Big moments shaped local sports landscape in 2012
By Michael Love
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
The year 2012 was a busy and memorable one for local sports fans and followers.
Big games, top performances from teams and players, and unforgettable news evoked a wide range of emotions and will live on in people's memories for years to come.
This week, the Plum Advance Leader takes a look back at some of the big moments that shaped the past 12 months.
Marotto claims 100, and more
John Marotto is a true freshman on the Gannon University wrestling team, but before he joined the Golden Knights, he finished up his varsity career at Plum with a bang.
He claimed the 138-pound title at the Allegheny County Tournament, and, as the No. 3 seed, he earned his 100th career win with a second-period pin of Fox Chapel's Shane Bialowas, the fourth seed in the finals.
About a month later at WPIALs, Marotto went 2-2 and finished his season 31-8. His 116-win total is one of the top marks in the history of Plum wrestling.
Marotto closed out his varsity career with a 3-1 victory over Norwin senior Erik Rayman at the all-star challenge between top seniors from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. He also had beaten Rayman, 5-1, at WPIALs to avenge an overtime loss to him in the consolation finals of the Section 1-AAA tournament.
Over the summer, Marotto fared well at a state tournament and qualified for the USA Wrestling Cadet/Junior National Championship in Fargo, N.D.
Plum football makes move
The Plum varsity football team was swept up in the change that was Quad-A football in the WPIAL, as the Mustangs were placed in a tough Quad Central Conference when the new alignment was announced in late January.
A still-young Plum team attempted to navigate the challenging waters of the new conference but was not able to crack the win column against the likes of Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, WPIAL runner-up Woodland Hills and Peters Township, the five squads from the league who make the playoffs.
The Mustangs went 0-9, but head coach Frank Sacco was quick to credit the team's fight and determination in the face of adversity.
Basketball playoff run
The Plum varsity boys basketball team saw its season end when Shaler bowed out of the WPIAL playoffs in the semifinals.
The Mustangs, who finished tied for second in Section 2-AAAA with Gateway, lost to the Titans in the quarterfinals and had to root for Shaler under the WPIAL's follow-the-leader format to determine the fifth PIAA Quad-A spot.
The leadership of seniors Nolan Cressler, Anthony Garofalo and Tarique Ellis helped Plum to a 16-8 overall record for the 2011-12 season.
The Mustangs varsity girls basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 46-43 loss to Pine-Richland in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
Plum clinched a playoff spot with a 63-52 win over McKeesport on Jan. 26, as five players — sophomores Krista Pietropola (15) and Aly Weifenbaugh (10), senior Regan Donatelli (10), junior Angelena Borriello (13) and freshman Courtney Zezza (10) — scored in double figures.
Plum junior Luke Frederick climbed onto the medals podium at WPIALs for the second time, as he claimed seventh in the 100 breast at the annual championships at Pitt's Trees Pool.
He came into the event seeded eighth, but he moved up one spot with a time of 1:00.72.
In 2011, Frederick helped the boys 200 free relay team place seventh and come close to breaking the school record in the event.
Two teams to states
For the first time in several seasons, both the Plum boys and girls bowling teams qualified for the state championship event after each placed fourth in their respective team competition at the Western Regional Championships at the North Versailles Bowl.
The top six teams from regionals advanced to take on the top six teams from the Eastern Regional Championships.
It was the second straight trip to states for the boys squad, which won the Northeast section title with a 10-0 record. The girls qualified for states for the first time since 2009.
Plum was one of four bowing programs in the WPIBL to send both teams to states.
At states, the Plum boys finished fifth after taking eighth in 2011. The Mustangs girls took 12th.
Representing Plum at the state championships were Bobby Stewart, Dan Yushinski, Sam Cooper, Chris Dick, Nick Donatelli, Eric Theiss and Josh Kirchartz, while Victoria Nicholas, Heather Kosmack, Jocelyn Rubash, Sam Piccolino, Shannon Purcell and Kristen Ankers bowled for the girls team.
A record at nationals
Caitlyn Sirkoch, a junior on the California University of Pennsylvania women's swim team and a Plum graduate, helped the Lady Vulcans 200 free relay team to a fifth-place finish and a new school record at the NCAA Division II national championships in San Antonio in March.
The team finished with a time of 1:34.03, which broke the previous record of 1:34.31 set at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championships in February.
The Cal U 200 free relay had captured the PSAC title, the first conference relay title in school history.
Record-setting career ends
Plum graduate Julie DiLonardo closed out a record-setting softball career at Geneva College by helping the Golden Tornadoes capture the Presidents Athletic Conference title and reach the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament.
DiLonardo pitched in 48 games as a senior in 2012 and registered a 26-18 record with 38 complete games.
She finished the season with a 1.69 earned-run average in 298 innings of work, and opponents batted only .232 against her.
DiLonardo struck out 279 batters as a senior, and she finished her career with a school-record mark of more than 500.
Her performances in 2012 earned her PAC Player of the Year honors, and she was named MVP of the PAC Tournament.
DiLonardo recorded her 10th shutout of the season in the 1-0 title-game triumph over Thiel College.
Geneva went 30-19 overall, its first 30-win campaign in six seasons.
Top diamond performances
The Plum varsity baseball team took care of business against Woodland Hills and clinched the Section 4-AAAA title, its third section crown since 2008.
The Mustangs overcame two blowout losses — including a 10-1 setback to Pittsburgh Central Catholic in its second section game — and went on an 11-game winning streak overall.
The streak for Plum included nine straight section victories, and the Mustangs avenged the loss to the Vikings with an 8-3 triumph on the Vikings' home field.
The Mustangs suffered a 2-1 heartbreaking loss to Gateway in a memorable 12-inning, rain-soaked affair that ended four hours after it started. Both teams waited out two weather delays, made standout plays defensively and got top pitching performances to keep the game going well into extra innings.
Plum concluded its season with a tough 8-2 loss to Mt. Lebanon in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
The Mustangs softball team enjoyed another successful season that ended with another trip to the WPIAL postseason.
Plum finished 9-3 in Section 2-AAAA, two games behind section champion Franklin Regional. The Mustangs led the Panthers in the fourth inning of their section game at Franklin Regional, but the hosts rallied to take a 13-6 victory and wrap up the title.
Plum went 13-6 overall and suffered a 12-1 loss to Latrobe in the WPIAL playoffs.
Plum's Krista Pietropola, a sophomore for the 2011-12 academic year, made her second trip to the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships at Baldwin, and she was the lone Mustangs competitor to reach the medals podium.
Pietropola finished sixth in the high jump, improving on her 16th-place finish as a freshman in 2011.
She reached a height of 5 feet, 1 inch and came close to hitting the state-qualifying mark of 5-3.
College World Series
Plum graduate Richie Navari pitched for Scottsdale Community College in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series in Enid, Okla.
Scottsdale went 1-2 at the World Series, and Navari started the team's lone tournament victory.
Navari made 15 appearances in 2012 for Scottsdale, which finished with a 39-24 record. He worked 82 1/3 innings and compiled a 6-4 record. Of his 53 runs on his stat line, more than half of them — 30 — were unearned.
PSAC track title
Despite suffering a broken foot early in her spring season at California University of Pennsylvania, Plum graduate Bria Jay finished the campaign with some conference hardware.
She helped the Lady Vulcans 4x100 relay capture the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title with a NCAA provisional time of 47.02.
The relay won the event by almost five-tenths of a second, and it set a new school record in both the preliminaries and the finals.
Jay also had a stellar performance individually at the PSAC meet, as she earned All-PSAC honors in the 100 dash after placing third with a time of 12.14 seconds. She and teammate Monique Sims, a sophomore and graduate of Schenley High School, both ran times better than the school record in the 100 dash preliminaries.
U.S. Senior Open
Plum native and Plum High School graduate Sean Knapp survived a playoff at a qualifying tournament at St. Clair Country Club and earned a spot in the U.S. Senior Open from July 12 to 15 at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Michigan.,
Knapp made the cut after two rounds and finished tied for 60th with a 12-over score of 292 through 72 holes.
Plum native Bjorn Fratangelo made the leap in May and became a tennis professional.
He earned $900 right out of the gate at a Men's Futures event in Tampa, Fla.
Fratangelo didn't back down in facing the top seed, as he upended Austria's Gerald Meltzer, 7-5, 6-3, in the second round on the outdoor clay surface. He earned straight-set victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals before dropping a tough two-set match to No. 2-seeded American Tennys Sandgren in the finals.
Street ball success
The U.S. Under-20 street ball hockey team — including Plum High School graduates Dom Andreoli and Cody Brenner — placed third at the World Junior Street and Ball Hockey Championships on June 18 to 23 in Pisek, Czech Republic.
It was the U.S. team's third bronze medal in the last four World Junior Championship tournaments.
Plum graduate Scott McGough started his 2012 professional baseball season in California as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
In July, the relief pitcher was a piece in the big trade that sent Miami Marlins star shortstop Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers.
He pitched the rest of the season for the Jupiter Hammerheads in High Class A's Florida State League. He made 15 appearances, compiled a 2-1 record and a 3.24 ERA and struck out eight over 16.2 innings of work.
After a couple of years of planning and several weeks of construction, the new softball field on the grounds of Plum High School opened for business.
The field was dedicated with a ceremony and intrasquad game in August, and alumni and current Plum players, coaches and supporters of Plum softball gathered to celebrate.
A strong start
Plum freshman Samantha Shumaker, who is a member of the boys golf team, got a chance to golf with other female golfers in the WPIAL, and she made the most of the opportunity.
She punched her ticket for the WPIAL championship tournament at the Section 3-AAA qualifier at Saxon Golf Course in Sarver with a tie with Penn-Trafford senior Morgan Rector.
One of seven freshman to play the 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills, Shumaker finished tied for 26th in her first WPIAL experience.
With a 2-0 victory at Penn Hills on Oct. 9, the Plum varsity girls soccer team qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Junior Aaliyah Odom scored a goal and added an assist, while freshman Ashley Amato tallied a goal in the playoff clincher.
Plum finished third in the Section 3-AAA standings at 6-4-2, two points ahead of fourth-place Penn Hills (6-6). Ties against section champion Gateway (11-0-1) and Oakland Catholic (5-6-1) helped lift the Mustangs to the postseason.
Plum suffered a 3-0 loss to Seneca Valley in the first round.
On the boys side, Plum compiled a 6-3-3 mark and returned to the WPIAL playoffs. The Mustangs handed section champion Pittsburgh Central Catholic its only section loss.
Plum fell to WPIAL runner-up and PIAA champion Upper St. Clair, 4-0, in the first round of the playoffs.
Two to states
Plum junior Alan Yocca and freshman teammate Jake Susalla qualified for the PIAA Class AAA cross country championships in Hershey after strong runs at the WPIAL finals.
Susalla ran the 3.1-mile course at Cooper's Lake Campground near Slippery Rock in 16:52 to finish 16th, while Yocca was not to far behind in 18th (16:56).
The places are the top two Plum individual finishes at WPIALs in team history.
As a team, the Plum boys placed seventh out of 34 in the AAA field.
Plum graduate Adam Stawski, the 2008 WPIAL individual boys golf champion, captured the Penn State University Athletic Conference title for Penn State-New Kensington.
He also finished fifth in the USCAA national tournament and garnered both All-America and Academic All-America honors.
Stawski shot a 2-over 74 at the Penn State Blue Course on the second day of the tournament to clinch the PSUAC crown, avenging his runner-up finish as a freshman in 2009.
He rallied from a 3-shot first-round deficit with a 1-under 35 on the back nine (his front nine), and that included an eagle on the par 5 18th.
Hills gets his chance
Plum resident and Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate Perry Hills got his chance to start at quarterback as a true freshman for the University of Maryland football team.
He played seven games for the Terrapins before suffering a season-ending knee injury against N.C. State on Oct. 20.
Hills finished with 1,336 yards and eight touchdowns, including a season best 305 yards and three touchdowns at West Virginia on Sept. 22.
Earlier in the year, Hills capped his high school athletic career with a 35-0 wrestling season and both WPIAL and PIAA champ- ionships.
He also passed for 283 yards and four touchdowns to lead the West squad to a 45-24 victory in the PSFCA East-West Classic on May 6.
He earned MVP honors in the game played at Gateway High School.
Cressler sets record
It was a good 2012 on the basketball court for Plum's Nolan Cressler.
The June high school graduate led all of WPIAL Quad-A boys basketball in scoring as a senior at 25.8 points per game.
He finished as Plum's all-time leading scorer with 1,565 points and helped the Mustangs make another trip to the WPIAL playoffs.
For his efforts, Cressler was selected to the AP Quad-A all-state second team.
He helped his team capture a victory at the prestigious Roundball Classic at Geneva College.
Cressler now is at Cornell University, and in his first collegiate game, he came off the bench to score 20 points — hitting six 3-pointers — in a Big Red victory over Western Michigan.
New softball team
The Plum varsity slow-pitch softball teams made their debuts in September, and both the varsity and junior varsity squads recorded winning records.
The varsity team made the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Softball League playoffs and finished the season 12-3.
The junior varsity team compiled a 10-4 record.
Seniors Jessica Allman, Amber Shields, Jessica Snider and Alyssa Stonebraker helped guide the program in its first season.
Getting his kicks
The Plum football team wasn't able to get in the win column in its season finale at Pine-Richland, but senior punter Dylan Kondis provided a highlight in the first half against the Rams.
Kondis booted an 82-yard punt in the first quarter, and it is believed to be one of the longest punts in the history of the WPIAL, although no official punt-distance stats are kept by the league.
Kondis went on to earn Quad Central Conference all-star first-team honors, and he finished the season with a 41.2 yards-per-punt average.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.
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