Baseball: 2017 East Season Recap

Written by Brad Everett on .

Latrobe's Zach Kokoska had himself a season.

Kokoska was so good offensively and on the mound that he was named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

But chances are Kokoska was just as happy about the success of his team.

After all, there was plenty of it.

It was a season to remember for Latrobe, which won WPIAL and PIAA titles for the first time in school history. The Wildcats went 24-2 overall, claimed the Class 5A Section 3 title with a 14-0 record, and closed the season on a 17-game winning streak. The dominant stretch included a 6-2 win against Mars in the WPIAL championship and a 7-0 triumph against Whitehall in the PIAA championship.

Kokoska, a senior outfielder-pitcher, was exceptional. The Post-Gazette Player of the Year batted .538 with five home runs and 29 RBI. He also scored 30 runs. On the hill, Kokoska was 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA and struck out 35 in 24 innings. He will play next season at Virginia Tech.

But Kokoska wasn't Latrobe's only star. Senior pitcher-shortstop Jared Kollar joined Kokoska on the Post-Gazette's All-Area Team. A Seton Hill recruit, Kollar went 9-1 with a 1.55 ERA and struck out 103 in 67 ⅔ innings. He also batted .360 with 21 RBIs.

It was an "all-East" WPIAL championship in Class 1A as Jeannette beat rival Greensburg Central Catholic, 7-3, to win its first WPIAL title. Greensburg Central Catholic (14-6) had beaten Jeannette (15-7) twice during the regular season. It marked the second consecutive season that Greensburg Central Catholic lost in the final. Jeannette got big seasons from seniors Mike Pompei and Blaze Tran, junior Tyler Elliott and sophomore Seth Howard. All four were selected to the all-section team in Section 2.

Mount Pleasant (13-7) was another East team that reached the WPIAL final. The Vikings split the Class 3A Section 3 title with Brownsville and were seeking their first WPIAL championship since 1970. However, the Vikings ran into perennial power Riverside in the final, and the Panthers downed the Vikings, 7-1. Jason Beranek was Mount Pleasant's only representative on the all-section team.

Norwin joined Latrobe and Mount Pleasant as section champions from the East area. The Knights (14-4) captured the Class 6A Section 2 title, but lost to North Allegheny, 9-1, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

The East boasted lots of individual talent. Five standouts made the 10-player Post-Gazette All-Area Team. Joining Kokoska and Kollar on the team were Greensburg Central Catholic pitcher-outfielder Neal McDermott, Plum junior pitcher Ryan Kircher and Penn-Trafford junior catcher Josh Spiegel. McDermott went 6-0 with a 0.26 ERA and hit .431. Kircher finished with a 0.55 ERA and struck out 52 in 31 innings. Spiegel batted .429 with 30 extra-base hits.