South Williamsport’s Breen named Sun-Gazette’s top player

Four area teams captured district championships. Five teams won at least 14 games. St. John Neumann put together its best season ever, Canton coach Bob Rockwell won his 400th career game and South Williamsport reached the Class AA state semifinals.

Yes, it was indeed an outstanding 2019 area baseball season. It is worth looking back at the coaches, teams and players who made it a memorable one as well.


Coach of the Year

Second runner-up–Cory Burkholder, St. John Neumann and Ross Drick, Montgomery: Burkholder has done a tremendous job in 2 1/2 seasons and helped Neumann emerge as a serious District 4 Class A title contender this season. Despite having just one senior, Neumann shattered the program record for wins, finishing 15-5. The Knights won 13 of their last 15 regular-season games, took district champion Montgomery to extra innings in the semifinals and built an excellent foundation moving into the future. Drick did a nice job in his first season, helping Montgomery capture its first district championship since 2015. He also was a calming influence as Montgomery shook off a late-season slump, played its best baseball at the perfect time and surged into the state quarterfinals for just the second time in program history. Montgomery won 15 games and defeated heavily favored Millville, 5-1 in the district final.

First runner-up–Kyle Schneider, Williamsport: After taking over on an interim basis in 2017, Schneider validated Williamsport’s faith in making him the full-time coach last offseason and helped Williamsport continue flourishing. He did this despite losing seven starters from the 2018 6A state quarterfinalist. Players responded well to Schneider and Williamsport came within a run of winning a third straight district championship, finishing 16-5 and winning more games in any season since 2011. The Millionaires excelled down the stretch and won 12 of 13 games entering the district final.

And the winner is…Smokey Stover, South Williamsport: The long-time Lock Haven University coach sure has shined in his three years at South Williamsport and a man who has coached baseball for more than 40 years did one his best jobs this past season. Stover coaxed every bit of production he could from his players and South enjoyed the best season in program history, repeating as District 4 Class AA champions and winning the first two state tournament games in program history. South also earned a share of the HAC-III championship, repeated as district champions for the first time and consistently shined in pressure situations. South went 9-2 in games decided by two runs or fewer and captivated its community while coming so close to reaching a state final.

Honorable Mention: Bob Rockwell, Canton; Mike Kramer, Central Mountain; Chris Kish, Hughesville; Jeremy Eck, Montoursville; Zac Martin, Loyalsock


Pitcher of the Year

Second runner-up–Dylon Pequignot, Hughesville: Pequignot went from throwing little as a freshman to becoming one of the district’s best pitchers, one who could tame some explosive offenses. The sophomore left-hander put an exclamation point on his breakout season with a complete-game victory against 4A state champion Selinsgrove before throwing seven innings of three-hit baseball and striking out 11 against 3A state qualifier Central Columbia. Pequignot has tremendous movement on his pitches and went 6-1 with two saves, a 1.35 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 52 innings. He also struck out at least seven batters seven times.

First runner-up–Logan Ott, Montoursville: All one needs to know about how good Ott has been at Montoursville is look at his career record. In three seasons, the junior left-hander is 17-1. Ott was brilliant again this season, going 8-0 with two saves and a 1.17 ERA. The Maryland-bound pitcher stifled nearly every offense he faced, striking out 98 in 60 innings and allowing just 40 hits. A consistent big-game performer, Ott defeated District 11 Class AAAA champion North Schuylkill and threw eight fabulous shutout innings in a 1-0 district championship win against Central Columbia that included 12 strikeouts. Ott topped 10 strikeouts five times and opened his season with six innings of no-hit baseball and a career-best 14 strikeouts against Jersey Shore.

And the winner is…Tripp Breen, South Williamsport: It takes a special season and a fantastic player to win this award over someone who went undefeated. But Breen checks both boxes. The South grad was simply awesome this season. Breen produced one of the best pitching seasons in recent area history, finishing 11-2 with a 0.69 ERA and a district-best 137 strikeouts. Breen held opponents to a .125 averaged and surrendered just 35 hits in 77 1/3 innings. The team leader won 11 straight starts at one point, won three playoff games and never allowed more than three runs in a game. In fact, Breen held 12 of 13 teams to two or fewer runs and was part of four shutouts. The St. Bonaventure-bound pitcher always seemed at his best in the most pressure-packed moments and struck out 13 batters in a game four times. He had at least seven strikeouts in all 13 starts and topped 10 strikeouts nine times. One of the best to ever throw at South, Breen won 24 games the past three seasons, including 21 over the last two. He graduated with 296 career strikeouts, a 1.27 ERA and allowed just 119 hits in 204 2/3 innings.


Player of the Year

Second runner-up–Brayden Strouse, Montgomery: Whatever Montgomery needed, Strouse provided it. An excellent pitcher, hitter and first baseman, Strouse closed out his scholastic career on quite a high and was the most valuable player for the District 4 Class A champions. The left-hander went 5-3 with a save, a 2.28 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 43 innings. Strouse also allowed just 20 hits and was virtually untouchable in the playoffs, allowing just one run and three hits in 12 1/3 innings while striking out 23. A reliable No. 3 hitter, Strouse also hit .363 with a home run, six doubles, 21 RBIs and 29 runs. Rounding off his excellent season, Strouse was a rock at first base, compiling a .977 fielding percentage.

First runner-up–Kyle Caringi, Williamsport: Time after time, Caringi showed why he will be pitching at St. Bonaventure next spring. He also proved that he can be quite a hitter, putting together a fabulous season and helping Williamsport excel. Caringi went 4-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He dazzled down the stretch, allowing just one earned run and eight hits in his final 20 1/3 innings that included victories against Montoursville and Delaware Valley. Caringi was equally dangerous offensively, hitting .528 with a home run, four doubles, 10 RBIs and 10 runs. Caringi produced 11 multi-hit games and was one of the district’s most gifted first baseman, making no errors.

And the winner is … Tripp Breen, South Williamsport: While Breen does not have the offensive numbers his future college teammate does, he earns both major individual awards because it cannot be stressed enough how brilliant he was when there was no margin for error. In eight of Breen’s 13 starts, South scored two or fewer runs and yet won six of those games. Twice Breen led South to 1-0 victories, throwing shutouts against Bloomsburg and Williamsport and he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a 2-1 state quarterfinal win against Schuylkill Haven. The tougher the moment, the better Breen was as he repeatedly willed South to big wins against outstanding opponents. There are many players who have produced phenomenal pitching seasons over the last decade, but the way Breen constantly had to come up huge for his team to win separates his from many. Oh yeah, Breen also hit .317 with a home run and produced four multi-hit games. He also compiled a .462 on-base percentage, went 2 for 3 against Sayre in a 2-1 district championship win and ignited that game-winning rally with a leadoff single.


Starting Lineup

1. Dallas Griess, OF, Williamsport (.338, .403 obp, HR, 2 3B, 3 2B, 19 RBIs, 20 R, 9-game hitting streak, 9 multi-hit games, 8 SBs, just 1 error); 2. Jacob Corson, C, Hughesville (.483, .569 obp, 28 hits, 2 HR, 4 3B, 7 2B, 17 RBIs, 16 R, 8 SBs, 8 multi-hit games); 3. Brayton Rowello, IF, Williamsport (.411, .570 obp, HR, 6 2B, 15 RBIs, 19 R, 9-game season-ending hitting streak, 7 multi-hit games, 3-6 with 3 RBIs in playoffs, reached base in all 20 games); 4. Nick Barone, IF, Loyalsock (.451, 32 hits, HR, 3B, 8 2B, 25 RBIs, 28 R, 11 multi-hit games); 5. Josh Heath, IF, Lewisburg (.437, .512 obp, 31 hits, 2 HR, 3 3B, 10 2B, 19 RBIs, 21 R, hit in 19 of 21 games, 10 multi-hit games); 6. Jaiden Cioffi, IF, St. John Neumann (.420, .512 obp, HR, 7 2B, 3 3B, 28 RBIs, 33 R, 9 SBs, more than 100 career hits); 7. Ben Knapp, OF, Canton (.437, .494 obp, 31 H, HR, 3 2B, 21 RBIs, 20 R, hit safely in 20 of 22 games, 15-game hitting streak, 20 SBs, 10 multi-hit games); 8. Zach Eck, Central Mountain, OF (.418, .549 obp, 8 2B, 11 RBIs, 22 R, 13-13 SBs, 1 E, 8 multi-hit games); 9. Jake Doyle, DH, Sullivan County (.493, .524 obp, 37 H, 12 2B, 2 3B, 12 RBIs, 30 R, hit in 19 of 21 games, 14 multi-hit games, 30-30 SBs)

Starting Rotation

Tripp Breen, South; Logan Ott, Montoursville; Dylon Pequignot, Hughesville; Kyle Caringi, Williamsport; Brayden Strouse, Montgomery

Bullpen–Jon Zayas, Williamsport (6-1, 1.81 ERA, 38 2/3 IP, 26 H, 51 Ks, .178 oba, 5 starts of 5 or fewer hits); Anthony Pastore, Loyalsock (5-1, 51 Ks, 49 IP); Gage Yohn, Montgomery (4-2, 0.89 ERA, 55 IP, 34 hits, 54 Ks); Zach Rowland, Wellsboro (4-3, 1.27 ERA, 42 IP, 28 H, 28 Ks); Closer–Gabe Phillips, Montoursville (5-0, 2 SVs, 2.23 ERA, 47 IP, 37 H, 68 Ks, 2-0 in playoffs, 0.00 ERA, 10 2/3 IP, 4 hits, 15 Ks)

First Team Reserves

Cameron Bellows, IF, Canton (.339, .529 obp, 3B, 4 2B, 15 RBIs, 32 R, 9 multi-hit games, 34 SBs); Hunter Budman, OF, Montgomery (.350, .441 obp, 6 2B, 2 3B, 6 RBIs, 27 R); Logan Burkett, IF, South (.338, .366 obp, 3B, 4 2B, 16 RBIs, 5 multi-hit games, just 2 errors); Jaxon Dalena, OF, Montoursville (.310, .481 obp, HR, 2 2B, 3B, 15 RBIs, 15 R); Carson Davis, IF, Wellsboro (.410, .466 obp, 3 2B, 17 RBIs, 11 R, 7 multi-hit games, .986 fielding); Coleman Good, OF, Muncy (.453, .500 obp, 8 2B, 9 RBIs, 19 R, 6 SBs, hit in 13 of 15 games, 7 multi-hit games); Drake Mankey, C, Williamsport (.403, 2 2B, 12 RBIs, 8 multi-hit games, .987 fielding); Andrew Ramirez, OF, Lewisburg (.397, 506 obp, 2 3B, 4 2B, 9 RBIs, 23 R, 8 SBs, 8 multi-hit games, 0 errors); Jaret Stroup, Hughesville (.383, .486 obp, 2 HR, 5 2B, 18 RBIs, 15 R, 7 multi-hit performances); Connor Watkins, IF, Loyalsock (.386, 10 2B, 2 3B, HR, 22 RBIs, 7 multi-hit games, super defense); Dylan Williamson, C, North Penn-Mansfield (.431, .554 obp, 3 HR, 7 2B, 17 RBIs, 13 R, hit in 16 of 17 games, 7 multi-hit games, 0 Es)

Second Team

Dane Armson, IF, Loyalsock (.431, 22 RBIs, 7 2B, 2 3B, 8 multi-hit games, Backyard Brawl MVP); Solomon Grant, Neumann (.397, .482 obp, 29 H, 3B, 5 2B, 11 RBIs, 33 R, 30-30 SBs); Nate Higley, IF, Sullivan County (.406, 4 HR, 7 2B, 27 RBIs, 19 R, 10 multi-hit games, 18 SBs); Riley Hilner, OF, Williamsport (.333, .433 obp, 6 2B, 12 RBIs, 9 R, 7 multi-hit games, 1 error); Seth Huyler, IF (.455, .506 obp, HR, 3B, 7 2B, 21 RBIs, 22 R, 30 hits, 11 multi-hit games); Zach Pick, C, Bucktail (.435, HR, 2 3B, 5 2B, 23 RBI, 13 R, 8 multi-hit games, 12 SBs); Dakotah Snyder, C, Lewisburg (.344, .432 obp, HR, 7 2B, 14 RBIs, 11 R); Coty Steele, IF, Muncy (.449, .542 obp, 3 HR, 4 2B, 14 RBIs, 15 R, 6 multi-hit games); Cam Tennis, OF, Wellsboro (.365, .452 obp, 3 2B, 12 RBis, 23 R, 13-13 SBs, 0 Es, 8 multi-hit games); Luke Winner, OF, South (.328, .431 obp, HR, 2 2B, 2 3B, 15 R, 4 multi-hit games, great defense, 2 game-saving/changing assists)

Breakthrough Underclassman

of the Year

Second runner-up–Colby Springman, Montgomery: While Montgomery was a senior-laden team, it as the insertion of this freshman that might have pushed it over the top and helped make it a district champion. Springman cracked into the starting lineup early in the season and hit .385 with a home run, five doubles, 10 RBIs and 17 runs. A talented second baseman and five-tool player, Springman had a .441 on-base percentage and was at his best in the playoffs. Springman went 6 for 7 with a triple, five RBIs and two runs in two state tournament games. He started 6 for 6 and only a fantastic play at shortstop that robbed him of a single prevented him from having a perfect offensive tournament.

First runner-up–Keon Burkholder, Neumann: Playing high school baseball for the first time, Burkholder made a huge impact in his debut season at Neumann. The versatile sophomore helped in all areas and was a dominant pitcher over the season’s final month. Burkholder went 4-2 with a save, a 2.31 ERA, and 51 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. Burkholder showed good poise in a dominant district semifinal outing against Montgomery and also improved throughout the season offensively, hitting .284 and compiling a .368 on-base percentage. Burkholder also drove in 15 runs, scored 16 times and stole nine bases.

And the winner is…Maddix Dalena, Montoursville: If this freshman builds off his debut season and keeps getting better he could quickly become one of the area’s top baseball players. Dalena shined in his debut season, providing quality pitching depth and developing into a strong catcher. Dalena did not allow an earned run in 11 1/3 innings pitched, going 1-0 with a save and striking out 19. He also made a nice offensive impact, hitting .359 with a home run, double and eight RBIs. Big and strong, Dalena brings it on the mound and if his control improves, he looks like a pitcher who could be quite a complement to Ott next season. He also is a potential anchor in the middle of the lineup, producing a .519 on-base percentage.

Other Underclassmen to Watch in 2020: Naaman Amos, Neumann; Sam Carpenter, Sullivan County; Chase Cavanaugh, Loyalsock; Nate Ewing, Jersey Shore; Kyle Ferguson, Neumann; Tanner Gold, Muncy; Dom Harding, South; Ashton Huck, Canton; Nolan Kutney, Montoursville; Landon Lorson, South; Braeden Mazzante, Williamsport; Karter Peacock, Jersey Shore; Max Rymsza, Muncy; Gage Sutliff, Bucktail; Rees Watkins, Loyalsock; Kevin Wetlauffer, Montgomery