The Varsity Letters
The O-R Sports staff offers their take on high school sports. Follow them on Twitter- @sportsOR

Canon-Mac & Peters Township: the WPIAL's best baseball rivalry

Tensions ran high Monday at McDowell Field in Canonsburg when the best rivalry in WPIAL baseball was on display. Canon-McMillan and Peters Township played a back-and-forth game for nine innings that ended with the Indians coming out as the winners.

There was a collision at home plate, words were exchanged, two close plays at home plate that ended with the Big Macs missing out on two runs and the level of talent is a reminder that the Section 5-AAAA rivalry is one of the best.

Both teams have lineups that are a headache for opposing teams to match up against and with Peters Township now sitting atop the standings, it was two of the classification’s best playing each other.

Peters Township’s batting order has three left-handed hitters who can hit the ball to the opposite field and possess big time power. Right fielder Mitch Bianco is the most notable and he made an impact against Canon-McMIllan. Bianco reached base three times, including a double and a run scored.

Designated hitter Tim Swoope has been on fire the past two weeks with power to the gaps and it was much of the same against the Big Macs when he went 2-for-4 with three runs scored, two doubles and a run batted in.

Phil Mary is the Indians’ No.9 hitter and that should say a lot about the strength of Peters Township’s lineup. Mary hit .417 last year as a sophomore. Defensively, the Indians are one of the WPIAL’s best with an incredible middle infield. Second baseman Phil Pisarcik and shortstop Ryan Tassone are great defensively; and bring a lot at the plate.

Canon-McMillan is no slouch either. Its batting order is scary. Left-handed Chandler Palyas is the Big Macs’ lead-off hitter and the team’s second and third batters in the order are what stump coaches when it comes time to make a pitching change late in the game.

Teagan Piechnick, a right-handed hitter, already has six home runs this season and is a threat to go deep every time he steps to the plate. Following him in the order is junior center fielder Jared Beach, who is a left-handed hitter that will have scouts following him around until he makes a college decision.

Piechnick hit a two-run home run against Peters Township and drove in two runs; and also drew three walks. The Big Macs’ talents are not limited to the top of the order as the bottom three guys had a great showing in the rivalry game.

Senior catcher Buzz Boggio went 2-for-4 with a solo home run, designated hitter Dustin Bernardi drew three walks, went 1-for-2 and scored twice; and sophomore shortstop Connor Coleman went 3-for-5 with two runs scored.

Talent is a plenty for both teams, including young pitchers who are throwing well early in the season. It will be interesting to see Canon-McMillan and Peters Township’s next game on May 2.

It could decide who takes home the section title and will surely be just as chippy as Monday’s game.
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McGuffey School Board makes right decision, renews Burchett's contract

Thursday was a reminder that a coach leading a program out of the shadows of mediocrity and successfully developing high school athletes is not always the most important thing in the eyes of parents.

McGuffey head coach Amanda Burchett, who has led the Highlanders’ girls basketball team to back-to-back state playoff appearances, had her contract renewed last night at the district’s school board meeting, but it was not without criticism.
A group of parents threatened to protest Burchett’s contract renewal with the goal of McGuffey getting a new girls basketball coach.

It doesn’t make much sense, right?
It certainly doesn’t when you consider Burchett’s close relationship with her players. Watch her interact with them and you’ll agree that parents suggesting she not be rehired is ludicrous.
Besides knowing the sport, relating to players and motivating them is critical in achieving success as a high school coach. Burchett has all of the above. She is a former O-R Girls Basketball Player of the Year, has been pivotal in the development of two-time O-R Player of the Year Sammie Weiss; and are we forgetting that McGuffey girls basketball had not reached the state playoffs since 1990 before she led her kids to that mark?
What about 25-straight section wins against competition such as Washington and Charleroi?
The threats of some parents turned out to be empty ones when a few did not show up to the meeting and the school board ultimately approved the Burchett’s rehire by a unanimous vote of 6-0.
In a time where school boards have knee-jerk reactions to parents’ concerns, it was welcoming news to hear McGuffey’s made the right decision by bringing back the coach who helped turn the program around and allowed the kids to have fun while doing so.
It’s sad that some find the need to stand up and protest when their child does not receive a certain amount of playing time or doesn't agree with a coaching decision. I’m not sure what these parents had issues with, but high school sports are filled with too many bleacher coaches – also known as parents -- who think they know more than the person hired to coach their kid’s team.
I covered a softball game recently in which a father was openly criticizing who his daughter’s head coach started at pitcher, how the coach should instruct kids on the finer points of defense and, of course, where and how much his daughter should be playing. You wouldn’t want to leave that last tidbit out of the argument, would you?
It’s laughable. If I were a betting man, I’d say the vast majority of kids would rather their parents stay out of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s complaints about playing time or if the person does not coach to the parents’ liking, there will always be those who think they can do a better job.
Not to be harsh, but the parents at McGuffey who stood up to criticize Burchett probably don’t know much about basketball. If they did, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post and Burchett’s contract renewal would have been a forgone conclusion.
Read full post: McGuffey School Board makes right decision, renews Burchett's contract

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