Alex Kirilloff put it mildly when he called his signing a national letter of intent to play baseball at Liberty “a long time coming.”
After verbally committing to the Flames as a freshman at Plum, Kirilloff had to wait three years until Wednesday — the opening of the early-signing period for high school seniors in a variety of sports, including baseball — to make it official.
“Having it done and out of the way early was definitely a blessing,” said Kirilloff, a left-handed pitcher/first baseman who was named WPIAL Class AAAA Player of the Year as a junior. “I never really wavered from it.”
He had plenty of opportunities. Even after committing to Liberty, Kirilloff received interest from many Division I schools.
Interest picked up after he participated in some major showcases over the summer, including the East Coast Professional Showcase in Tampa, Fla., and the Perfect Game All-Star Classic in San Diego, where he won the Home Run Derby. Schools such as North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Virginia and Virginia Tech showed interest in Kirilloff, but he stayed firm in his commitment to Liberty, a Christian university located in Lynchburg, Va.
“It was really just a no-brainer and the best fit for me,” said Kirilloff, who said the university’s Christian background, along with a rising baseball team and new facilities, were major draws.
Kirilloff may have a bigger decision to make next summer. He’s receiving interest from professional teams and could get selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He said he’d already hosted 15 home visits with scouts, with more on the way.
“Becoming a Liberty Flame is a blessing,” Kirilloff said. “We’ll see what happens in June, but I’m excited.
“Projections are projections. It could all change.”
Burrell girls basketball player Natalie Myers didn’t have as long of a wait as Kirilloff, but she made her commitment to Youngstown State official Wednesday by signing. She verbally committed in February.
“When I first verbally committed, I was just happy to verbally commit, but after that I just kept doing what I was doing and playing basketball,” said Myers, a forward who averaged 17.8 points and 10 rebounds and reached the 1,000-point plateau last season. “The time came to sign, and I got excited because it’s like, wow, it’s going to be official. It kind of hits you.”
Myers became Burrell’s second Division I commit in as many years, joining Sydney Bordonaro, who is a freshman at Pepperdine. Youngstown State won 23 games in 2014-15 and received a bid to the postseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Plum senior boys basketball player James Edwards also signed Wednesday to play for Air Force. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 20.7 points and was named Valley News Dispatch Basketball Player of the Year as a junior.
Freeport girls volleyball player Zoe Pawlak concluded a three-year recruitment process when she signed with Loyola (Md.) after committing in March.
“I was on the phone with coaches so many times a week because I would have to call them so many times a week just to keep in touch,” Pawlak said. “When that was finally over and I committed, that was a huge thing for me. Now just signing, it makes everything official, and it’s exciting.”
Pawlak, an outside hitter, led Freeport to its second WPIAL Class AA championship in three years last weekend and a PIAA first-round victory Tuesday. The Yellowjackets will play Somerset on Saturday in the PIAA quarterfinals.
“Now I really need to perfect what I’m doing and get better at volleyball,” Pawlak said. “Most people think when you commit you don’t have to try anymore, but that’s not it. This is the time where I really need to get better.”
Other Alle-Kiski Valley athletes signed Wednesday:
• Kiski Area cross country/track runner Megan Aller, who won the Westmoreland County cross country title and medaled at the PIAA championships this fall, to Duquesne.
• Freeport’s Josh Beale, who received interest in baseball, basketball and football, to IUP for baseball.
• St. Joseph swimmer Sabrina Bowman, a three-time WPIAL gold medalist, to St. Francis (Pa.).
• Knoch thrower Brennan McTighe, a PIAA medalist last season in the shot put and discus, to Bucknell.
• Armstrong wrestler Jacob Robb, the WPIAL Class AA champion and PIAA runner-up last season, to Mercyhurst.
• Deer Lakes softball players Maria Taliani and Rachel Tanilli, who helped the Lancers win the WPIAL title and finish second in the state last season, both to Gannon.
Other local Division I athletes who didn’t sign Wednesday but may soon include Knoch baseball player Cole Shinsky (Ohio University), Burrell wrestler Bubby Scherer (Virginia) and Kiski Area wrestler Tyler Worthing (Bloomsburg).