
1. John Husk (Trinity rifle) – 10
2. Ernie Closser (Waynesburg wrestling) – 6
3. Joe Ayersman (Waynesburg wrestling) – 4
Hank Day (Washington football) – 4
Ron Faust (Washington boys basketball) – 4
Ron Headlee (Jefferson-Morgan wrestling – 4
Jerry Luxbacher (Peters Township boys soccer) – 4
Dan Ross (Chartiers-Houston softball) – 4
John Ross (Canonsburg wrestling) – 4
Joe Shook (Trinity wrestling) – 4
Bill Solominsky (Washington wrestling) – 4
Jon Vallina (Burgettstown golf) – 4

Multiple sports:
1. Guy Montecalvo (Washington football, track) – 5
2. Jimmy Russell (Donora football, boys basketball) – 4

If anyone knows of anyone else, please let us know. We're wondering who coached Canonsburg High School boys cross country back in the 1930s. Canonsburg won the first five WPIAL team titles (1935-39).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Manhattan signs one-handed player

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Laue knows what would happen if a college basketball team took a chance on him and he didn’t pan out. Fans would wonder what the coach was thinking in using a scholarship on a center missing his left hand.
“It’s a business,” the 6-foot-10 Laue said. “Their jobs are all on the line. It’s much safer to take a two-handed guy my size that got beat by me.”
But Manhattan College’s Barry Rohrssen figures coaches take chances all the time. He’d rather take one on Laue, whose left arm ends just past the elbow. So last week, the Division I school signed the center, and Rohrssen – a former Pitt assistant – is confident his work ethic will rub off on other players.
“We take chances on kids who have poor academic histories, who have disciplinary problems both on the court and off the court,” Rohrssen said Tuesday. “We give opportunities to players who don’t appreciate them, who take them for granted. For all the right reasons, Kevin deserves this chance, and he should make the most of this opportunity.”
A native of Northern California, Laue played a postgraduate season for Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia this year, hoping to impress college recruiters. Coach Fletcher Arritt said Laue averaged about 10 points and five rebounds, competing against many Division I prospects.
When Laue was born the circulation in his left arm was cut off by the umbilical cord. He uses his upper arm to help receive passes, and his large right hand allows him to easily palm the ball.
“He can run as well as anybody,” Arritt said. “He can jump as well as anybody. You don’t need two hands to block shots around the basket.”
As the weeks went by, Laue was starting to wonder whether he would ever realize his dream of playing Division I basketball. He said Wofford and Colgate expressed interest but neither had an available scholarship.
“I still had faith,” Laue said. “But I was at the point of being like, ’Man, when is this going to happen?”’
Rohrssen had been aware of Laue before he enrolled at Fork Union. The coach needed to recruit size with the graduation of the Jaspers’ starting center, but what really worried him after wrapping up offseason workouts this month was his returning players.
“Some coaches may say, ’We need a shooter,”’ he said. “My feeling was our team needed a stronger work ethic.”
Manhattan contacted Laue just over a week ago. He signed with the team Wednesday.

Be careful what you post

There have been a handful or so of discussions on this blog that have gotten, shall we say, spirited.

As heated as things have been on here occasionally, it doesn't quite compare to what happened in Wisconsin earlier this month.

After reading a series of nasty, derogatory comments about him on a University of Wisconsin message board, basketball recruit Vander Blue, 16, chose to decommit from the university, questioning whether the Wisconsin fans wanted him.

Here's the story:

Baseball games postponed

A steady dose of rain forced the WPIAL to postpone two championship baseball games scheduled for today.

The Class A final between Carmichaels, attempting to win its fourth title since 2003, and Serra Catholic and the Class AAA contest between Moon Area and Chartiers Valley have been moved to Thursday.

The Carmichaels-Serra Catholic game will be played at 5 p.m. and the Moon-Chartiers Valley game takes place at 7:30 p.m. Both games are at Consol Energy Park in Washington.

WPIAL baseball championships

Mother Nature doesn't appear co-operative at the moment, but two of the four WPIAL championship baseball games are scheduled for today at Consol Energy Park. The other two are tomorrow.

Tuesday's games
Class A
Carmichaels vs. Serra Catholic
These teams met in the WPIAL and PIAA semifinals a year ago with Carmichaels winning both. Mikes pitcher Joby Lapkowicz performs well in big games.
Winner: Carmichaels

Class AAA
Moon vs. Chartiers Valley
Proving the strength of Section 3, Moon and Chartiers Valley are in the title game while section champion Hopewell plays Trinity in the third-place game.
Winner: Moon

Wednesday's games
Class AA
North Catholic vs. Shady Side Academy
Coming off an appearance in the PIAA basketball championships, North Catholic is looking to add to a strong year with another WPIAL title. Shady Side Academy has not lost to a Class AA opponent.
Winner: Shady Side Academy

Class AAAA
North Allegheny vs. Pine-Richland
The two Section 1 heavyweights have been the best teams in the classification throughout the year. Each features Division I talent and they split the regular season series.
Winner: Pine-Richland

Saturday, May 23, 2009

PIAA track - Day 2

Coming to you live from Shippensburg University's Serth Grove Stadium for the second day of the PIAA Track and Field Championships. Day 2 promises to yield more medal for local athletes than the opening day.

A few of the top competitors going today are Jefferson-Morgan high jumper Hans Lubich, Trinity shot putter Nate Lojek, Bentworth javelin thrower Amanda Kennedy and Canon-McMillan distance runner Matt Gregory.

Not as warm, yet.

10:19 a.m. – Fort Cherry junior Brian Lauff moved to the finals of the Class AA 110 hurdles. As long as he's not DQ'd, Lauff will win the first PIAA medal in FC boys track.

Trinity sophomore Mike McClelland remains in the Class AAA high jump. He cleared 6-4 on his third and final attempt.

WPIAL Class AAA cross country champion Matt Gregory concluded his varsity running career at Canon-McMillan with a 14th place finish in the 3,200 run (9:35.74). Fort Cherry's Andrew Lucarini, sporting a sweet stache, placed 14th in the Class AA 3,200 (9:53.88) and South Fayette's Julia Denison was 18th in the girls Class AA 3,200 (12:09.65).

10:50 a.m. – Trinity senior Nate Lojek claims first medal of the day for local participants. Lojek, a Robert Morris University football recruit, placed sixth in the Class AAA shot put (53-0).

11:20 a.m. – Bentworth's Amanda Kennedy places fifth in the Class AA javelin (128-8). Kennedy becomes the first Bentworth athlete to medal in consecutive years at the state meet. She placed eighth in the javelin a year ago.

Albert Gallatin's Anthony Stevenson, who attended Wash High as a sophomore, placed fourth in the Class AAA high jump (6-8).

12:18 p.m. – Lauff becomes first Fort Cherry athlete to medal at states – placing sixth in the 110 high hurdles. His time of 15.05 was a personal best and he came within inches of placing fourth.

2:01 p.m. – McGuffey's Sean "J.T." Deschamps and Fort Cherry's Sidney Walter added to the medal total. Deschamps placed fifth in the Class AA 300 hurdles. Walter was eighth in the girls Class AA 300 hurdles.

Overall, local athletes have won six medals. That's three more than last year.

Jeff-Morgan's Hans Lubich – best name in the WPIAL – remains in the Class AA high jump.

Great crowd in attendance. Packed stands, into the events.

2:33 p.m. – Monessen's Tarelle Irwin wins the Class AA 200 (22.25) convincingly. He also placed third in the 100.

Just talked to Lubich and he placed sixth. He cleared 6-4.

3:05 p.m. – Peace. Time to drive to North Carolina.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Timkos lose in PIAA tourney

After making national headlines by winning the WPIAL boys doubles tennis championship and attempting to become the first girls to win a boys state title in any Pennsylvania sport, Chartiers-Houston's Karli and Tanya Timko lost in three sets in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA tournament to Andrew Kantor and Ted Otto of Harrisburg Academy Friday at the Hershey Racquet Club.

The Timkos didn't go away easily. They lost the first set 7-5 then rebounded to win the second set, 6-2, before being knocked off in a tiebreaker in the third set, 7-6 (8-6). Twice in the third set, the Timkos trailed by three games before forcing the tiebreaker.

Karli, a senior, and Tanya, a sophomore, were attempting to win their second state title in two school years, having won the PIAA Class AA girls title in the fall of 2007.

Live from PIAA Track

Greetings from overcast Shippensburg, Pa. and the PIAA Track and Field Championships. There's a light breeze, the sun is not beating down on the athletes and it's not overly warm. Good weather for a big meet.

Keep checking back for updates from Day 1.

11:06 a.m. – Area's best chance for an early medal goes unfulfilled. Canon-McMillan senior Kurt Bonnet, the fourth-seed in the Boys Class AAA discus, failed to medal. Bonnet placed ninth, one spot out of a medal, with a 151-07. His qualifying throw at the WPIAL championships was 157-08.

12:03 p.m. – Marissa Kalsey of Waynesburg, a freshman and the WPIAL Class AA pole vault champion, did not medal in her first state meet. Raiders senior Nick Patton did not medal at the WPIAL Class AA javelin. Patton was WPIAL champ as a junior and second place as a senior but would have needed to PR by nearly 25 feet to place.

12: 51 p.m. – Monessen speedster Tarelle Irwin, the WPIAL Class AA champion in the 100 and 200 dashes, advanced to the 100 semis with a time of 11.15.

Char-Houston's Kelly Kendrick and Avella's Julia Stockman both cleared the opening height (4-8) in the Class AA girls high jump.

1:52 p.m. – Uhhh, it's hot. Getting real hot.

Kendrick just cleared 5-0 on her second attempt, drastically improving her shots at a medal. Patton still competing in the pole vault.

2:40 p.m. – Peters Township sophomore Kaitlin Brace earns the area's first medal – fifth place in the girls Class AAA javelin (131-5).

Kendrick just cleared 5-2 in the high jump.

3:58 p.m. – Kendrick just missed out on a medal in the high jump.

Two area hurdlers – Fort Cherry's Sidney Walter and McGuffey's Sean "J.T." Deschamps – advanced to the Class AA finals in the 300s. Barring a disqualification, both will medal Saturday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PIAA tables six classes in football

A busy weekend for the PIAA got off to an early start at Thursday's Board of Control meeting. There, in addition to keeping Penn State as the host site for state championship basketball games, the BOC voted to table the six classification idea for football.

The PIAA Board of Control's next meeting is schedule for July and that is the earliest the topic can be discussed up again.

The WPIAL is opposed to the six classifications and also against the shortening of the high school football season from 16 weeks to 15 for teams reaching the state championship.

Here's a link to Joe Tuscano's column from Thursday's Observer-Reporter concerning possible options for the WPIAL:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Timkos aim to win PIAA boys doubles championship

Since winning the WPIAL Class AA boys doubles tennis championship, Chartiers-Houston High School sisters Karli and Tanya Timko are gaining national attention. From mentions in USA Today to to the possibility of being on the CBS Morning Show, the sisters are rapidly becoming Western Pennsylvania's most recognizable tennis players.

Imagine what will happen if they win a PIAA boys championship. (The sisters won a PIAA Class AA girls double title in 2007.)

Their trek begins Friday, May 22 at the Hershey Racquet Club. Karli and Tanya play Andrew Kantor and Ted Otto of Harrisburg Academy, the third-place team from District 3. The match begins at 10:30 a.m.

If the Timkos win, they face the winner of Dylan Wiesner-Nathan Hansen (St. Marys, D9 champs) or Adam Helsel-Ben Heidorn (Bedford, D5 champs) at 3 p.m.

The semifinals take place Saturday at 9 a.m. and the championship follows at 1 p.m.

Monday, May 18, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

When it comes to the pole vault, few schools in the WPIAL can compare with the tradition established at Waynesburg High School under vault coach Butch Brunell. The school has produced PIAA and WPIAL champions in the event as well as a long list of medal winners.

At last Thursday's WPIAL championships, Raiders senior Nick Patton won the Class AA boys pole vault (13-9) and freshman Marissa Kalsey won the girls Class AA title with a vault of 10-0.

Since the PIAA began contesting girls pole vault in 1999, Waynesburg has produced at least one WPIAL medalist every year.

None produced more headlines than this week's subject of our All Points Bulletin, Jocelyn Lindsay.

The first WPIAL and PIAA female pole vault champion, Lindsay once cleared 12-5 as a high school sophomore – a national high school sophomore record. A two-time PIAA champion and two-time PIAA runner-up, Lindsay went on to Purdue, where she vaulted for four years.

Anyone with information regarding Lindsay is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Separated at birth?

During last month's Washington-Greene County Coaches Track and Field Meet at Peters Township High School, I was chatting with a couple local coaches when we saw Fort Cherry's Sidney Walter in line waiting to hear her placement following a race.

We agreed she resembled another top female track athlete – former Wash High standout Suzanne Montecalvo.

A multiple medal winner at the WPIAL and PIAA level, Montecalvo (married to Joel Joseph Antonucci) set the Robert Morris University long jump record as a freshman. Walter recently won WPIAL Class AA gold medals in the 300 hurdles and 400 relay.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Club basketball

Watched an interesting piece on ESPN's "Outside The Lines" Sunday morning. The show's centerpiece discussed the effects AAU or club basketball has had on the high school game.

Some interesting points for and against club basketball.

In the "for" category:
1. Makes it easier for college coaches to recruit.
2. Provides greater competition.
3. Gives student-athletes an opportunity to travel and gain life experiences.

In the "against" category:
1. Can lead to recruiting at the high school level.
2. Can undermine the teachings of a high school coach.
3. Takes players out of class during the spring and, if needed, the summer.

As for myself, I'm all for club basketball. It's something soccer was doing when I played in high school. Why not test yourself against strong competition? Locally, I don't see the things going on with club basketball that was discussed on "Outside the Lines." If Western Pennsylvania was more of a hoops hotbed, my opinion may differ.

Here's a link:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Semifinals dates, sites and times

Six area teams remain in the WPIAL baseball and softball playoffs. With the baseball championships scheduled for May 26-27 at Consol Energy Park in Washington and the softball title games taking place May 28-29 at California University, ample time remains to get in the next game.

Baseball WPIAL Class AAA
No. 2 Trinity (18-3) versus winner of Friday's Blackhawk/Chartiers Valley game, Tuesday, May 19 at 4 p.m. at North Allegheny High School
A win guarantees Trinity a spot in the PIAA playoffs as well as the WPIAL championship for the second consecutive year. A loss means the Hillers must win a third-place game to get into the state tournament. Hopewell and Moon are in the other semifinal.

Class AA No. 5 South Fayette (14-4) versus winner of Friday's Shady Side Academy/Center game, Wednesday, May 20 at 4:30 p.m. at the Burkett Complex in Robinson Township.
Like Trinity, a win guarantees South Fayette a spot in the PIAA playoffs as well as the WPIAL championship. A loss means the Lions must win a third-place game to get into the state tournament. The other semifinal has not been determined.

Class A No. 3 Carmichaels (17-2) vs. No.2 Neshannock (19-3), Tuesday, May 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Burkett Complex in Robinson Township. A win guarantees Carmichaels a spot in the PIAA playoffs as well as the WPIAL championship for the second consecutive year and fifth time since 2003. A loss means the Mikes must win a third-place game to get into the state tournament.
No. 4 Chartiers-Houston (16-3) vs. No. 1 Serra Catholic (18-2), Tuesday, May 19 at 4 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant High School. A win guarantees Chartiers-Houston a spot in the PIAA playoffs as well as the WPIAL championship for the first time since 2005. A loss means the Bucs must win a third-place game to get into the state tournament.

Softball Class AAA No. 10 Trinity (11-7) vs. No. 6 West Allegheny (13-6), Wednesday, May 20 at 4 p.m. at California University's Lilly Field. The surprise of the bracket, Trinity can clinch a spot in the PIAA playoffs as well as the WPIAL championship with a win. A loss means the Hillers must win a third-place game to get into the state tournament. Franklin Regional and Belle Vernon are in the other semifinal. That game will be played at 2 p.m. at Cal U.

Class A No. 5 Carmichaels (15-2) vs. No. 1 Vincentian Academy (18-2), Wednesday, May 20 at 2 p.m. at Fairhaven Park. A win puts Carmichaels in the WPIAL championship and PIAA tournament for the first time since Nikki Gasti pitched them to a Class AA state title in 1999. A loss means the Mikes must win a third-place game to get into the state tournament. Avonworth and Leechburg are in the semifinal, which will played following the Mikes-Royals game.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Baseball schedule

While yours truly will be at Baldwin covering the massive WPIAL Class AAA and AA championship meets, there are some intriguing baseball playoff games to be played.

In Class AAA, 2008 WPIAL runner-up Trinity faces West Allegheny - the team it lost to in last year's title game. This year the tables are turned, however, as the Hillers are the higher seeded team and expected to advance deep into the postseason. First pitch is 4 p.m. at the Burkett Complex in Robinson Township.

Before the Trinity game, defending WPIAL Class A champion Carmichaels plays Monaca at 2 p.m. The Mikes had to feel good about putting up a nine-spot in their first-round win against Vincentian.

Also in Class A, Chartiers-Houston faces a difficult challenge in Rochester - last year's WPIAL runner-up. The Bucs can hit, but they'll also likely face Rams ace J.C. Figueiredo. At times, the 6-6 senior is dominant.

Avella, winners of four straight just to get into the WPIAL playoffs, beat Beth-Center 9-1 in the first round. The Eagles' reward is a quarterfinal matchup against top-seed Serra Catholic. Serra Catholic didn't play in the strongest of section, but the Eagles best West Allegheny (17-0) and South Park (10-3) this year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Washington hires Bosnic

The Washington School Board reached into Greene County to find its next football coach.
Mike Bosnic, who has guided Carmichaels football program for the past six seasons, was hired at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Bosnic led the Mikes to a 35-25 record and had them in the WPIAL Class A playoffs in each of his six seasons.
The board presented Bosnic with a Wash High cap and shirt and he spoke for a few minutes.
Bosnic replaces Bill Britton, who had his position opened after in January following a 1-8 season. Britton, who was an assistant for 12 seasons under Guy Montecalvo before taking over in 2003.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

WPIAl softball sites update

With its 4-0 victory over Kittanning Monday in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA softball playoffs, Trinity knew its quarterfinal opponent would be second-seeded Yough.
Now, the Hillers (10-7) know they’ll face the Cougars (13-2) Wednesday at California University beginning at 2 p.m.
Chartiers-Houston, the No. 8 seed in the Class A bracket, faces top-seed Vincentian Academy at North Allegheny, also at 2 p.m. The Bucs (14-7) faced the Royals (17-2) in last year’s quarterfinals, losing 5-4. Vincentian went on to win the state title.
Also in Class A, Carmichaels plays Mt. Alvernia at 2 p.m. at Fairhaven Park near McKees Rocks. The Mikes (14-2) defeated North Catholic in the first round, while Mt. Alvernia (8-4) upset fourth-seeded Fort Cherry.

Monday, May 11, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

For four years, from the fall of 2000 to the spring of 2004, Beth-Center's Samantha Slagle was one of Washington County's premier female athletes.

Slagle became an all-state volleyball team on the first Washington County team to advance to the PIAA playoffs. She was the leading scorer on the girls basketball team. Plus, she won a silver medal in the javelin at the PIAA Track and Field Championships.

In 2004, Slagle was the Observer-Reporter's Female Athlete of the Year.

Today, the Varsity Letters issues an All Points Bulletin for Slagle, who played volleyball at California University in 2004.

Anyone knowing of Slagle's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

WPIAL baseball pairings released

Monday, the WPIAL released the brackets for the baseball playoffs. Finalists in Class AAAA make the state playoffs, and the top three qualify in the other classifications.

Class AAAA:
Top seeds: 1. North Allegheny, 2. Pine-Richland, 3. Peters Township, 4. Woodland Hills
First round
North Allegheny, Pine-Richland bye
Tuesday, May 12
Peters Township vs. Kiski at Shaler, 4:30 p.m.; Woodland Hills vs. Bethel Park at Haymaker Park, noon; Norwin vs. Butler at Hempfield, 4:30 p.m.; Gateway vs. Seneca Valley at Pullman Park, 7 p.m.; Upper St. Clair vs. Plum at Pullman Park, 4:30 p.m.; Latrobe vs. Mt. Lebanon at Gateway, 7 p.m.

North Allegheny vs. Latrobe-Mt. Lebanon winner; Pine-Richland vs. Upper St. Clair-Plum winner; Peters Township-Kiski winner vs. Gateway-Seneca Valley winner; Woodland Hills-Bethel Park winner vs. Norwin-Butler winner

Class AAA
Top seeds: 1. Hopewell, 2. Trinity, 3. Blackhawk, 4. Laurel Highlands
First round
Hopewell, bye
Tuesday, May 12
Trinity vs. Knoch at Chippewa Park, 4:30 p.m.; Blackhawk vs. Elizabeth Forward at Burkett Complex, 7 p.m.; Laurel Highlands vs. Hampton at Hempfield, 2 p.m.; Moon vs. New Castle at Chippewa Park, 2 p.m.; Greensburg Salem vs. Chartiers Valley at Haymaker Park, 3:30 p.m.; West Allegheny vs. Indiana at High Field No. 1, 4:30 p.m.; West Mifflin vs. Ambridge at Burkett Complex, 4:30 p.m.

Hopewell vs. West Mifflin-Ambridge winner; Trinity-Knoch winner vs. West Allegheny-Indiana winner; Blackhawk-Elizabeth Forward winner vs. Greensburg Salem-Chartiers Valley winner; Laurel Highlands-Hampton winner vs. Moon-New Castle winner

Class AA
Top seeds: 1. Shady Side Academy, 2. North Catholic, 3. Freedom, 4. Laurel
Preliminary round
Tuesday, May 12
Deer Lakes vs. Riverside at High Field No. 2, 2 p.m.; Burgettstown vs. Riverview at Herb Field, 1 p.m.; Steel Valley vs. Washington at Southmoreland, 3:30 p.m.

First round
Tuesday, May 12
Laurel vs. Greensburg Central Catholic at Gateway, 2 p.m.; South Fayette vs. Ford City at Plum, 4 p.m.; Seton-La Salle vs. Beaver Falls at High Field No. 2, 4:30 p.m.; Burrell vs. Beaver at Shaler, 2 p.m.; Brownsville vs. Center at Burkett Complex, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, May 13
Shady Side Academy vs. Deer Lakes-Riverside winner at Shaler, 3:30 p.m.; North Catholic vs. Burgettstown-Riverview winner at Burkett Complex, 6:30 p.m.; Freedom vs. Steel Valley-Washington winner at Burkett Complex, 4 p.m.

Shady Side Academy--Deer Lakes-Riverside winner vs. Brownsville-Center winner; North Catholic--Burgettstown-Riverview winner vs. Burrell-Beaver winner; Freedom--Steel Valley-Washington winner vs. Seton-La Salle-Beaver Falls winner; Laurel-Greensburg CC winner vs. South Fayette-Ford City winner

Class A
Top seeds: 1. Serra, 2. Neshannock, 3. Carmichaels, 4. Chartiers-Houston
First round
Serra, bye
Tuesday, May 12
Neshannock vs. Springdale at High Field No. 1, 2 p.m.; Carmichaels vs. Vincentian at Mt. Pleasant, 4:30 p.m.; Chartiers-Houston vs. Cornell at Gateway, 4:30 p.m.; Rochester vs. Geibel at Canon-McMillan, 4:30 p.m.; Avonworth vs. Monaca at Herb Field, 3:30 p.m.; California vs, Jeannette at Mt. Pleasant, 2 p.m.; Avella vs. Beth-Center at Canon-McMillan, 2 p.m.

Serra vs. Avella-Beth-Center winner; Neshannock-Springdale winner vs. California-Jeannette winner; Carmichaels-Vincentian winner vs. Avonworth-Monaca winner; Chartiers-Houston-Cornell winner vs. Rochester-Geibel winner

Friday, May 8, 2009

Manny's high school team

Shock and sadness in Ramirez’s old neighborhood
NEW YORK (AP) — The George Washington Trojans barked out the numbers in unison with each jumping jack, crisply completing their warmups without any direction from their coaches.
They looked the part of the proud high school baseball powerhouse, the reigning city champs who could brag of being the alma mater of Manny Ramirez — at least before Thursday.
Ramirez’s old neighborhood of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan was still buzzing Friday with the news that a favorite son was suspended a day earlier for using a banned substance.
Mike Antonio, a junior shortstop for George Washington, worried how perceptions may change.
“They’re going to start to think Coach trains us to do it,” he said, standing on the field after another lopsided win.
Longtime Trojans coach Steve Mandl was confident his players would still embrace the value of hard work over cheating, no matter what their famous predecessor was caught doing.
“He didn’t learn what he did here,” said Alibay Barkley, a senior first baseman and major league prospect.
It’s just that all the years Mandl has known Ramirez, he never doubted his former star’s commitment to those lessons.
“If you look at his career, he’s been pretty steady,” Mandl said. “He’s always been a big, strong kid, even in high school. He’s always had great numbers. He’s always had great power.
“So that’s the baffling thing. It’s not a little guy that had warning track power. ... He hits the ball 900 feet to begin with. That’s why I’m a little bit confused, knowing him and his personality. That’s what didn’t make sense.”
To many residents in Washington Heights, Ramirez’s story was their own. Everybody seems to know somebody who knew him — or at least saw him dominate at George Washington before he was drafted in 1991.
Like Ramirez, Jose Estrella came to the neighborhood from the Dominican Republic. His cousin played in high school with the slugger. Estrella followed Ramirez’s exploits from the outset of his major league career.
“Now I don’t know if he was clean when he started,” he said.
“Sad” was how Estrella described the reaction in Washington Heights.
“A lot of people thought he was good naturally,” he said.
No matter how many stars are ensnared by drug scandals, it’s hard to quash the hope that some may be clean.
“Another one” is what 14-year-old William Taveras thought when he heard the news Thursday about Ramirez. Yet the Yankees fan can still say, “At least Jeter is not.”
Walter Suazo, who was tossing a baseball with Taveras at a Washington Heights park, had his own wish: “I hope Pujols is not.”

Links and things

Here's ESPN's take on the top high school baseball teams in the country. No one from PA on the list.

One of the nation's top high school basketball players is in a little trouble.

C-M junior Mike Hull's bio on rivals. com.

C-M junior Chad Hagan's bio on

Trinity junior Ken Wilkins' bio on

Regional baseball rankings from USA Today.

Top 25 national softball rankings by USA Today.

The WPIAL girls track and field honor roll.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

WPIAL baseball season extended

The deadline for WPIAL baseball section games was scheduled for today with the playoff pairings to be announced Friday.

Instead, because so many teams have makeup games remaining, the WPIAL has extended baseball season to Sunday (Mother's Day) and will announce playoff pairings Monday. The playoffs will begin Tuesday.

WPIAL softball pairings announced

WPIAL playoff pairings were announced Thursday and the tournaments begin Monday, May 11 in Classes AAAA, AAA and A. The Class AA tournament begins Tuesday.

The following are first-round pairings for local teams:

Class AAAA
No. 8 Peters Township vs. No. 9 Hempfield, Monday, 4 p.m. at California University
Class AAA
No. 7 Kittanning vs. No. 10 Trinity, Monday, 3 p.m. at Hampton High School
Class AA
No. 1 Riverside vs. No. 16 South Fayette, Tuesday, 3 p.m. at South Side Beaver High School
No. 8 Deer Lakes vs. No. 9 Waynesburg, Tuesday, 4 p.m. at California University
No. 2 Mohawk vs. No. 15 Burgettstown, Tuesday, 5 p.m. at South Side Beaver High School
No. 3 McGuffey vs. No. 14 New Brighton, Tuesday, 4 p.m. at Fairhaven Park
Class A
No. 8 Chartiers-Houston vs. No. 9 Riverview, Monday, 4 p.m. at North Allegheny High School
No. 4 Fort Cherry vs. No. 13 Mt. Alvernia, Monday, 2 p.m. at Burgettstown High School
No. 5 Carmichaels vs. No. 12 North Catholic, Monday, 2 p.m. at Fairhaven Park
No. 2 Serra Catholic vs. No. 15 California, Monday, 2 p.m. at California University
No. 6 South Side Beaver vs. No. 11 West Greene, Monday, 4 p.m. at Burgettstown High School

For complete WPIAL softball playoff pairings, visit

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wash High hires Nicolella, Midgley leaves FC

The Washington School Board hired Joe Nicolella Monday night as its new athletic director. Nicolella replaces Ron Faust, who will retire at the end of the school year.

Nicolella (pictured right with Faust) is no stranger to Washington athletics as he has spent most of the past two decades as Faust's main boys basketball assistant.

A special board meeting will take place Wednesday, May 13 at 6 p.m. for the purpose of hiring a varsity football coach. The position, held by Bill Britton the previous six years, has been open since early January.

According to several sources, the extensive search is down to two candidates.

  • Franklin Regional hired Brad Midgely as its new boys basketball coach earlier this week. Midgley coached the Fort Cherry boys the past two years, guiding the Rangers to a WPIAL Class AA playoff berth in 2009 in addition to a 14-8 record.

TVL's WPIAL softball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 15-1
2. North Allegheny 15-3
3. Latrobe 13-4
4. Connellsville 12-3
5. Peters Township 10-5

Class AAA
1. Franklin Regional 17-0
2. Elizabeth Forward 12-2
3. Yough 13-2
4. Belle Vernon 13-3
5. Thomas Jefferson 12-3

Class AA
1. Riverside 14-1
2. Bishop Canevin 13-2
3. McGuffey 12-2
4. Mohawk 14-1
5. South Allegheny 13-1

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 17-1
2. Serra Catholic 11-2
3. Fort Cherry 12-2
4. Leechburg 12-3
5. Bentworth 10-3

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Musial elected to WPIAL HOF

Donora native Stan Musial, easily one of the best baseball players to come from Western Pennsylvania, has been selected to the WPIAL Hall of Fame.

Part of the third class, along with Washington High School's Brian Davis, Musial played baseball, football and basketball at Donora High School, now part of the Ringgold School District.

Musial, 88, played 22 seasons, all with the St. Louis Cardinals. A three-time National League MVP, Musial finished his Hall of Fame career with a .331 batting average, 3,630 hits and 475 home runs. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, on his first ballot, and named the baseball's all-century team in 1999.

Weekly TVL WPIAL baseball rankings

Here's a first: Woodland Hills has cracked the Varsity Letters' WPIAL baseball rankings at No. 4 in Class AAAA.

Class AAAA
1. Pine-Richland 16-1
2. North Allegheny 14-2
3. Peters Township 11-4
4. Woodland Hills 11-5
5. Seneca Valley 8-5

Class AAA
1. Hopewell 18-1
2. Blackhawk 16-1
3. Greensburg-Salem 12-2
4. Moon 12-3
5. Trinity 11-2

Class AA
1. Shady Side Academy 16-1
2. Seton-La Salle 10-2
3. Bishop Canevin 8-4
4. South Fayette 9-3
5. Center 14-3

Class A
1. Serra Catholic 15-1
2. Neshannock 15-2
3. Chartiers-Houston 13-2
4. Carmichaels 11-2
5. Jeannette 10-2

Monday, May 4, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Letters must be challenging its readers to think back a little too far. Three of the last four All Points Bulletins have gone unanswered.

This week, the Varsity Letters is searching for former Peters Township distance runner Jessica Perry.

The 2002 Observer-Reporter Girls Athlete of the Year, Perry remains one of the top distance runners in WPIAL history and her times in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs remain among the top 10 all-time. A PIAA Track and Field gold medalist, Perry - all 5-3 of her - went to North Carolina to further her abilities.

Anyone with information regarding Perry is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Where did they go?

Covered the annual Baldwin Track & Field Invitational Friday and came away wondering what happened to all the local participants?

Peters Township was there. A few competitors from Waynesburg and Ringgold were there. Didn't bump into anyone from Chartiers-Houston after I arrived but was told they brought a few athletes as well.

Where's everyone else?

The answer is either at home or at the Pine-Richland Invitational.

Several teams, including Canon-McMillan, Washington and Trinity, headed to the growing P-R Invitational, which hosted 38 teams this year. That's not the size of Baldwin, one of the largest high school invitationals in the eastern United State, but enough to compete against a strong field.

Still, it can't be as strong as the field at Baldwin or provide as broad a scope in what to expect at the PIAA Championships.

And, size probably has a lot to do with the decreasing number of local participants at Baldwin.

The Baldwin Invitational is too large for some, and the massive field usually means the meet ends no earlier than 10:40 p.m. Sometimes, it can carry past 11 p.m. That's a long day.

Those are the negatives. The advantages outweight them. And the main advantage I see is competing against quality competition. That's the best way to improve.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Timko sisters win title

Step one of the unique title defense for Karli and Tanya Timko of Chartiers-Houston is complete. On Friday, the Timkos handily won the WPIAL Class AA boys doubles tennis title, defeating Tin Chu and Drew Gallatin of Thomas Jefferson, 6-2, 6-1.

Last year, the Timkos won the girls WPIAL and PIAA doubles championships but could not participate in the girls doubles tournament this year because Chartiers-Houston was unable to field a team.

The next key match for the Timkos is the team tournament that begins Monday, when the Bucs (15-1), as the second seed, face Bishop Canevin at Washington Park. Karli Timko was 16-0 and Tanya was 15-1 in singles play this season.

The state doubles tournament is May 22-23 in Hershey.