WPIAL shut out of state baseball, softball championships

Written by Mike White on .

The baseball and softball state championships are Friday at Penn State. The WPIAL will be a no show for the first time in decades.

The Seneca Valley baseball team and the Greensburg Salem and Neshannock softball teams played in the PIAA semifinals today and all three lost.

*Seneca Valley lost to Conestoga, 3-2, in Class AAAA baseball.

*Greensburg Salem lost to Springfield-Delco, 3-2, in Class AAA softball.

*Neshannock lost to Claysburg-Kimmel, 5-4, in eight innings in Class A softball.

That means there will be no WPIAL baseball or softball teams in the title games for the first time in 35 years. Back in 1979, no WPIAL made it to the title games in Shippensburg. But there were only two classifications back then. Nowadays, there are four.

The first year that the PIAA had both softball and baseball championship games was 1977. The only years the WPIAL didn't have at least one baseball team in the finals was 1979 and 1992. Since 1977, the WPIAL did not have a softball team in the championships 11 times.


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PIAA brackets give Blackhawk long road trip ...... other notes

Written by Mike White on .

About 10 years ago, the PIAA effectively eliminated eastern and western brackets for the state playoffs in a number of sports. Some teams from eastern Pennsylvania play through the western wide of the bracket.

The PIAA's move sometimes means a long bus trip for teams in the west.

Like Blackhawk baseball.

Blackhawk will play in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals tomorrow in Scotland against Harriton, a District 1 team from just outside of Philadelphia. Scotland is near Chambersburg, and according to, Blackhawk has about a 215-mile, 3 1/2-hour bus trip to look forward to tomorrow morning.

Really? A team has to travel more than 200 miles and more than three hours to play a Philadelphia-area team IN THE QUARTERFINALS? Does that really make sense.

In this day and age of high schools having shrinking athletic budgets, the PIAA makes Blackhawk take a long road trip. It won't be a cheap day when you consider the cost of the bus and also meals. To be safe, Blackhawk should probably leave by 7 or 7:30 a.m. When will the team get back? It will probably have to stop for dinner, so Blackhawk might get back around, maybe, 8 or so?

Harriton is much closer to Scotland, but Harriton is still looking at a 140-mile trip.

Blackhawk isn't the first team to have to travel far for a PIAA playoff game. It happens in the semifinals in basketball, too. But that's at least the semifinals, and not quarterfinals.

Does it really have to be this way? The reason the PIAA eliminated eastern and western brackets is because there are no longer an equal number of teams on both sides of the state. Eastern teams were complaining that representation in the state playoffs shouldn't be even in the west and east when the east has many more teams in some classes.

For example, there are 111 teams in eastern Pa. in Class AAA baseball. The west has only 52. In Class AAAA, the east has 125 teams and the west has 36. It's understandable that the east wanted more representation, so the PIAA cut the number of qualifiers from the west and put some eastern teams in the western side of the bracket.

But still, the travel is absurd for some games. Then you sometimes have two eastern teams playing for a state championship.

Why not think of this in the future? Let the east have more teams in the PIAA playoffs in some classes, but still have them play in an east bracket. For example, in Class AAA let the east have 12 teams in the PIAA playoffs and the west have six. Sure, that means byes for some teams and some teams wouldn't have to play as many games to get to the PIAA final.

But everyone would still be in the state playoffs, and isn't that what matters? The travel thing is getting a little absurd.

About Louisville

The Major League Baseball draft starts tomorrow and I keep hearing people say that if Brendan McKay is drafted, it's a no-brainer for him to forget about the University of Louisville and sign with a MLB team. I don't think people know that Louisville's program is pretty darn good.

Louisville was in the College World Series last year and will play in the NCAA Super Regionals this weekend, the equivalent of the Sweet 16.

Still, it says here that if McKay is taken high enough in the draft, he signs. 

Swan song

It's good to see Bill Swan back in WPIAL hoops coaching. Swan was named last week as the new boys coach at Mount Pleasant.

The guy can be intense, but so what. Swan proved himself at Connellsville and then for eight years at Hempfield before being let go a few seasons ago. I don't know what happened at Hempfield but I do know Swan is a good coach.

Calabria the coach

Montverde Academy in Florida has a top high school basketball program that produces a number of Division I college players. The school is adding a prep school team starting this season, and the coach is a former WPIAL star.

Dante Calabria, who starred at Blackhawk High School in the early 1990s, will coach Montverde’s prep team. After Blackhawk, Calabria went on to play at the University of North Carolina and then had a long career playing professionally overseas.(Calabria is pictured spinning the basketball for the 1992 Post-Gazette Fabulous 5).

Calabria will be inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame at ceremonies Friday night.

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Balouris, Malone go from WPIAL competitors to NCAA championships

Written by Mike White on .

Items that fell off my laptop

In the fall of 2009, North Hills High School's Margo Malone and Hampton's Elaina Balouris finished 2-3 in the WPIAL Class AAA cross-country championships. Next week, they will go against each other again - with an NCAA title on the line.

Balouris and Malone have qualified for the 10,000-meter final at the NCAA Division I championships, which are held in Eugene, Ore., June 11-14. Balouris is a senior at William & Mary and Malone a sophomore at Syracuse. They both qualified after running in the East regional last week in Jacksonville, Fla.

Elaina BalourisBalouris (pictured, courtesy of William & Mary athletics) is seeded No. 2 for the NCAA championships. She finished second at the East regional with a time of 33 minutes, 13.54 seconds, just behind first-place finisher Erin Flinn of Michigan, who ran a 33:13.46. Flinn is the No. 1 seed.

Malone is seeded eighth for the NCAA championships. She finished eighth at the East regional with a time of 33:55.66.

 Balouris has had an outstanding career at William & Mary, earning All-American honors in track and cross country. She finished 11th at the NCAA cross-country championships in the fall. Last spring, she finished 10th in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA track and field championships.

This is Malone's first time at the NCAA championships for track or cross country. She has a sister, Shannon, who is a distance runner at the University of Virginia. Mary Malone, a senior at North Hills, will run next year at Syracuse. 

Back in 2009, Margo Malone finished second and Balouris third at the WPIAL cross-country championships. Malone (pictured) finished one second ahead of Balouris. Norwin's Jen Gigliotti won the race.

What makes this Malone-Balouris story a little more interesting is the ties they have to each other. They attended schools only nine miles apart. And their fathers knew each other while attending North Hills High School. Paul "Moses" Malone was a 1981 graduate of North Hills while Dean "The Dream" Balouris graduated in 1980.

More North Hills in NCAA meet

I bet there haven't been too many times in recent years where a WPIAL school has two athletes at the NCAA track and field championships. But North Hills will have two this year.

Besides Malone participating in the 10,000 meters for women, North Hills grad Alex McCune will compete in the decathlon. McCune, who attends Akron, is seeded sixth for the event.

McCune (pictured at Akron) is an interesting story. He wasn't recruited much as a hurdler and long jumper at North Hills. He went to Akron and made the track and field team as a walk-on. A few years later, he is one of the tops in the country in the decathlon.

Flynn returns for "setters" clinic

Baldwin graduate Jen Flynn was once the Post-Gazette Female Athlete of the Year and is one of the best volleyball players ever from the WPIAL. She will return to the Pittsburgh area to run a clinic for "setters" this Thursday at the Pittsburgh Volleyball Center in Emsworth.

Flynn was a standout player at Ohio State who later played on the U.S. National Team.

For information on the clinic, go to


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Three WPIAL baseball champs lose ..... PIAA baseball highlights

Written by Mike White on .

Seventy-five percent of the WPIAL baseball champions are out of the state playoffs.

Three WPIAL champs lost first-round games today in the PIAA playoffs. Class AAA champion West Allegheny lost to Punxsutawney, 3-2. Punxsutawney scored a run in the top of the seventh to pull out the win.

Class AA champion Steel Valley lost to Bedford, 10-4. 

In Class A, WPIAL champion California lost to Cranberry, 2-1. It was the first loss of the season for California. Cranberry pitcher Dylan Cyphert pitched a three-hitter and struck out 10.

On top of that, WPIAL runner-up Baldwin lost to DuBois, 10-3.

The only WPIAL champ to win was Seneca Valley. The Raiders beat Moon, 4-2, as pitcher Alex Hajduk tossed a four-hitter. Seneca Valley had only five hits. The Raiders scored one run on no hits in the first and another run on no hits in the fourth. Here's a funny line: Seneca Valley has now reached .500 for the season. The Raiders were the first team to win a WPIAL title with a losing record.

In the first inning for Seneca Valley, John Harper and Johnny Brittner walked against Colton Hower. They moved up on stolen bases and Harper scored on a wild pitch.

In the third, Seneca Valley scored two runs on three hits. Brittner and Vince Augustine had RBI doubles. The Raiders added a run in the fourth when Matt Wagner walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly,

Blackhawk wins

Blackhawk advanced to the quarterfinals in Class AAA with a 4-3 victory against Somerset.

It looks like Brendan McKay is over the loss to West Allegheny in the WPIAL title game. Against Somerset, he came on in relief for Blackhawk in the fifth inning and faced 10 batters. He struck out eight.

McKay also hit a triple in the game and was then intentionally walked three times.

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Former Elizabeth Forward pitcher Altavilla gets national award, readies for draft

Written by Mike White on .

While one current WPIAL pitcher might be taken in the first five rounds of the Major League Baseball draft, a former WPIAL pitcher is projected to possibly go in the first seven or eight rounds.

Blackhawk's Brendan McKay is the current WPIAL pitcher who could go early in the draft that begins Thursday. A little birdie told me that one team had him ranked as a second- or third-round pick. But that doesn't mean he will definitely go that high.

The former pitcher who has attracted the attention of scouts and gained national acclaim is Dan Altavilla, a junior at Mercyhurst University and a former star at Elizabeth Forward High School. Baseball America ranks Altavilla as the No. 202 player for the draft, which means he would go in the seventh round. McKay is the top-ranked player in Pennsylvania, for high school or college.

Dan AltavillaAltavilla had a superb season for the Mercyhurst Lakers and he won numerous national honors. Mercyhurst just announced today that Altavilla has been selected the ABCA/Rawlings NCAA Division II National Pitcher of the Year. He also was named a first-team All-American by ABCA/Rawlings and is a semifinalist for the Josh Willingham Award, given to Division II's Most Valuable Player.

Altavilla also won the Daktronics' Ron Lenz Division II Pitcher of the Year and was a first-team All-American by Daktronics and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Last week, he was named a first-team Capital One Academic All-American. He has a 3.70 grade average in sports medicine and pre physical therapy.

Altavilla, 5-foot-11, 200-pound right-hander, had a season to remember. He was 9-1 and led NCAA Division II with five shutouts. He had a 1.23 ERA in 12 starts and struck out 129 in 80 1/3 innings. Opponents hit only .167 against him. 

Altavilla struck out 19 batters in one game against West Chester in 7 2/3 innings in the PSAC tournament. The 19 strikeouts broke a 99-year-old PSAC record held by Shippensburg's Clyde Mellinger. I didn't even know they kept statistics back in 1915. Altavilla also had a no-hitter this year against Clarion.Dan Altavilla

It was only three years ago that Altavilla was starring for Elizabeth Forward and led the Warriors to a WPIAL Class AAA title with an undefeated record. He was the Post-Gazette Player of the Year in 2011 after going 11-1 with eight shutouts. He had a 0.55 ERA and allowed only 30 hits in 77 innings while striking out 111. He also was a standout hitter with a .450 batting average and six home runs.

That year, Elizabeth Forward finished 23-1, losing to Northern York in the PIAA semifinals. 



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