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Football: Pitt secures Thomas Jefferson's Danielson

Written by Brian Batko on .

Brian Batko reports that Thomas Jefferson defensive lineman Devin Danielson committed to Pitt on Tuesday.

"A little more than a month after one Thomas Jefferson defensive lineman verbally committed to Pitt, another opted to join him.

Devin Danielson, an all-state defensive tackle and Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 selection last season, tweeted Tuesday night that he will join Pat Narduzzi's 2018 recruiting class.

"Proud and very excited to say I have fully committed to THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH" Danielson wrote.

Proud and very excited to say I have fully committed to THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH #H2P #L1TS8URGH pic.twitter.com/Nonq8DmXKA

— Devin Danielson (@djdevin79) June 27, 2017

At 6 feet 3, 290 pounds, Danielson has been wreaking havoc for coach Bill Cherpak's defensive line since he entered high school. It's rare for a freshman to start at powerhouse Thomas Jefferson, last year's Class 4A WPIAL champ, but Danielson did it. He also was one of just two juniors named to the Fab 22, along with Pine-Richland quarterback Phil Jurkovec, and the only junior in the WPIAL on the Class 4A all-state team."

 

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Girls Soccer: Mt. Lebanon's Wilhelm decides on a college

Written by Brad Everett on .

Jess Wilhelm is one of the top girls soccer players in Western Pennsylvania.

When she graduates from Mt. Lebanon next spring, Wilhelm will take her talents to North Carolina.

No, Wilhelm won't be a Tar Heel, but she will be playing Division I women's soccer in the Tar Heel State. Wilhelm, a rising senior, recently committed to Elon University.

Wilhelm is coming off an excellent junior season that saw her earn all-WPIAL honors. Wilhelm, a midfielder, will become a four-year starter this fall. She finished with team highs of 10 goals and nine assists last season for Mt. Lebanon, which reached the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals.

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Girls Soccer: Upper St. Clair star chooses Dayton

Written by Brad Everett on .

It hasn't taken Landy Mertz much time to establish herself as one of the WPIAL's most dynamic talents.

Chances are coaches at the University of Dayton were thrilled Tuesday when they received a verbal commitment from the Upper St. Clair standout.

Mertz, a rising junior, announced on Twitter that she plans to attend Dayton.

"Incredibly excited and thankful to announce my commitment to play Division I soccer at the University of Dayton!! #flyers #UD" -- landy_mertz

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Girls Soccer: Canon-McMillan's Snyder makes college choice

Written by Brad Everett on .

Sydney Snyder still has two years of high school ahead of her, but the Canon-McMillan girls soccer standout already knows where she will be attending college.

Snyder announced via Twitter on Monday that she has committed to Canisius.

"very excited to say that i will be furthering my education and athletic career playing D1 soccer at Canisus College!" - @sydneysnyder17

Canisus, located in Buffalo, fields a Division I girls soccer program that competes in the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference). 

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Baseball: South Park falls in PIAA final

Written by Mike White on .

Mike White covered Friday's PIAA Class 4A baseball championship between South Park and Dallas.

Mitchell Roell slides safely onto first base during the PIAA state championship game between South Park High School and Dallas High School at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Friday.(Photo: Mitchell Roell slides safely into first base during the PIAA state championship game between South Park High School and Dallas High School at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Friday. Antonella Crescimbeni/Post-Gazette)

"UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — South Park's baseball team brought its "BASE2" theory to Penn State on Friday. It was on full display on a sign in the Eagles' dugout.

Coach Steve Wetzel believes the letters in that slogan spell victory. The sign reads B equals big inning. A equals answer. S equals score first. E equals extend lead. The 2 equals two-out hits.

"That's the script we try to follow," Bucci said. "If you hit three of those five keys, you usually win."

But when you don't hit any, you get shut out in a state championship game."

 

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Softball: South Park defeats Pine Grove in PIAA Class 3A championship

Written by Sarah Spencer on .

Sarah Spencer covered Friday's PIAA Class 3A softball championship between South Park and Pine Grove.

Justine Dean holds the trophy in the air as her teammates rush towards her after winning the PIAA Class 3A championship at Beard Field on Friday, June 16, 2017. South Park High School defeated Pine Grove 4-2.(Photo: Justine Dean holds the trophy in the air as her teammates rush towards her after winning the PIAA Class 3A championship at Beard Field on Friday, June 16. South Park defeated Pine Grove, 4-2. Antonella Crescimbeni/Post-Gazette)

"UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For more than 3½ hours Friday, South Park had a one-run lead and pitcher Justine Dean had a no-hitter.

Then, the game resumed after the lengthy weather delay, and Dean limited Pine Grove to two runs and nine hits, with little drop-off from the Eagles offense. As a result, South Park grabbed a 4-2 win against Pine Grove in the PIAA Class 3A softball championship at Nittany Lion Softball Park. It was Eagles' first PIAA championship.

"We wanted to keep the momentum going, obviously, because we had it our way," shortstop Kaitlyn Morrison, who went 3 for 4, said of the team's mentality coming out of the delay.

South Park entered the championship at 20-3, having beaten Southmoreland in the WPIAL Class 3A consolation game."

 

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Football: Wash High standout headed to Division I school

Written by Brad Everett on .

A kid with one of the coolest names in the WPIAL has made his college decision.

Washington's Isaiah Schoonmaker verbally committed to Miami (Ohio) earlier this week. He chose the RedHawks over offers from Toledo, Temple, Kent State and Ohio.

Schoonmaker, a rising senior, was a two-way star for Wash High his junior season. He primarily played wide receiver on offense and linebacker on defense. Schoonmaker (6-2, 190) had 38 catches for 395 yards and six touchdowns. He was also one of the team's leading tacklers. He was named all-Century Conference and helped the Little Prexies go 11-1 and reach the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals.

Schoonmaker is a three-sport athlete at Wash High. He was a starter on the basketball team and also competed in track and field.

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Football: South Fayette’s Eldridge chooses Richmond

Written by Brad Everett on .

Under the guidance of coach Joe Rossi, a slew of South Fayette football players have earned college scholarships over the last decade.

Ray Eldridge is the latest.

Eldridge, a rising senior and two-way lineman, took to Twitter earlier this week to announce his college decision: Eldridge is headed to Richmond.

"I've had some great experiences over the last few months visiting some top level universities and football programs. I'm so thankful for the guidance that I received from all the coaches that recruited me. I want to thank my parents and my high school coaches for pushing me to be the young man and student athlete I am today. At the end of the process I feel that the University of Richmond is the best fit for me and I am committing!!! #URnext18 #OneRichmond" - Ray_Eldridge33

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Football: Veteran coach helps Upper St. Clair celebrate 60 years of football

Written by Joe Bendel on .

Joe Bendel reports that Upper St. Clair football coach Jim Render will be honored at an event called "The Celebration of Upper St. Clair Football."

"In the fall of 1988, Upper St. Clair won its regular-season finale at Butler to narrowly qualify for the WPIAL football playoffs. On the bus ride home, coach Jim Render struggled with trying to envision how his four-loss team could survive a postseason field that featured defending USA Today national champion North Hills, undefeated Gateway and traditional powers Central Catholic and Mt. Lebanon.

Then, Render felt a tap on his shoulder from quarterback Jerry Berteotti, who was seated directly behind him.

"Jerry says, 'We got them right where we want them,'" Render said. "I half-turned around and I'm thinking, 'This kid is crazy. There are so many great teams out there. What is he talking about?'"

Turned out, Berteotti, who went on to serve as a bullpen catcher for Tommy Lasorda and the Los Angeles Dodgers, was on to something."

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Baseball: A jail guard by day, Bucci coaches South Park to big things

Written by Mike White on .

Mike White profiles South Park baseball coach Steve Bucci.

2017 0615 SouthPark Baseball(Photo: South Park coach Steve Bucci, left, walks through the dugout as his team plays Blackhawk in the PIAA Class 4A baseball semifinals on Monday at North Allegheny. Bucci would become the first WPIAL coach to win state championships at different schools. Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)

"Steve Bucci has been working as a guard at the Allegheny County Jail for 21 years. Part of his duties takes him to the maximum security area.

Some days, the job can be taxing on Bucci. What often lifts him up is his moonlighting position — as South Park High School's baseball coach. But with Bucci and coaching, it's a give-and-take situation, because he has become the master at lifting up programs.

Bucci is in his second term as South Park's coach and has guided the Eagles to a place they've never landed — a PIAA title game. South Park plays Dallas for the Class 4A championship Friday at Penn State.

Bucci's story is a unique one because you won't find many jail guards who double as high school head coaches. But he could also become the most unique baseball coach. If South Park beats Dallas, Bucci, 47, would be the first baseball coach in WPIAL history to win state championships at two different schools."

 

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Softball: 2017 PIAA Class 3A Championship Preview

Written by Brad Everett on .

The game: PIAA Class 3A championship
The teams: South Park vs. Pine Grove
Where and when: Nittany Lion Softball Park, Penn State, Friday, 4 p.m.

South Park Eagles
Record: 20-3
District finish: WPIAL third-place finisher
How they got here: (First round) Titusville, 16-1; (Quarterfinals) Ellwood City, 11-0; (Semifinals) Philipsburg-Osceola, 4-0.
PIAA titles: None
Last time in final: First appearance
What you should know: You would have thought South Park had advanced to the PIAA final before. After all, the Eagles have sure made their state playoff journey look easy. The difficult part was getting in, but the Eagles did that by beating Southmoreland in the WPIAL third-place consolation. What has followed is a three-game run that has seen the Eagles outscore their opponents, 31-1. One of those games was against Ellwood City, the WPIAL champion which came into the game with a perfect record. The Eagles have a lethal offense paced by Pitt recruit Katlyn Pavlick and Penn State recruit Kaitlyn Morrison. Pavlick leads the team in batting, home runs, RBIs and runs scored. Morrison had an RBI triple in the semifinal triumph against District 6 champion Philipsburg-Osceola.
Player to watch: Justine Dean. As Dean showed in the semifinal win, she is an awfully good two-way player. Dean was outstanding on the mound, firing a one-hitter. And for good measure, she sparked the South Park offense with a two-run double. She is 16-3 on the mound and ranks second on the team in hitting and RBIs.

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Baseball: 2017 PIAA Class 4A Championship Preview

Written by Brad Everett on .

The game: PIAA Class 4A championship
The teams: South Park vs. Dallas
Where and when: Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, Penn State, Friday, 1 p.m.

South Park Eagles
Record: 23-3
District finish: WPIAL runner-up
How they got here: (First round) Clearfield, 4-0; (Quarterfinals) Hopewell, 7-2; (Semifinals) Blackhawk, 10-3.
PIAA titles: None
Last time in final: First appearance
What you should know: South Park has lost just once in its last 11 games, and the Eagles avenged that setback Monday by upsetting Blackhawk. In a rematch of the WPIAL championship won by Blackhawk, 3-0, South Park made a statement offensively by putting up 10 runs against a team that had given up only 35 all season. It was the first time the Cougars surrendered 10 runs in a game since 2013. Kyle Thompson and Josh Wagner each had two hits and two RBIs. Adam Morris and Kevin Vaupel also had two hits apiece. Vaupel tossed six innings and was the winning pitcher. He also picked up the win against District 9 champion Clearfield in the first round.
Player to watch: Kyle Thompson. It's still left to be seen who will start on the mound for the Eagles, but there's a good chance it could be Thompson, a senior who earned the victory in the quarterfinal triumph against Hopewell.

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Softball: 2017 PIAA Class 3A Semifinal Preview

Written by Brad Everett on .

The game: PIAA Class 3A semifinal
The teams: South Park vs. Philipsburg-Osceola
Where and when: Mount Aloysius College, Monday, noon.
Up next: Winner plays Pine Grove-Mid Valley winner in the championship Friday at Penn State at 1:30 p.m.

South Park Eagles
Record: 19-3
District finish: WPIAL third-place finisher
How they got here: (First round) Titusville, 16-1; (Quarterfinals) Ellwood City, 11-0.
What you should know: Playing a team that had won a WPIAL title and was a perfect 19-0, South Park didn't just come out with a win ... the Eagles made it look easy. South Park earned one of the most impressive wins by a team in any class this postseason when it rocked Ellwood City, 11-0, in five innings in the quarterfinals. The Eagles are on fire offensively, racking up 27 runs in two PIAA playoff games. The Dean sisters, Justine and Jessica, each homered against Ellwood City. Justine was the winning pitcher. Freshman Grace Albitz smacked a three-run homer. Against Titusville, Kaitlyn Morrison fell a home run short of the cycle and had three RBIs. Katlyn Pavlick also finished with three hits and three RBIs. A Pitt recruit, Pavlick leads the Eagles in hitting, home runs, RBIs and runs scored. The Eagles are seeking their first PIAA championship appearance. They lost in the semifinals last season.
Player to watch: Justine Dean. There are a lot of offensive stars on this team, and Dean is one of them. But her contributions have been felt just as much, if not more, on the mound. She is 15-3 and is averaging better than a strikeout per inning. At the plate, she is second on the team in hitting and RBIs.

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Lacrosse: Mixed season yields solid results for Mt. Lebanon boys

Written by Joe Koch on .

Just after his Mt. Lebanon boys lacrosse team fell to traditional rival Peters Township in the WPIAL 3A championship game at Robert Morris University's Joe Walton Stadium, coach Mike Ermer allowed that the season had plenty of mixed results.

While the 12-11 double-overtime loss to Peters Township did sting, it marked the start of another journey that would take the Blue Devils -- the No. 8 seed in the WPIAL tournament -- to the Final Four of the sport's 3A grouping in the PIAA tournament.

That first step would entail a trip to Harrisburg where the Blue Devils would meet District 3 champion West Lawn Wilson in a first-round game at Central Dauphin High School, which is less than an hour from Wilson's campus.

If the Blue Devils were fatigued from their trip from the South Hills, they certainly hid it well as they handed the Bulldogs their second loss of the season and snapped a 19-game winning streak with an 8-7 victory. The 22-2 Bulldogs prior setback came on April 1 when they lost to Parkland, 7-2.

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Lacrosse: Peters Township catches fire at right time

Written by Joe Koch on .

There might well have been the feeling that Peters Township might well have been overmatched as the 2017 season began to wind down.

But the Indians displayed a will that showed up when the WPIAL tournament began as the tournament's No. 7 seed. Following a first-round 19-4 home-field victory over Sewickley Academy, bus rides became a familiar refrain for the Indians. Their first venture involved a trip to Pine-Richland for a game with the No. 2 seed Rams in the quarterfinals. The Indians emerged with a heart-stopping 11-10 victory the Rams. Next came a 7-6 overtime victory over No. 3 seed Shady Side Academy in the semifinals.

But the most impressive victory of all came against Mt. Lebanon, itself riding a wave of upset victories, in the WPIAL championship game.

On April 18, Peters Township earned a 10-5 section victory over Mt. Lebanon, a victory many believed was the first in the long history between the two schools. While the win was an impressive one, it did not foretell a lengthy string of victories. In fact, the Indians lost successive section games to Upper St. Clair, 13-12, and Bethel Park, 11-6. After a pair of victories over Sewickley Academy, 12-4, and Canon-McMillan, 18-8, the Indians would drop a 9-3 decision to North Allegheny, a team that would emerge as the WPIAL tournament's top seed.