Seton-La Salle girls' championship dominates 2012 headlines
By Ray Fisher
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Happy New Year to all South Hills area athletes, and to our avid readers!
Before we jump into the 2013 sports scene, let's take a look back at some of the local athletic highlights in 2012:
Baldwin seniors Jesse Powell and Zach Alaimo were selected to play in the PIHL all-star event at Rostraver Ice Gardens.
Powell, a forward, and Alaimo, a defenseman, skated for the Northeast Conference squad in the open division game. Baldwin goaltender Zach Christman, also a senior, was named as an alternate.
Two other local athletes, forward Kyle Miller and defenseman Ryan LaBarbera of Thomas Jefferson, earned berths on the Southwest Conference squad and played in the Class A game.
Thomas Jefferson junior Thor Henze finished fourth in the 285-pound weight class at the Allegheny County tournament held at Fox Chapel High School.
Baldwin placed second at the Moon gymnastics invitational held at Moon Middle School.
The Lady Highlanders corralled a 138.5 overall point total, behind only invitational champion Moon.
Thomas Jefferson senior Dom Presto received the prestigious Breisinger Award, which is presented annually to a senior football player who best represents the team and the TJ football program.
Baldwin senior Andrew Kuchta took first place in the boys' 3,000-meter event at a Tri-State Track Coaches Association indoor meet at Edinboro University.
Baldwin senior Charlie Wallander connected on a 15-foot jump shot with 4.7 seconds left to lift the Highlanders to a dramatic 45-43 section win at home against rival Mt. Lebanon.
“Charlie has been our go-to guy down the stretch,” Joe Urmann, Baldwin's head coach, said. “He has led by example. His focus is on the team, and on winning.”
Point Park University senior Kristen Veseleny, a Thomas Jefferson graduate, was named to the first team on the Capital One academic all-district women's basketball team.
Veseleny made the first team in the college division, which is made up by NAIA, Canadian and junior college programs.
Baldwin freshman Josie Karabinos won the Intermediate I all-around championship at the WPIAL gymnastics finals at Moon Middle School.
The Brentwood boys' swim team clinched a section championship with a late-season victory at Keystone Oaks.
Brentwood swim teams have taken turns winning five section titles in the past seven years.
The Seton-La Salle girls' varsity basketball team became the unofficial Diocesan champion by defeating — in successive games — Bishop Canevin, ranked No. 2 in Class AA, 61-50; Oakland Catholic, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA, 60-52; and North Catholic, ranked No. 2 in Class A, 86-63.
Seton-La Salle captured its fourth consecutive section title in 2011-12.
The Seton-La Salle Lady Rebels won the first section championship in girls' swimming in school history with a late-season victory against rival Keystone Oaks.
Dom DeCicco, head coach of the Thomas Jefferson boys' varsity basketball team, achieved a career milestone — 100 wins — in TJ's regular-season finale.
The Jaguars' seven-year floor boss im-proved to 100-68 overall with the win.
Baldwin grappler Will Ostermeyer puncuated his senior year by winning the 185-pound weight class at the Section 2-AAA championships.
Ostermeyer edged Connellsville's Josh Fremd, 4-2, in the championship round.
Baldwin's boys' swimming team wrapping up its most impressive regular season in recent memory.
“This is our most successful year,” Wendy Lutz, Baldwin's head coach, said. “We were able to compete against top 10 programs (in the WPIAL). We are on everyone's radar now.”
Both the Baldwin boys' and girls' varsity bowling squads finished in the top 10 at the WPIBL team championships.
Both had advanced to the WPIBL championships as section titlists.
The Baldwin girls rolled through the 2011-12 season with an 8-0 section slate, and were 10-0 overall. The Baldwin boys tied for first with a 7-1 section record. The Highlanders were 9-1 overall.
“We're going to have more than a couple guys riding down in a car. This year, I hope we need a bus,” said Thomas Jefferson head coach Rudy Nesbitt, prior to the Section 2-AAA wrestling tournament.
The Jaguars ended up having a bus-load of qualifiers, as nine of the team's 10 sectional competitors advanced to the WPIAL championships.
That was the most team members to advance from sectionals to the WPIAL championships in TJ wrestling history.
St. Elizabeth's girls' varsity basketball team won the school's first section championship since 1983, defeating Our Lady of Grace, 37-30, to claim the Diocese of Pittsburgh South 2A section title.
The Seton-La Salle girls' basketball team won its second consecutive WPIAL Class AA championship with a 73-60 decision against Bishop Canevin at Duquesne University's Palumbo Center.
Baldwin senior Said Hasonovic was chosen to represent Allegheny County at 113 pounds against a Westmoreland County opponent in a postseason wrestling tournament held at Latrobe High School.
“He is the first Baldwin wrestler to be chosen for this prestigous event,” George McCormack, Baldwin's head coach, said.
The Seton-La Salle girls' swim team completed its historic season, as the local squad finished with an undefeated 7-0 section record, and won a section title for the first time in its six-year history.
“We were extremely proud of that accomplishment,” Melonie DiPietro, Seton's fourth-year head coach, said.
They were the definition of perfection on the basketball court.
The Seton-La Salle Lady Rebels won the PIAA Class AA championship with a perfect 30-0 overall record — making them one of the greatest teams in the history of girls' high school basketball in the state.
“They deserved it. They worked hard for it,” Dennis Squeglia, the Lady Rebels' head coach, said.
Thomas Jefferson's Chuck Correll earned his 500th career win as a tennis coach in a match at Keystone Oaks.
Correll came full circle, securing both his first and 500th victories at Keystone Oaks. He began his tennis coaching career 33 years ago with the Golden Eagles.
Seton-La Salle graduate Gino Gradkowski, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound senior offensive lineman at the University of Delaware, was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
That is the highest any South Hills athlete has been selected in the NFL draft in recent memory.
Gradkowski joined his brother — former Seton-La Salle quarterback Bruce Gradkowski — in the NFL. Bruce is a backup QB with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Baldwin High School coach Rich Wright was chosen to be inducted into the Pittsburgh Running Hall of Fame as a contributor to the sport.
Wright has been coaching track and cross country at Baldwin since 1992. He also is a member of the United States Streak Runners Association, having run at least one mile every day since Aug. 2, 1990.
Baldwin's Kuchta and Krista Kuss both reeled in a top achievement at the 39th annual Baldwin Invitational, sponsored by Brooks Sports and Elite Runner & Walkers.
Kuchta, a Bucknell University recruit, comfortably won the boys' 3,200-meter championship thanks to a season-best time of 9:17.56.
“Andrew just exploded on the seventh lap, then took off,” said Ed Helbig, Baldwin's head coach and Baldwin Invitational meet director. “He was just so determined. He ran a very smart race.”
Kuss, a senior and Loyola University recruit, placed second in the girls' 200-meter dash with a season-best 25.61 time.
“Krista really attacked the course,” Helbig said. “She came off the final bend very strong.”
Four local athletes were selected to play in the WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association all-star doubleheader — Baldwin pitcher Nick Opferman, Seton-La Salle outfielder Kevin Hart, Thomas Jefferson second baseman Ryan Ruffing and pitcher/outfielder Greg Schneider.
Kuchta turned in one of the best races of his life at the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships, winning the boys' 3,200-meter event with a career-best time of 9:10.36.
“Ever since losing in the WPIAL finals last year by less than a second, every move I've made in track has been influenced by that memory,” Kuchta said. “From my experience from all of my years running, I knew it was my last chance at a WPIAL championship, so I definitely poured my heart and soul into that race.”
Kuchta, Kuss, who placed fourth in the WPIAL girls' 200-meter dash, and Baldwin sophomore Luke Smorey, who took third place in the boys' javelin event, advanced to the PIAA Class AAA championships held at Shippensburg University.
The Baldwin girls' varsity lacrosse team qualified for its first-ever WPIAL playoff game as the No. 7 seed in Division II, but lost to No. 1-seed North Hills, 13-9.
“It was a close game. It was tied at half,” Rich Deemer, Baldwin's head coach, said. “We got a lead by taking them away from their usual style of play.”
The leading award recipients at Baldwin High School's annual all-sports banquet were Eric Michalski (Bress Award), Taylor Wentzel (Bress Award) and Laura Hall (Karpa Award).
Seton-La Salle seniors Pete Smith, a libero on the boys' volleyball squad, and Brennen Heiser, a middle hitter, were lauded as co-most valuable players in Section 3AA.
Josh Mackin and Celeste Reed were honored as the top senior athletes at Brentwood High School in 2010-11.
Mackin earned the Mark Reider Award; Reed won the Booster Athlete Award
Two other seniors — Spencer Hubsch and Abby Stubenbort — were the male and female scholar-athlete award winners.
Kelly Kovach Schoenly, a 1991 Baldwin graduate, was inducted into the WPIAL hall of fame at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree.
Kovach Schoenly, head coach of the Miami (Ohio) University softball program, made a name for herself in three sports during her storied Baldwin athletic career. She was a four-year letterwinner in both softball and basketball, and a three-year letterwinner in volleyball.
Kovach Schoenly dominated the high school scene as a softball pitcher. She compiled a 53-5 overall record with an 0.48 ERA. She also finished with a .463 career batting average from 1988 to 1991.
Kovach Schoenly's stellar pitching led Baldwin to three consecutive WPIAL softball titles. She also was a member of Baldwin volleyball teams that won two WPIAL and PIAA championships.
“I have such great memories of Pittsburgh. Any way that I can be reconnected with Pittsburgh is a great honor for me,” Kovach Schoenly said.
Seton-La Salle's Josh Kurz was named WPIAL Division II boys' coach of the year by U.S. Lacrosse.
Seton-La Salle defender Dom Maggs and goalkeeper Kevin Hudson also were honored with all-section selections.
Four members of the Lady Rebels' program — Annie Rodgers, Helena Shoplik, Nicole Nath and Cecilia Bashaw — were lauded as U.S. Lacrosse Academic All-Americans. Rodgers also was an all-section selection.
Baldwin's Alexa Stahl was honored as an All-WPIAL and all-section player.
Long-time Thomas Jefferson softball coach John “Hoppy” Mitruski traded in his softball mitt for driving gloves.
Mitruski retired after 33 years at the helm. He planned to spend his free time at the golf course, and behind the wheel of his Corvette.
Assistants Clarence “Butch” Adams and Jill Startari joined Mitruski in retirement. The trio had 73 combined years of coaching in the TJ softball program.
Thomas Jefferson senior Greg Schneider was named the 2012 Daily News and 2012 MSA Sports Network baseball player of the year.
Schneider, a University of Pittsburgh recruit, went 9-2 with one save. His only no-decision came after he threw nine shutout innings in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals playoff game against Hampton.
“He had a truly amazing season; his numbers were Play Station numbers,” Rich Krivanek, the Jaguars' head coach, said. “Now that the season is over and we can reflect on what he did, it really is am-azing when you see it in black and white. He definitely deserves this honor.”
A right-handed senior pitcher/outfielder, Schneider compiled a 0.43 earned run average and had 140 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings.
He also hit .514 with eight doubles, six triples, four homers and 30 RBI.
Thomas Jefferson's varsity baseball team qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
The local club, which won its first outright section championship in more than 20 years, finished 17-6 overall, and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals and the PIAA quarterfinals.
Tyler Green of Baldwin capped his senior year with two impressive postseason accolades in boys' volleyball.
Green, a libero, was named All-WPIAL third-team in Class AAA, and also was a first-team all-section selection.
“Tyler has been a great player for Baldwin. He is a tremendous student of the game, and plays it with a passion,” Eric Falcione, Baldwin's head coach, said.
“He has been the backbone of our defense for the past three years. He has great instincts at his position.”
The Baldwin Prospects 12-year-old all-star team, sponsored by the Baldwin-Whitehall Athletic Association, traveled to Cooperstown, N.Y. for the week-long American Youth Hall of Fame Invitational baseball tournament.
Members of the team agreed it was a once-in-a-lifetime baseball experience.
“It was even better than I thought it would be,” Jay Monroe, the Prospects manager, said.
He did it again.
Jeff Weiss won the Brentwood Firecracker 5K Run for a third consecutive year, posting a pace-setting time of 15:12 in the annual Fourth of July event.
Leah Ahlin, competing in the local 5K race for the first time, earned first place in the female division.
Seton-La Salle finished third in Class AA in the MSA Sports Cup final standings for 2011-12.
The MSA Sports Cup ranks WPIAL sports programs by classification during a school year. Points are earned for the success of each team in the fall, winter and spring seasons.
Jack Butler, former Steelers cornerback and patriarch of the local Hobart family, was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Katie Barker-Collins, a Baldwin High School product, was selected for the California University of Pennsylvania's 18th athletic hall of fame class.
Barker-Collins was an outside hitter for the women's volleyball team from 2002 to 2005. She finished her career as the program's all-time career leader in kills (1,895) and digs (1,821), and was a three-time all-region selection.
The Baldwin-Whitehall Youth Football Association celebrated its 40th anniversary this season.
Thomas Jefferson senior wideout Zach Schademan shattered a team record with five touchdown receptions — all in the first half — in the Jaguars' 40-7 conference victory against Trinity.
Senior quarterback Joe Carroll eclipsed the team record for touchdown passes in one game with six scoring strikes.
“Joe has been great so far, as I expected he would be,” Bill Cherpak, TJ's head coach, said. “He has great receivers to throw to ... obviously, Zach has been our go-to guy.”
Brian Dawson, former Thomas Jefferson football standout, was inducted into the Washington & Jefferson College athletic hall of fame.
Dawson, a teacher and assistant coach at TJ, rewrote the W&J football record books as the Presidents' starting quarterback from 1999 to 2002.
A 2001 Hewlett Packard All-America selection, Dawson threw 100 touchdown passes and was twice named MVP of the Presidents' Athletic Conference.
He was a two-year varsity starter at the quarterback position for the Jaguars, passing for 2,022 yards and 15 touchdowns during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
Dawson was a member of TJ's “Finest Fifty” all-star football team, which recognized the Jaguars' top players in the first 50 years of the high school's existence.
Thomas Jefferson grad Rich Costanzo, a member of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds soccer team, was inducted into the Heinz History Center sports hall of fame.
Baldwin cross country runner Juliana Fortunato returned from a serious traffic accident to compete in the Lady Highlanders' final meet of the regular season.
Fortunato, a senior, suffered multiple injuries when she was struck by a car at the intersection of Brownsville Road and Route 51 in June.
Thomas Jefferson's varsity football team won the 23rd conference championship and posted the eighth undefeated regular season in school history.
Baldwin senior RB Dorian Brown eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for the second consecutive season, and ended his varsity career with 3,020 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.
Baldwin graduate Arkangelo James, a junior forward at Bethany College, was named Men's Soccer Player of the Year in the Presidents' Athletic Conference.
Brentwood junior RB Justin Vickless led the Spartans in rushing (1,521 yards), receiving (15 receptions) and scoring (21 touchdowns) for the second year in a row.
The Spartans ended up 7-4 and advanced to the WPIAL Class A quarterfinal round.
Seton-La Salle senior QB Luke Brumbaugh finished his varsity career with 3,451 yards and 36 touchdowns in the passing department.
Brumbaugh won more games (21) as a starter than any Seton-La Salle quarterback in recent memory.
The Rebels finished 9-2 and advanced to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal round.
Carroll set Thomas Jefferson team records for touchdown passes in a season (38), touchdown passes in a game (6), and pass completions in a game (23).
Schademan broke team records for touchdown receptions in a season (21), and touchdown receptions in a game (5).
The Jaguars compiled an 11-1 overall record, and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinal round for the 15th time in 16 seasons.
The Baldwin girls' basketball team won the Indiana tip-off tournament, and junior guard Mandi Johnston was named most valuable player of the two-day event.
Chase Winovich, a junior forward on the Thomas Jefferson boys' basketball team, finished with a triple-double against Keystone Oaks with 33 points, 12 rebounds and 10 steals.
Winovich was the Jaguars' leading tackler from his linebacking position during the high school football season.
Carroll was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AAA all-state team.
The TJ signal caller passed for 2,406 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2012.
St. Gabriel's boys' varsity basketball team won the prestigious St. Mary's holiday tournament, rallying to a 43-40 victory in the final minutes of the championship contest.
The Brentwood boys' basketball team, behind senior guard Jason Pilarski's offensive antics, won the Riverview holiday tournament.
Pilarski poured in 36 points against Valley in the first round, then netted 27 against Riverview in the title game.
TJ's Henze captured first place in the 285-pound weight division at the annual Steve DeAugustino holiday wrestling classic at West Mifflin High School.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or email@example.com.
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