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High school notebook: Washington's McKenzie taking aim at 3,000 yards

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:09 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Washington's Shai McKenzie scores his team's first touchdown against Mt. Pleasant early in the first quarter Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.
Christopher Horner
Washington running back Shai McKenzie. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Shai McKenzie fell just shy of setting a new WPIAL single-season mark for rushing yards last year. For an encore, the Washington senior tailback hopes to shatter Rushel Shell's record.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder ran for 2,689 yards and 41 touchdowns last season — just 52 yards short of the Hopewell graduate's mark — and believes he can do even better this season.

“My junior year, my coach saved me a lot. Some games, I really sat out the second half — I believe eight games I sat out the second half — so this year I'm going to try to keep it going and try to carry the ball as much as possible,” McKenzie said Tuesday at WPXI's Skylights media day at Heinz Field. “I plan on trying to get over 3,000 this year.”

McKenzie is a four-star prospect, according to Rivals.com, which ranks him the No. 177 player and No. 20 running back in the nation. After receiving more than 30 scholarship offers, McKenzie narrowed his choices to Florida State, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Arkansas. He said he is considering playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and could announce his decision at the game.

“I'm not really too worried about the stars or the scholarships. I'm just going to be humble and keep all my teammates going and try to have a good season,” said McKenzie, who took an unofficial visit to Virginia Tech last weekend. “I want to get past all the recruiting so I can have a good season.”

Curry commits to WVU

Beaver Falls' Sage Curry verbally committed to West Virginia, though the senior-to-be might wait until 2015 to join the Mountaineers, said Tigers coach Ryan Matsook.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound linebacker/tight end could attend prep school before arriving in Morgantown, W.Va.. As a junior, Curry had 14 catches, 536 yards and six touchdowns.

Baseball recruits

• West Mifflin left-handed pitcher A.J. Olasz verbally committed to the University of Cincinnati.

Olasz is coming off a junior season in which went 3-4 with a 2.68 ERA and struck out 64 in 40 13 innings for the 10-9 Titans. Olasz started 19 games in three years, going 9-10 with a 2.83 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 106 13 innings.

• Franklin Regional rising senior Brandon Nania, who hit .390 with four home runs and 24 RBI this spring, has committed to West Virginia. Nania also is a member of the United States Specialty Sports Association's High School Varsity National Team.

• Greensburg Salem rising senior Max Ponzurick a verbally committed to play college baseball at Virginia Tech while playing in a wood bat tournament in Marietta, Ga. Ponzurick was injured for most of his junior season but has had a solid summer. He, along with Norwin rising senior J.J. Matijevic, were picked to play for the Staten Island Yankees in a tournament later this month in Los Angeles.

Softball recruiting

Canon-McMillan rising junior Abby McCartney verbally committed to Robert Morris. The catcher/outfielder and Terrific 10 selection hit .515 with five home runs and 31 RBI for the WPIAL and PIAA champion Big Macs this spring.

Taking the field

There won't be any pads or hitting, but there will be football played Thursday at Franklin Regional, where the annual Westmoreland County Coaches' Association 7 on 7 tournament will be held.

Taking part will be teams from Norwin, Hempfield, Penn-Trafford, Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant, Kiski Area, Valley, Yough, Southmoreland, Jeannette and Franklin Regional. The games will start at 9 a.m. Each team will play five games in the round-robin portion, and the top two teams from each division will advance to a championship game.

Leechburg staying

The Leechburg School Board voted, 4-3, last week to stay a member of the WPIAL, where the school has resided since March 10, 1919. The district was considering a move to the District 6 Heritage Conference and had approval from the WPIAL and District 6 to do so. When the item came up for consideration at the PIAA board of directors meeting earlier this summer, the motion was tabled while Leechburg officials reconsidered.

Hoke back at St. Vincent

Avonworth assistant football coach and former Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke will serve as a coaching intern for the Steelers at this year's training camp at St. Vincent in Latrobe. Hoke is in his second year as an assistant coach for Avonworth and is joined by former Steeler Jeff Hartings, who is in his third season as an assistant coach for the Antelopes.

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