Championship performances highlight 2012

Matt Grubba
| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

Teams and individuals turned in championship performances at Franklin Regional and around the Murrysville area to make 2012 a memorable year in sports.

From first-time WPIAL champs to teams snapping section title and playoff droughts, there was a distinct upward trend to many of the local teams.

Below is a look at some of the Murrysville Star's top sports stories from the past year:

Wrestling superstars

Franklin Regional started collecting the WPIAL medals early in 2012, as freshman Michael Kemerer captured a WPIAL title, and three other wrestlers advanced to the PIAA tournament.

Already a Powerade Tournament and Section 1-AAA champ, Kemerer defeated Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph, 3-2, to become a WPIAL champ, and he nearly added a state title before falling, 4-2, to Parkland's Ethan Lizak in the state final on March 10.

“Mikey had a great season; he just came up one match short,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. “He was upset right after the loss. He wanted to get right back in there and wrestle again, but I told him that it was a great start to his career taking second at states.”

Josh Shields and Tyler Smith both were WPIAL runners-up, Josh Maruca won the third-place match to reach the state tournament, and Luke Fleck finished fourth at WPIALs after an overtime loss in his consolation final. All five of those wrestlers are back for this season at FR, which makes the prospects for 2013 even greater.

Pool sharks

While Kemerer was winning on the mats, FR sophomore Alyssa Ruffing was busy being the district's best sprint swimmer.

Ruffing won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle WPIAL titles and broke the 100-yard record with a time of 51.08 seconds at Pitt's Trees Pool on March 1 and 2.

“Going in, I really hoped to do well, but I didn't expect to get first in both,” Ruffing said. “I saw the record before the meet and thought maybe I'd be able to get it. I was was really happy with my time.”

Joining Ruffing on the medal stand were teammates Meghan Mendez, Brianna Molinaro, Mackenzie Meixner, Julianna Carolla, Nicole Stevenson and Kaitlyn Ruffing, who all helped FR take second in the 400 free relay and third in the 200 free and medley relays.

Kaitlyn Ruffing, Meixner and Mendez all qualified for states as individuals to help FR to a fourth-place WPIAL finish, while FR's boys sent Austin Mortimer and both free relays (Mortimer, Alex Carolla, Dan Sederholm and Dale Maholage) to states.

Keeping on track

Kaitlyn Ruffing added to her swim medal collection with some track medals this year, none of which weas more impressive than her silver medal in the 200 at the WPIAL Championships on May 17. Ruffing ran a 25.27 to place second, and she also advanced to states in the 400 by finishing fourth in 57.31.

Joining her at the state meet were triple jumper Greg King, who was third at WPIALs with a jump of 44 feet, 4 inches; pole vaulter Cody Colangrande, with a jump of 13 feet, 6 inches; and long jumper Alyssa Boren, who was sixth in the long jump by jumping 17 feet, 3 12 inches.

Tennis titlists

Franklin Regional's girls tennis team added to its tradition of success by reclaiming the Section 1-AAA title undefeated this regular season, led by strong singles play from senior Lauren Bailey and freshmen Natalia Perry and Jenna Bailey.

The team advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals before suffering its only loss of the year to top-seeded Mt. Lebanon, while Perry — the section singles champ and doubles champ with Lauren Bailey — made her debut in the WPIAL singles tournament a memorable one by reaching the semifinals and winning the third-place match.

Baseball is back

The Panthers made 2012 a memorable year on the diamond by reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years to give senior catcher Luke Stickel and senior pitchers Logan Madera and Dan Horgan a successful send-off.

The rest of the team returns next year from the squad that finished 9-11 overall and 7-5 in Section 4-AAAA, and the Panthers will try to better this year's squad that narrowly lost a first-round playoff game to Hempfield, 10-8.

Superb softball

The FR softball team also had another strong year on the diamond on its way to a Section 2-AAAA title and a 17-3 record.

The team rode the pitching of senior Sam Johnson and the hitting of junior Kaelin Jackson and senior Savannah Barnes to the postseason, where the team was tripped up in the opening round by Seneca Valley, 3-1.

More hard hitters

The success on the diamond in Murrysville continued into the summer, when the municipality's Junior Legion baseball team captured the Westmoreland County Championship.

The Eagles finished with a 25-3 record after losing their season opener then rattling off 25 straight wins before falling twice to be eliminated from the regional tournament in Punxsutawney.

Ladies on the links

Franklin Regional's girls golf team didn't win its section — that title went to eventual WPIAL champ Penn-Trafford — but the Panthers still put together their best season since 2006.

Led by senior Alex Schwab, who finished 13th in the WPIAL individual championship, the Panthers placed fifth in Class AAA during the team final.

Soccer switch

Franklin Regional's boys soccer team had a new head coach this season in Ryan Montgomery, and with the new coach came a spot in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

The Panthers finished with a 13-4-2 record and had a chance at a Section 1-AAA title in their final section game against Kiski Area. They then knocked off Ringgold, 3-2, in the first round of the playoffs before falling to a last-minute goal by eventual WPIAL champ Canon-McMillan, 1-0, on Oct. 25.

Football battles on

The Panthers football team entered the 2012 season with high hopes, and though an 8-3 record is no small achievement, this year's FR team might be best remembered for the way it overcame adversity, especially on the injury front.

A season-opening loss to Mars set the Panthers back in the conference title race, but the team recovered despite injuries to center Luke Fleck, running back Dane Brown, wide receiver Colin Jonov and linebacker Brett Zanotto, to name a only a few.

After earning and winning a home first-round playoff game, the Panthers' season ended after an exciting 24-21 loss to top-seeded Thomas Jefferson in the quarterfinals on Nov. 9, after which coach Greg Botta called his team one of the most special groups of players he has coached in his lengthy tenure at Franklin Regional.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or

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