Wash High’s baseball team was the story of Class AA at the midway point of last season after the Prexies won eight of their first nine games, including a 7-0 start with only two seniors.
Unfortunately for the Prexies, they did not carry the impressive start over into the final weeks of the season. Though the Prexies earned a share of the Section 2-AA title with Brownsville, they lost five of their last eight games and a first-round playoff game to Laurel ended the season.
This year, Wash High returns all but two players, including the pitching staff’s ace, junior Jonathan Spina, an Observer-Reporter second team all-district selection. Spina finished with a 6-3 record as a sophomore and is ready to build on the success of last season.
“We had a bunch of young people and we only had two seniors,” Spina said. “We were able to win the section, and it is big coming into this year knowing that we have a chance to repeat that. We have to finish this year. We had a great first half of last season.”
Spina is Wash High’s leader at the top of the lineup. Jesse Spara, the Prexies’ top offensive threat last year, returns to the middle infield with Lincoln Key. Head coach Rocky Plassio will look to Spara and Key to set the tone for an offense that was stagnant in the WPIAL playoffs. Wash High was shut out by Laurel 1-0.
According to Plassio, the keys to the Prexies’ season begin with Spina, who will take to the mound in Wash High’s season opener Friday against Neshannock. But like the rest of his lineup, Plassio is looking for Spina to carry his strong play into May this time.
“He’s definitely our ace,” Plassio said. “We rely on him a lot and we know that every time we give the ball to him, we feel like that’s a game we have an excellent chance of winning. He wants the ball, he’s a very confident kid, he experienced success in the first half last year, was humbled in the second half, and we have to try to take what he did in the first half and build on that so we don’t have a second half fall-off again.”
Plassio believes the experience Spina gained will pay dividends as Wash High tries to return to the WPIAL playoffs from a section that features one of the best players in Class AA – Brownsville’s Shane Roebuck – and Chartiers-Houston, which has an experienced team.
Spina says a key for Wash High twill be its attitude. As the season progressed last year and the Prexies experienced more success, complacency became evident.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” Spina said. “You can’t just show up and think you’re going to win, and I think we were just young and dumb to think that was going to happen in the second half of the season. We got woken up with the first-round loss in the playoffs.”
For the second time in four years, Chartiers-Houston has a new coach. Vince Capozza, who works as baseball instructor at C-Side Sports Academy, takes over for Adam Petras after spending one year as an assistant at South Fayette under James Barton. The Bucs finished with an 11-7 overall record last year that included a first-round playoff win over Steel Valley and a loss to Shady Side Academy in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Capozza has the benefit of taking over a senior-laden team that features junior Alec Ferrari, who will be counted on to take over for Dylan Pounds as the Bucs’ ace, and senior Kaleb Susko – a standout middle infielder. Chartiers-Houston’s outfield consists of three seniors: Tyler Day, Miles Williamson and Jake Jones. With a wealth of experience back, Capozza could not have imagined walking into a more ideal situation.
“It’s outstanding,” Capozza said. “It’s a great situation and the kids have been great in the preseason. They are just ready to play like all of us. We are all ready.”
The Bearcats reached the WPIAL playoffs last year after finishing with a 10-5 record before losing to Beaver in the first round. Bentworth must replace Adam Bell, who was the top pitcher for the Bearcats with a 4-2 record and 27 strikeouts in 36 innings.
The Bulldogs missed the playoffs last season with a 6-11 overall record, but only lost three seniors. One of those seniors was Josh Miller, who threw two complete games as a starting pitcher and is now a member of California University’s baseball team. Seniors Seth Hvizda and Lucas Zellie will help fill the void.
The Blue Devils finished with a 6-9 overall last season and lost eight seniors. A large group of juniors will try to get Burgettstown back to the playoffs.
Charleroi’s 2013 season is one the Cougars would like to forget. The Cougars finished with a 1-18 record with their lone win coming against a Class A opponent (Monessen). Charleroi will rely on seniors Zach Nabozny and Gunnar Riley, as well as juniors Josh Sidary and Matt Szersen.
The Rangers finished with a 7-10 last year as the fifth place team in Section 2. Fort Cherry returns Koltan Kobrys, who will pace the team offensively.