In what has become one of my favorite traditions at the end of every sports season – and to drop a not-so-subtle hint at Sunday’s Athlete of the Year content – let’s take a look at the top 10 stories to come out of the spring sports season.
10. Spossey ruled eligible. Talking about Chartiers-Houston softball player Toni Spossey, a sophomore transfer from Trinity. The WPIAL ruled there was at least partial athletic intent, suspending Spossey for this softball season. Yet Spossey and her family appealed to the PIAA ... and won.
Spossey was outstanding for C-H, punching up a .475/.512/.700 slash line in 40 at-bats, mostly at catcher. When Kayla Briggs battled arm trouble at the end of the season, Spossey showed she’s ready to slide into that role next spring with a 0.75 earned-run average and 21 strikeouts in 28 innings.
9. California baseball. Hulkamania, brother. The obsession with Hulk Hogan, the collection of weird objects, the postseason run. All happened at California, with the baseball team saying its prayers, taking its vitamins and catching fire in the WPIAL Class A consolation round, making it all the way to the PIAA semifinals.
8. Jon Vallina retires. A school year without the longtime Burgettstown athletic director? Just won’t be the same.
Vallina also served on the WPIAL Board of Control and did about a million other things to push high school athletics forward in Western Pennsylvania.
Hands down one of the best people I’ve encountered here.
7. Peters Township girls lacrosse makes history. It’s no secret that girls lacrosse in Western Pennsylvania had lagged behind the eastern part of the state.
The Indians, though, might be on the way to narrowing that gap. Besides winning a second consecutive WPIAL title – and fifth overall – Peters Township became the first WPIAL team to reach the PIAA semifinals with a 16-4 win over State College.
6. Wash High boys repeat. What, couldn’t do it halfway through this year? The Washington boys track and field team was so dominant at the Class AA Team Championships that the question was not whether the Prexies would win, nor was it how lopsided the margin would be.
After clinching the title during the 300 hurdles in 2012, the question became, “When?”
Answer? During the 400 relay, two events later than last year. Still impressive.
5. Shai McKenzie trims list. After much anticipation, Washington’s big-time football recruit culls his list to five schools. And orders them, from top to bottom: Florida State, Pitt, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Arkansas.
The news comes after McKenzie spent time down south visiting family, as well as the campuses of Florida State and Georgia Tech.
4. Latsko hurts knee. The state’s best player tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a club soccer game in late May, meaning she will miss her senior year.
The University of Virginia recruit had already scored 107 goals, including 36 this past season, as Peters Township won a third consecutive PIAA Class AAA title.
Her recovery appears fairly straightforward, though it will keep one of the best soccer players to come through this area off the field until January.
3. Alyssa Wise wins two state titles. Washington’s Wise was eighth in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the PIAA Class AA track and field championships as a freshman. Third in both last year.
This spring, Wise became the fastest high school girl in the state, winning both events rather handily.
Only a junior, it’s scary to think what Wise can accomplish next season if this progression continues.
2. Canon-Mac softball. I played baseball and pitched for four years in college. Doubtful I’d have an earned-run average under 5.00 facing this team.
Loaded with talented hitters, the Big Macs picked up an ace in the postseason, too, as Player of the Year Alayna Astuto went 7-0 with 53 strikeouts, four runs allowed, five walks and an 0.26 ERA while leading Canon-McMillan to its first PIAA Class AAAA title.
1. Chris Mary steps down. The Canon-McMillan wrestling coach resigned in mid-May to spend more time with his wife and two daughters, ending a run that won’t be replicated any time soon.
Mary coached six PIAA champions, 20 WPIAL champions and helped Canon-Mac win a total of nine PIAA and WPIAL Team Titles.
As much as the hardware he collected, Mary is credited with taking Canon-McMillan’s historically strong program and turning it into the state’s best.
Jason Mackey can be reached at email@example.com.