Before the first pitch was thrown, the local attention was on Blackhawk. That wasn't necessarily because of expectations for this season but was the result of Blackhawk grad Brendan McKay.
It was speculated all spring that McKay could be the top pick in the Major League amateur draft but it turned out that he was drafted fourth overall. Any potential sting that not being the top pick may have brought, though, was blunted by the fact that he signed for the highest bonus ever at the time of his signing.
Once the focus switched to action on the field, Blackhawk remained the focus as the Cougars won their first 18 games of the season before dropping the last two regular season games. Blackhawk righted its ship in the playoffs, though, reeling off five straight wins – including a WPIAL Championship 3-0 over South Park before falling in the PIAA semifinals to the same South Park squad. The Cougars finished with a 23-3 record.
"Everybody's goal is to win the state championship and, if you don't, that's disappointing," said Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia. "But we broke the school record for wins and won the WPIAL so it really was a good season.
"They guys were really disappointed right after the last loss but when they look back on it, they'll be proud of what they accomplished."
Blackhawk wasn't the only team that can be proud of its season.
West Allegheny also got off to a fast start, winning its first nine games and entering the postseason with a 18-1 record in the first season ever of WPIAL 5A baseball. The Indians reached the semifinals but fell to Mars 4-1, rebounded to win the WPIAL third place game and a first round playoff game before falling to WPIAL and PIAA champion Latrobe 9-4.
Riverside remains the team with the most PIAA championships but the Panthers still set a school record by winning its second consecutive WPIAL championship, 7-1 over Mount Pleasant. Unfortunately, the Panthers didn't get a chance to add to their PIAA titles, falling in the quarterfinal round to Martinsburg Central, 1-0.
Blackhawk, Riverside and West Allegheny weren't the only teams to reach the PIAA playoffs, either, as Ellwood City, Freedom, and Hopewell also reached.
For Freedom, it was its first ever trip to the PIAA baseball playoffs and the Bulldogs played in a WPIAL championship game, as well. Freedom lost 3-1 to California in the WPIAL title game, but the season still will go down as Freedom's best ever.
Freedom isn't the only team saying that, either. Quigley Catholic made the playoffs for the first time since the mid-1980s, despite a roster of just 12. The Spartans, in fact, used a senior player as a first base coach and still finished 9-6 overall. Unfortunately, Quigley drew WPIAL finalist Greensburg Central Catholic in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs and the season ended there.
In all, though, most teams took advantage of the expansion to six classes to enjoy playoff seasons – 15 of the 24 local teams reached the postseason.