Thursday, March 24, 2011

The boys of spring

Boys tennis started Monday. The rest of the WPIAL spring sports season (baseball, softball, track & field, boys volleyball, boys & girls lacrosse) gets going today. Traditionally speaking, this area excels during this time of year.

The 2010 season was no different.

Chartiers-Houston, appearing in its sixth PIAA softball championship game, won its first title with a convincing win over Montgomery. The Bucs return several key players and could contend again. Canon-McMillan won its second WPIAL Class AAA boys team track championship and the talent-rich Big Macs can never be counted out of the district championship picture. California was the only local baseball team to reach the PIAA playoffs last season and the Trojans should once again be among the best in Class A.

What other story lines will be followed this spring? What athletes will lead teams to championships or find themselves atop the medals stand at the PIAA track and field championships like McGuffey graduate J.T. Deschamps did last year?

Here are a few boys athletes whose previous accomplishments this time of year merit following over the next few months.

Austin Hancock, Peters Township
Before Hancock (pictured signing his Letter of Intent with his parents and former PT football coach Nick Milchovich) heads to Fordham to play football, he'll be a key figure in Peters Township's hopes of winning a third WPIAL Class AAAA baseball championship. A starter since his freshman year, Hancock is one of the area's premier sluggers and first basemen.

Justin Bianco, Peters Township
If hard to imagine an outfielder in the WPIAL with a stronger arm than Bianco, a Pitt recruit who threw out six runners attempting to get from second to third from his right field position. Bianco is the rare five-tool player at the high school level.

Brady Sheetz, Peters Township
An all-section infielder last year, Sheetz was not only outstanding in the field for the WPIAL semifinalists, he led all local hitters in extra base hits. Sheetz, who misses Februany Footlongs at Subway according to his Twitter account, is headed to Division I Hartford.

Nick Riotto, Trinity
Riotto was the area's top freshman baseball player last year and a key cog for the Hillers, on the mound and at the plate. The lefty batted well above .500 and his pitching helped Trinity reach the playoffs in a year that many thought would be a rebuilding one.

T.D. Conway, California
Conway holds the distinction of having a win and a save in a WPIAL playoff game and, as a sophomore, was undefeated until his final start of the season. He ranked among leaders in wins and strikeouts in addition to being a middle-of-the lineup hitter.

Tyler Delval, Bentworth
A second-team all-district selection last year, Delval was one of the area's top underclassmen. Delval was one of three Bentworth players to batted above .500 last season and his eight home runs ranked near the top of the WPIAL leaders.

Mike McClelland, Trinity
McClelland is a two-time PIAA qualifier in the Class AAA high jump. He finished ninth his sophomore year and fourth as a junior. Expectations are high for McClelland, the reigning WPIAL champion who plans on joining the Penn State track team. He won the state indoor championship this winter.

Darius Spinks, Washington
There's a promising group of jumpers at the High and the majority of them are sophomores. Included in that group is Spinks, who finished fifth in the WPIAL in the Class AA long jump and was the lone freshman competing in the event at last year's state meet.

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