More on Johnson and Pitt ..... Norwin's hit parade ..... Other notes

Written by Mike White on .

Items that fell off the laptop

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart basketball player Cameron Johnson signed with Pitt yesterday. It was a move that surprised many because Pitt didn't start recruiting Johnson much until a month ago. Also, Johnson was offered scholarships mostly from mid-major schools.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon offered Johnson a scholarship Easter Sunday and it didn't take long for Johnson to accept.

Here are some comments from Johnson about a few subjects:

On his fondness for Pitt (Johnson's father, Gil, played at Pitt): "I've always liked Pitt. I remember my Dad used to tell me stories and I remember they had an alumni night at a game when I was probably 7 years old. Myself, my Dad and my brother were on the court and I remember walking off and seeing myself on the Jumbotron. That was kind of cool."

Cameron JohnsonOn what position he will play at Pitt: "Honestly, I feel like I can play a multitude of positions, wherever my skills can develop and wherever coach needs me, whether it's the point, the "2" or small forward.

On whether he might be redshirted: "Nobody really knows yet. I will just go there and compete."

On goals: "My first goal is to just see myself improve. Whether it's tomorrow, next month or whenever, I want to be able to look back and know I got better."

On Pitt having some WPIAL players in the future: "It's kind of cool because Pitt hasn't had this many WPIAL guys in a while. We've all earned it and I feel we are all very good players. Just with so many local kids playing, I feel like Pittsburgh might rally around us that much more."

On whether there was a time he thought he would be a football player: "There actually was when I was a quarterback in eighth grade. After that year. I was talking to the high school coach [at Moon] and he said he wanted me to step in as a freshman and be the [varsity] quarterback the next year. I was kind of small then but he thought if I would get in the weight room all the time, I could play. Well, I started working out for AAU basketball and playing and basketball picked up, and I ended up not playing football in ninth grade." 

Norwin's parade of hitters

Norwin has one of the top offenses in the WPIAL and has three hitters batting above .500. 

J.J. Matijevic (pictured) started the week batting .562, Nick Amendola .571 and Cody Stanoszek .500. Also Dom Farina was batting .486.

Matijevic hit a home run Monday against Connellsville. He has now hit home runs in seven of 10 games. Matijevic is a University of Arizona recruit.

McKay will pitch tomorrow

Blackhawk pitcher Brendan McKay was supposed to put his 44-inning scoreless streak on the line today in a game against Central Valley. But the game was postponed because of rain and will be played tomorrow. McKay is scheduled to pitch tomorrow.

Shippensburg signs two

Two good-sized basketball players from the WPIAL signed with Shippensburg University, a Division II school. They are Connellsville's Trent Bauer and Montour's Dustin Sleva. Bauer is a 6-9 center who averaged a double double this season. Sleva was one of the best turnaround stories in the WPIAL. He went from a non-starter as a junior to averaging more than 20 a game this season.

Aloi hearing tomorrow

In light of the PIAA recently saying it wants to do something about charter schools' affect on basketball in this state, it will be interesting to see how the WPIAL rules after a hearing tomorrow with Nick Aloi.

Aloi is a talented player who left Ellwood City in January and transferred to Lincoln Park. Aloi showed plenty of promise as a freshman when he averaged in double figures. He did not play as a sophomore because of a knee injury.

The WPIAL will have a hearing with Aloi and Ellwood City and Lincoln Park officials. It will be interesting to hear what reasons Aloi might give for transferring because if it's for athletic intent at all, he is supposed to be ruled ineligible for a year. Then again, we might never know the reasons Aloi gives. It is up to the person involved whether to close the hearing to the media. Very few elect to allow the media in on the hearing.

Ellwood City did not sign off on the transfer. That's what is interesting because Ellwood City's superintendent is Frank Aloi, the grandfather of Nick Aloi. Nick Aloi's father, Frank, also was a former standout player at Ellwood City in the 1980s. You think the fact that Ellwood City won only seven games the past two years had anything to do with Aloi's transfer? Nahhhh.

But no matter what the WPIAL rules, I must say does it matter? First, if the WPIAL rules Aloi ineligible, the PIAA might overturn it. Secondly, even if the WPIAL and PIAA rule Aloi ineligible, it is only for one year from the date of the transfer. He transferred in January. That means his ineligibility will be up in plenty of time for next year's WPIAL playoffs.

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OLSH's Johnson signs with Pitt

Written by Mike White on .

So is WPIAL Class A Section 1 the new hotbed for Pitt basketball recruits?

It sounds strange, doesn't it? But hey, the six-team section in the WPIAL's smallest classification had two Pitt recruits this season.

In a move that surprised many, Cam Johnson of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Coraopolis signed with Pitt today. Johnson had some scholarship offers from mid-major Division I schools, but Pitt offered him only yesterday - and it didn't take him long to accept. Pitt offered after coach Jamie Dixon came to watch Johnson work out at OLSH.

Johnson is a 6-foot-7 senior guard who you could call a late bloomer. He has grown five inches since last spring. He played point guard for OLSH. 

The other player from Class A Section 1 who is a Pitt recruit is Lincoln Park's Maverick Rowan, who is only a sophomore. Rowan accepted a scholarship from Pitt last summer.

Who could've ever predicted that two players from one Class A section would be Pitt recruits? When was the last time Pitt had two recruits from the same section, let alone the same Class A section?

Johnson (pictured) was the second-leading scorer in the WPIAL this past season and averaged 26.9 points a game. He used to attend Moon High School, but transferred to OLSH as a junior. He was OLSH's quarterback in football as a junior, but didn't play football this past season.

Johnson's father, Gil, is a former Pitt player. Cam Johnson has one older brother and two younger brothers. Aaron Johnson scored more than 1,000 career points at Moon. He now plays at Clarion University.

Cam Johnson visited Marist, Bryant and Toledo either last fall or during the season. He visited Penn and Rice since the season ended. 

You could call Johnson a sleeper because he was not recruited heavily by major colleges. He always played guard at younger ages and stayed at the position despite his growth spurt in the last year. He has a nice shot and obviously has great size for a guard. And he has good ballhandling skills. He is very thin, though, and needs more muscle, which should come as he grows into his body. He is not super quick, but is a pretty good shooter. He got sick late in the season and his weight eventually dropped to 168 pounds. He also sustained a fractured ankle while playing in a pickup game at Pitt's Trees Hall last month. He came back and played in the Roundball Classic two Saturdays ago and played well.

Johnson is now back to about 185 pounds, his playing weight at the start of the season. Pitt had been showing interest in Johnson for a while. But obviously, Pitt didn't pull the trigger on a scholarship offer until yesterday.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, "We probably surprised everyone with this announcement, but to be honest he surprised us with how much he grew and we really didn't even start recruiting him until late in his senior year. He is one of these classic late bloomer guys who grew a lot in the last year. And he is actually almost a year younger than most graduating seniors so he may not be done growing, which is exciting."

Johnson turned 18 March 3.

"We certainly will have to get him into the weight room, get him bigger, get him physically stronger," said Dixon, "but he is a kid that I think a lot of coaches are going to be kicking themselves and saying 'I wish we would have grabbed him' and we are lucky to be the team that got him." 

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Serra freshman pitcher excels ..... Pitt recruit Rowan gets honor .... 'Canes at PNC

Written by Mike White on .

A young kid named Cole is making waves as a pitcher.

But this time, we're not talking about the Pirates' Gerrit Cole. The subject is Serra Catholic Cole McCombs, who is making quite the impact as a freshman.

Cole has a 3-1 record. While that's impressive for a ninth-grader, his other statistics jump out at you. McCombs has pitched 24 1/3 innings and his ERA is 0.00. He has allowed only one run, but it was unearned.

Cole has given up only five hits and has 43 strikeouts. Get used to the name. You'll probably be hearing it a lot in the next few years.

Rowan an All-American

Lincoln Park basketball player Ron Rowan is one of the top 10 sophomores in the country. At least that's what says.

Rowan has been selected a second-team sophomore All-American by Maxpreps. The first- and second-teams include only 10 players.

Rowan is a Pitt recruit, accepting a scholarship from the Panthers last summer. He averaged 26 points a game this season and has 1,482 career point already.

New Castle honored at PNC

The undefeated New Castle boys basketball team was honored on the field before last night's Pirates game at PNC Park. The Red Hurricanes are the first WPIAL boys team go through a season undefeated in 31 years.

Below is a crazy bird in the midst of Red Hurricanes.

New Castle and Parrot

Besides the team being honored, New Castle coach Ralph Blundo threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Well, actually he wasn't the only one who threw out a first pitch. Mike Tyson followed Blundo and threw out another first pitch.

Below, champ meets champ. It's coach Blundo in the dugout before the game with Iron Mike

Blundo and Mike Tyson

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McKay's streak continues ...... Matijevic's streak comes to an end

Written by Mike White on .

Blackhawk's Brendan McKay came into today with a pitching streak for the ages. Norwin's J.J. Matijevic had an unforgettable hitting streak.

Only one of the streaks continued.

Brendan McKayMcKay (pictured), a senior left-hander, shut out Central Valley, 8-0, and stretched his scoreless innings streak to 44 innings, dating back to last season. Eight more shutout innings will put him in the top 10 all-time nationally, according to the National Federation of State High School Association.

On top of the shutout, McKay struck out 20 batters. In covering more than three decades of baseball in the WPIAL, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone striking out 20 batters in a seven-inning game in the Pittsburgh area. But guess what? It is the second time McKay had 20 strikeouts this year.

While McKay's scoreless streak stayed alive, Matijevic's streak came to an end when he went 0 for 3 in a 2-1 loss to Hempfield. Matijevic had hit a home run in six consecutive games, a feat also unheard of around the WPIAL.

You knew Matijevic's streak had to end soon, didn't you? That is awful tough to keep hitting home runs. He also had 10 consecutive hits. A shoutout to him for an incredible feat, putting the two streaks together.

As for McKay? Heck, who knows when that scoreless streak will end. He is now 25-1 for his career but his statistics this season are surreal. He has pitched 20 innings and has 49 strikeouts. Are you serious? Girls softball pitchers don't do that and that sport is so pitcher-dominated. McKay gave up four hits and struck out two. He has allowed five hits in 20 innings. Today's effort came after he pitched a no-hitter last week against West Allegheny, despite McKay maybe not being at his best.

"I thought he was a little better today," said Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia. "His curveball was better and I think he had a little more pop on his fastball. I thought he was sharper."

Amalia thought McKay was throwing maybe 87-88 mph. He was clocked in the low 90s last month while pitching in Arizona. Several major-league scouts were on hand again today.

"His curveball must have impressed because some of those scouts left some packages from their teams in the dugout for him," said Amalia.

"I can throw harder, but it's still pretty cold," McKay said.

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Canon-McMillan's Piechnick had 10-hit streak ..... other notes

Written by Mike White on .

Some items that fell off my laptop.

Streaking has become popular in WPIAL baseball this spring, and nobody has taken off their clothes.

This blog has documented impressive streaks of Blackhawk's Brendan McKay and Norwin's J.J. Matijevic. McKay hasn't allowed a run in 37 innings dating back to last season. Matijevic has hit a home run in six consecutive games and is riding a string of 10 consecutive hits.

Add Canon-McMillan's Teagan Piechnick to those who have had a memorable streak. Piechnick, a senior center fielder, also had a streak of 10 consecutive hits. He had 16 plate appearances in the streak that included six walks, which meant he reached base 16 consecutive times. The streak ended Monday with a flyout against Peters Township.

During the streak, Piechnick had four home runs, three doubles and three singles. He had 12 runs and 10 RBIs during the streak.

For the season, he is batting .633 (19 of 30) with an on-base percentage of .744. He has six home runs and 17 RBIs. He has helped Canon-McMillan to a 7-2 record.

***** Weather-wise, this is starting to look like a bad year for spring sports. Baseball and softball teams are starting to get behind in games played. This is only year after this area had one of the best springs for sports. There were very few bad weather days last year.

***** It was interesting to see one of the MVPs in Saturday's Roundball Classic all-star basketball games. It was Elijah Cottrill of Beaver Falls. He got the MVP for the Class AA team.

Elijah CottrillCottrill didn't play for Beaver Falls from mid-January on - because of a knee injury. Cottrill also missed most of football season because of an injury to the same knee.

The Roundball was Cottrill's first game since he sustained the injury. Cottrill was considered a Division I college prospect and made the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 as a junior. Creighton offered him a scholarship during his junior year. He accepted a football scholarship from Akron last summer, but the two eventually parted ways.

Cottrill (pictured) might still have Division I basketball in the future, but only after a year or two. Academic issues will force him to either a prep school or a junior college. There is a chance he might attend Polk, a junior college in Florida. Polk is coached by former Robert Morris coach Matt Furjanic. Former Beaver Falls star Sheldon Jeter is attending Polk this school year, but not playing basketball. Jeter played as a freshman at Vanderbilt, left after one year and will play for Pitt next year. 

Lance Jeter is another Beaver Falls player who played at Polk before signing and playing at the University of Nebraska.

***** Will former Plum star Nolan Cressler be the next WPIAL player who wasn't heavily recruited in high school but makes a name for himself at the big-time college level? Cressler played at Cornell of the Ivy League the past two seasons before deciding to leave the team after this school year. He accepted a scholarship from Vanderbilt last night.

Notre Dame, Dayton and Rutgers also had offered scholarships and a number of other teams were interested in him. Plum coach Ron Richards said Michigan might have offered a scholarship any day. All of those big-time schools don't show interest or offer a scholarship to a marginal player.

A few former WPIAL/City League players did very well this season after transfers. Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell transferred from Duquesne to Arizona, and Schenley's DeAndre Kane transferred from Marshall to Iowa State.

Cressler is a shooting guard who led Cornell in scoring this past season at 16 points a game. This should tell you how much Vanderbilt wanted Cressler: After Cressler got his release from Cornell, Vanderbilt's entire staff flew to Cornell to meet with him.


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