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5 Penn-Trafford baseball players sign letters of intent

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Nathan Smith | Trib Total Media
Penn-Trafford baseball coach Dan Miller (left) poses with Navy commit Scott Koscho during last week's ceremony.

When first-year Penn-Trafford baseball coach Dan Miller steps into the dugout this spring, he will have plenty of talent to work with.

Five Warriors signed their letters of intent last week during the NCAA’s early signing period – catcher Scott Koscho to Navy, shortstop Luke Smeltz to Pitt-Johnstown, outfielder Shane Mallon to Alderson Broaddus, second baseman Shane Churma to Slippery Rock and outfielder Chris Common to Pitt-Greensburg.

“I think we have a good chance to make a run in the WPIAL, maybe even win the WPIAL championship,” Koscho said. “We have a lot of good younger guys under us so I think we are in good shape this year.”

Koscho committed to Navy over Cornell, Penn and Buffalo. While committing to a service academy leads to a different path for athletes, it was an opportunity the catcher couldn’t pass up.”

“They approached me over the summer and I went down to see what it was about,” said Koscho, who plans to study engineering. “When you get on the campus, it is much bigger and so different. I though it would be an interesting route to take.”

The Midshipmen play at the Division I level in the Patriot League. Navy has won six conference titles and made the NCAA tournament four times.

Smeltz chose Pitt-Johnstown over Seton Hill, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Hartford.

“The offer UPJ gave me was a lot better than the other schools,” said Smeltz. “I want to study either sports management or communications.”

The Mountain Cats are part of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Todd Williams has coached Pitt-Johnstown for 17 seasons and has a 424-344-3 record. The Mountain Cats went 23-23 last season and reached the second round of the PSAC tournament.

Mallon signed with Alderson Broaddus over offers from Lock Haven and Wheeling Jesuit. The outfielder said despite being a smaller school, he felt it provided the best opportunity in education and baseball.

“Being able to go in and have a legitimate opportunity to start was big,” Mallon said. “The school has maybe 1,100 kids but I was looking for the best education where I could have a quality baseball experience.

The school, located in Philippi, W. Va., is a member of the Great Midwestern Athletic Conference. The Battlers went 29-20 last season.

Churma had a visit scheduled for Alderson Broaddus last week but cancelled after committing to Slippery Rock on Tuesday.

“It felt like a good fit,” the second baseman said. “I knew guys who are playing there as a freshmen. After going for a visits, I felt like I would like it up there.”

Churma plans to study either safety or business management.

Slippery Rock is a member of the PSAC and has averaged 29 wins a season over the last five years.

Common signed with Pitt-Greensburg over Marietta and Slippery Rock, citing the distance from home as a major drawing factor.

“I really didn’t want to be too far,” Common said. “I felt like I have a chance to start there as a freshman and they have a criminal justice major, which I want to study.”

The Bobcats compete at the NCAA Division III level in the Allegheny Mountain Conference. Pitt-Greensburg went 22-20 last season, falling to La Roche in the conference championship game.

While the players agreed a new coach might change the team atmosphere in the spring, the seniors know they will be looked to as leaders and what their responsibilities will be.

“A lot of us acted as leaders last year despite having a lot of seniors,” Smeltz said. “We look to do the same this year. It should be a smooth transition. We all like Coach Miller and have a lot of familiarity with him.”

Coming off a 15-5 season in 2014, expectations are high for the Warriors. The team knows that this much talent doesn’t come around every season.

“An outright section champ is defiantly one of the goals,” Churma said. “A WPIAL title is the ultimate goal.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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