Time has slipped past us again, and it’s odd that that we only pause to look back on it when the calendar flips to a new year.
On these pages over the past 12 months, we have watched the trials and triumphs of area athletes and teams. There were plenty of championships and outstanding individual accomplishments that were celebrated.
The cheering continued, especially in Greene County, where one team and one wrestler repeated rare championship feats and there was even a national title that was celebrated. The local area continued to produce WPIAL and state champions.
In addition to the championships and thrilling victories, there were unique accomplishments that that made us proud to be from this little corner of Pennsylvania.
The task was very difficult, but in keeping with tradition, the Observer-Reporter’s sports staff selected the top 10 local sports stories of the year. The following are those 10:
1. Teasdale, Macri win PIAA championships
Gavin Teasdale and Logan Macri each won PIAA wrestling titles in Hershey in March.
Teasdale, a senior at Jefferson-Morgan, became only the 13th wrestler in state history to win four championships after defeating Joshua Jones of Saucon Valley, 2-0, in the 126-pound finals in Class AA.
“It’s been one of my goals,” Teasdale said after the win over Jones.
Teasdale finished his high school career with a 162-2 record, his two losses coming in his senior season. Beau Bartlett of Wyoming Seminary stopped Teasedale’s undefeated streak at 134 straight with a 4-3 decision in the Powerade 126-pound finals in December of 2017.
Macri wrapped up his state title with a 3-2 decision over Doug Zapf of Downingtown East in the 120-pound final in Class AAA. Macri ended his high school career with a 152-30 record.
– Joe Tuscano
2. Virus halts racing at The Meadows
A potentially deadly and contagious virus contracted by a handful of horses in late January caused racing at The Meadows to be suspended for more than a month.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture was notified Jan. 24 that a Standardbred horse at The Meadows showed clinical signs consistent with the virus Myeloen-cephalopathy and tested positive for EHV-1. Two barns were placed under quarantine and all horses were restricted from entering or leaving the track. Five barns of 190 horses were under quarantine by state veterinarians after an initial outbreak.
Racing was halted Jan. 24 and did not resume until March 3. The track lost 17 race cards but was able to make up some lost dates by adding cards to the schedule later in the year.
– Chris Dugan
3.West Greene goes back-to-back
West Greene’s softball team made it back-to-back state titles when the Pioneers defeated Williams Valley 11-7 at Penn State in June. The Pioneers became the first Class A school to win consecutive PIAA titles.
West Greene played one-run games against Williams Valley in 2016 and 2017, with 2016’s game ending in a walkoff and last year’s seeing West Greene come back from down 7-0 to win 9-8.
McKenna Lampe hit for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with four RBI and three runs in the championship game, but it was a team effort by the Pioneers. While the top five hitters had all 10 RBI, the bottom of the order scored six of the runs.
West Greene, with all but one starter returning from its 2017 championship team, upgraded its schedule in 2018 but kept running into a talented Monessen team. The teams split two regular-season games and shared the section title. West Greene scored three runs in the final inning to rally for an incredible one-run win in the WPIAL finals, then rallied again to beat the Greyhounds in the state semifinals.
It was another good year throughout the area for girls softball. Bailey Parshall pitched Belle Vernon to its second consecutive WPIAL Class 4A title, and capped an incredible career – one of the best in WPIAL history – with a 22-4 record. Parshall was overpowering and simply dominant. She had a 20-4 record, an 0.42 ERA, threw three no-hitters including two in a row in the postseason, and had a mind-boggling 311 strikeouts in 167 innings. Parshall fell six strikeouts shy of the WPIAL single-season record.
– Joe Tuscano
4. Ringgold, Canon-McMillan win state baseball titles
On back-to-back June days at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State University, the Ringgold and Canon-McMillan high school baseball teams won state titles, each in dramatic fashion.
Ringgold rallied from a three-run first-inning deficit and clung to a late lead to defeat Valley View, 6-4, in the PIAA Class 4A championship game.
The Cardiac Kids of the high school baseball season had never won a state playoff game before this past season, finished 20-4 by winning 12 games of two runs or fewer and became the third school from Washington County to win a state baseball championship.
After winning the WPIAL Class 6A championship, Canon-McMillan completed what had recently been a challenging run at state gold for district teams when the Big Macs defeated Bensalem, 10-3, to win the championship. It was the first title for the WPIAL in the largest classification since Canon-McMillan won in 2008, and the first time in 22 years the WPIAL champion in the largest classification also won the state title.
With the score deadlocked at 3-3 entering the top of the fifth inning, the Big Macs sent 12 batters to the plate, had five hits and scored seven runs to pull away from Bensalem.
– Luke Campbell
5. Olympic medalist
Peters Township native John-Henry Krueger ended a long Olympic medal drought for both Washington County and the United States. Krueger won a silver medal in the 1,000-meter short-track speed skating event during the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Krueger became the first Washington County native to win an Olympic medal since Canonsburg’s Bill Schmidt won bronze in the javelin at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Germany. Krueger also became the first American man to win an individual short-track medal since the Vancouver Games.
Krueger returned home a hero. During “John-Henry Krueger Week” throughout Peters Township in March, the 23-year-old showed off his Olympic medal. At the township library, Krueger signed more 400 autographs for fans, who turned out to congratulate him.
Krueger plans to compete in the 2022 Games, to be held in Beijing, but for Hungary, where he maintains citizenship. Krueger is making the move to Hungary because of financial reasons.
“I was and am still proud to have represented the United States during my career but have been faced with an unsustainable situation where if I continue pursuing my career with the U.S. team I will bankrupt myself and my family,” Krueger told USA Today Sports via email.
“Overall, the financial costs necessary for me to perform competitively at the international level are unsustainable with the lack of sufficient financial support from US Speedskating and the (United States Olympic Committee).”
– Chris Dugan
6. Steratore officiates Super Bowl, moves to CBS
Gene Steratore wrapped up a sterling officiating career by landing the referee job on the officiating crew for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis in February.
In June, he officially retired after a 15-year career of officiating in the National Football League to take a job as a television rules analyst for CBS Sports.
“It was a big decision because of the amount of time, year and effort you put in to get to the levels I was fortunate to get to but at some point with everything, things do come to an end,” Steratore said. “There are opportunities we can take on as we age, a new endeavor, and especially with something as large as CBS really is, and it just felt like the right time for me.
“I knew when I was contemplating it a few years ago that I wasn’t ready yet. It had nothing to do with working a Super Bowl or any other game. It just had that internal feeling.”
Steratore, a Uniontown native and South Strabane Township resident, also retired from his college basketball officiating position, last working primarily for the Big Ten Conference.
– Joe Tuscano
7. Wild Things advance to finals
The Wild Things were tantalizingly close to their first Frontier League championship in 2018 but, alas, the title remains elusive.
The Wild Things, behind league Most Valuable Player James Harris and Pitcher of the Year Thomas Dorminy, finished at the top of the East Division standings and swept Evansville in the playoffs to advance to the championship series against Joliet, the team that tied Washington for first place in the East. After pulling out a tension-filled 2-1 win on the road in Game 4 to even the best-of-5 series, Washington seemingly had everything lined up for its first championship in 17 years. All Washington needed was to win Game 5, which was played at Wild Things Park, where it was nearly unbeatable for much of the season. And the Wild Things had Dorminy, their ace pitcher, on the mound. Joliet started a relief pitcher.
The season, however, ended like so many others have for the Wild Things: with the opponent doing a celebratory dogpile on the pitcher’s mound. Joliet won the decisive Game 5 by a 4-2 score.
“The bottom line is we didn’t produce like we did during the regular season for the whole series against Joliet. We knew it was going to be a tough matchup because of their pitching. (Game 5), though, didn’t take away from a fantastic year,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said.
– Chris Dugan
8. South Fayette wins WPIAL football title
Trailing 21-10 at halftime, South Fayette rallied by scoring 21-second half points and limiting a powerful Thomas Jefferson offense in the final two quarters to win the WPIAL Class 4A championship, 31-24, at Heinz Field.
The Lions secured the win and their fourth district championship in the last nine years when Mike Trimbur intercepted a pass inside their own two-yard line with 47 seconds left as Thomas Jefferson was driving for the tying score.
The sixth WPIAL football championship for South Fayette spoiled the Jaguars bid for four straight championships, which had only been done twice in WPIAL history. TJ coach Bill Cherpak was also trying to tie West Allegheny’s Bob Palko for eight WPIAL titles.
In a memorable championship game, Trimbur had five catches for 138 yards and touchdowns of 82 and 10 yards.
The Lions’ season ended in a state quarterfinal loss to eventual PIAA Class 4A champion Erie Cathedral Prep.
– Luke Campbell
9. Waynesburg’s Evans wins NCAA title
Jake Evans, a heavyweight wrestler from Waynesburg University, won a 10-5 victory over James Bethel of SUNY-Oneonta to capture the NCAA Division III wrestling national championship at the Cleveland Auditorium in March.
Evans, a graduate of Elizabeth Forward High School, became the first national champion from Waynesburg since the school joined Division III. The Yellow Jackets’ other wrestling national champions have been at the Division I and NAIA levels. Evans finished the season with a 50-3 record.
– Joe Tuscano
10. Zmijanac era at Ringgold
After opening the position for the third time in the offseason in late March, the Ringgold School District hired one of the winningest high school football coaches in WPIAL history.
On April 18, the district unanimously approved Mike Zmijanac as the Rams’ new coach, replacing Nick Milchovich, who stepped down immediately after the final game in 2017. Zmijanac was let go at Aliquippa in late February, two months before being hired at Ringgold.
With 237 wins over the last 21 seasons with the Quips, Zmijanac never added onto that number in what turned out to be a short stint at Ringgold. In a rebuilding year, the Rams went 0-10 and scored only 26 points.
Less than one month after their season ended, Zmijanac resigned.
“I have some personal issues to work through now,” Zmijanac explained. “If I didn’t do it now, it would have cropped up later.”
He was hired as the head football coach at Seton La-Salle 20 days later.
– Luke Campbell