Area coaches nominated for baseball/softball awards

April 27, 2013

This area has established itself as one of the best for baseball and softball, given the history of playoff successes.

And the six finalists for the this year’s Coach of the Year award only enhanced that reputation.

In softball, Michele Moeller of Canon-McMillan, Dave Briggs of Carmichaels and Tricia Alderson of Chartiers-Houston; and James Barton of South Fayette, Don Hartman of California and Dan Palm of Belle Vernon in baseball enjoyed outstanding seasons.

These six will be honored at the Tri-County Coach of the Year Banquet at 5 p.m. Sunday at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Meadow Lands.

Tickets for the banquet are $35 each and can be purchased by calling Burgettstown High School athletic director Jon Vallina at 724-947-8109. Proceeds benefit Tri-County Special Olympics.

Alderson led Chartiers-Houston to another Section 1 title with a 10-0 record. The Bucs finished the regular season with a 19-1 mark. In a memorable game, Chartiers-Houston won the WPIAL Class A title with a 3-2 victory over Carmichaels in a nine-inning game. The Bucs advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament, where they lost, 7-2, to Fannett Metal.

Two Chartiers-Houston players were named to the All-State first team: pitcher Kayla Briggs and catcher Colby Miller.

Moeller coached the Big Macs to a first-place tie with Peters Township in Section 4-AAAA, as each team finished with an 8-2 record. In the postseason, the Big Macs thrived, winning three straight games, including a 2-1 victory over Hempfield that gave them the WPIAL Class AAAA title.

The Big Macs knocked off two district champions – District 10’s Erie McDowell and District 6’s Central Mountain before falling to Bishop Shanahan, 5-4, in the state semifinals.

Outfielder Abby McCartney was named first team All-State.

Carmichaels found itself in a familiar place when the regular season ended with Briggs as coach, atop the section standings and in the playoffs. The Mikes won the Section 2 title with a 10-0 record, and finished the regular season with a 19-1 mark. It was the sixth straight section title for the Mikes.

The Mikes got a tough draw in the first round of the PIAA tournament, losing a 12-1 decision to Fannett-Metal, which went on to win the Class A title. It was the Mikes’ first appearance in the state playoffs since 1999. The Mikes finished with a 22-3 record, with all three losses coming by one run.

After a slow start that saw South Fayette lose four of its first six games, the Lions roared back, winning nine of their last 10 to easily capture the Section 1-AA title and earn a spot in the WPIAL playoffs. Barton led the Lions to two victories – 5-3 over Steel Valley and 12-4 over Laurel in the WPIAL tournament – before falling to Ellwood City in a wild, 14-11 game in the semifinals. In the state playoffs, South Fayette beat Mount Union, 5-4, before losing to Riverside by the identical score.

Hartman got the Trojans as close to perfection as possible last season. California did not lose a game in the regular season, racking up 17 straight wins, including 12 in a row to secure the Section 1-A title. California had scored in double figures in 14 of those victories.

Wins over Western Beaver and Bentworth put California in the WPIAL championship game, where the Trojans fell to Neshannock, 5-0. In the state tournament, California fell to Bishop McCort in the first round.

Palm got Belle Vernon’s baseball team to play well when it mattered most. The Leopards won seven of their final eight games to finish tied with Greensburg Salem atop the Section 2-AAA standings with 11-3 records.

Belle Vernon won three straight in the WPIAL playoffs, including a thrilling 9-8 victory over Hopewell in the semifinals. The Leopards were finally stopped by Blackhawk in the championship game, falling 1-0. In the state tournament, Belle Vernon knocked off Punxsutawney before losing to West York. The Leopards finished the season with a 19-6 record.

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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