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Trib Cup: Final results for spring

| Thursday, June 23, 2016, 10:42 p.m.
The Hempfield girls softball team celebrates its state championship after arriving home Friday, June 17, 2016 to a parking lot full of family, friends and fans at Hempfield Area High School.
Brian F. Henry | For The Tribune-Review
The Hempfield girls softball team celebrates its state championship after arriving home Friday, June 17, 2016 to a parking lot full of family, friends and fans at Hempfield Area High School.

Five local schools stood atop the Trib Cup standings at the end of the spring sports season.

A celebration of the success across numerous sports, the Trib Cup awards points for accomplishments in a wide range of Western Pennsylvania high school athletics.

Hempfield (Class AAAA), Mars and Ambridge (Class AAA), Riverside (Class AA) and Sewickley Academy (Class A) led their respective classifications in the Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports award standings this spring.

Class AAAA: Hempfield

As the first Hempfield softball team to claim consecutive WPIAL titles, while also winning a program-best 25 games and a PIAA title, it was a historic year for the Spartans.

Hempfield athletic director Greg Meisner credited the team for buying into coach Bob Kalp's system, noting the team had a mere nine errors all year and applauding the team's pitching efforts in the postseason.

“One of the things that was the most impressive was they gave up four runs in seven playoff games,” he said.

The Spartans baseball team claimed the Section 2-AAAA championship and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals.

Meisner said it was satisfying to see both teams competing so late into the season.

“You figure the spring sports (regular) season culminated around May 10, and here we're still playing on June 17 (softball), the (baseball team is) playing the week before that,” he said. “It was fun just watching them make the run that they did.”

Not to be outdone, the girls track and field team earned its fifth consecutive WPIAL Class AAA title. Rachel Hutchinson won the WPIAL Class AAA discus championship, and the team finished 19th at the PIAA meet. The boys track team took fourth at the WPIAL meet — where Hayden Fox won the Class AAA pole vault — and sixth at states.

The boys tennis team advanced to the WPIAL postseason, and girls lacrosse finished second in WPIAL Division II Section 2.

Class AAA: Mars/Ambridge

In just the program's fourth year, the Mars boys lacrosse team won the WPIAL Division II Section 4 title before earning its first-ever WPIAL championship. Meanwhile, the girls team claimed the Division II Section 3 crown and reached the WPIAL final in only its third season.

“Not too many four-year programs win a championship,” Mars athletic director Scott Heinauer said. “Our coach did a great job, our coach Ed Monahan. We had a great group of seniors and a lot of leaders, and we've got some kids coming back.”

In addition to the Planets lacrosse programs, the baseball team was Section 5-AAA champions and won the WPIAL consolation game to advance to the PIAA playoffs for the first time in 18 years.

The boys track and field team advanced to the WPIAL semifinals, and the girls team won its section. The softball and boys tennis teams advanced to the WPIAL postseason.

“Our spring programs obviously did a great job,” Heinauer said. “We had a great overall season as far as sports are concerned.”

As the overall Trib Cup Class AAA champions this year, Heinauer said the competition provides motivation for all of Mars' teams to perform well, regardless of record.

“This gives kids something to look forward to,” he said. “We all can't win a WPIAL championship. We're fortunate we won a few this year. This gives everybody else a shot to look for something else in the overall strength of the program. … Every game counts, as far as the Cup is concerned. … It goes on wins, but it also goes on how well you do in the playoffs.”

Advancing to the PIAA title game this season for the fourth time in eight years, the Ambridge volleyball team has become one of the premier programs in the state.

Ambridge athletic director Brian Miller attributed the success of the team — which also claimed the Section 1-AA title this year before finishing as the WPIAL runner-up — to the development of players beginning at a young age.

“I think with them it all starts with their middle school program at the junior high,” he said. “They really develop the student-athletes at a young and developmental age, and that carries into the high school program to the JV and ultimately the varsity program.”

The Bridgers baseball team finished third in Section 1-AAA, advancing to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in nine years.

“Watching our baseball team come together and really put together a strong, solid pitching staff and then their bats came alive, too, and ultimately they got into the playoffs,” Miller said.

On the track, juniors Isaac Elliott (200-meter dash) and Elyssa Penson (1,600) advanced to the PIAA championship meet.

Class AA: Riverside

The Panthers were paced this spring by their baseball team, a group that won the Section 5-AA title before claiming the WPIAL championship in extra innings and reaching the PIAA semifinals.

“We came out of a good section and got hot at the right time, enjoyed a nice little run and an exciting WPIAL championship game for us,” Riverside athletic director John Wolf said.

Much like the postseason pitching success of the Hempfield softball team, Riverside's hurlers helped to guide them through the playoffs.

Up until its 1-0 loss in the PIAA semifinals, Riverside did not allow a single run in six playoff games, a statistic Wolf credits to coach Dan Oliastro and his impressive pitching staff.

“(Oliastro) is really good with the pitchers, and obviously all those kids had talent and he fine-tuned it,” Wolf said. “That was a big part of the success for the team.”

Class A: Sewickley Academy

Earning the top Trib Cup Class A spring honors capped Sewickley Academy's fourth overall Trib Cup title since the award's inception in 2013.

“It's a remarkable feat and points to the consistency of both our athletes, our coaches and our teams,” Sewickley Academy athletic director Win Palmer said. “This year was truly remarkable in that we won three WPIAL championships and three state championships and individually we had the greatest year I think we've ever had in the history of the school.”

The Panthers were led this spring by their boys tennis team, which not only claimed its 13th consecutive WPIAL Class AA title but also earned the PIAA championship. Individually, Luke Ross won the WPIAL and PIAA singles titles, and the tandem of Don and Ryan Gex won the WPIAL doubles title.

The girls track and field team finished 11th at the PIAA tournament. Individually, senior Summer Thorpe earned the gold medal in the 100 hurdles at the WPIAL and PIAA championships. She also won the WPIAL title in the 300 hurdles and took third in that event at states.

In addition, the baseball and softball teams advanced to the WPIAL playoffs this spring. Palmer noted credited all of Sewickley Academy teams — from the title-winning and playoff teams, to those that competed in section play — for the Trib Cup title.

“It wasn't just the championship teams,” he said. “I think it's the teams that max out their potential that deserve so much credit.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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