High school notebook: Woodland Hills sophomore rising up baseball ranks

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Woodland Hills High School has a player who is ranked among the top 50 in the country for his class, is getting rave reviews for his talent and has a definite future at a Division I college.

It sounds as if Woodland Hills football coach George Novak has another star player on the gridiron.

But wait. This star at Woodland Hills is -- get this -- a baseball player.

Jake Jessell is a 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore who is getting national attention as a baseball player. He already has given up playing football.

"I think Coach Novak realizes this kid is a baseball player," Woodland Hills baseball coach Tim Banner said.

Jessell is a talented pitcher and catcher. Maxpreps.com ranks him the No. 43 player in the country for the class of 2016. Twenty-two of the other players on the list are from California, Florida and Texas.

Jessell also has been rated among the top sophomores in the country by a few other scouting services and has been selected to participate in national showcase events over the past year or so. In January, he was picked to participate in a national home run-hitting contest in Marlins Park in Florida.

Jessell already has made a verbal commitment to Pitt, but he continues to be recruited by other big-time colleges.

"I've never had a kid recruited as a freshman and sophomore this much," said Banner, who has been coaching for the better part of three decades.

"I've had a lot of calls from colleges who want to see him. Schools like South Carolina and Mississippi State. You don't hear from those schools usually on WPIAL kids."

But a question with Jessell is what is his best position? He is ranked as a top catcher, but also has made his mark as a right-handed pitcher. He had some good outings for Woodland Hills a year ago as a freshman, and Banner said Jessell's fastball has been clocked at 90 mph.

"He's got a magic arm, I'll tell you that," Banner said. "The thing is, we use him as a pitcher. If I caught him, he'd be all-WPIAL as a catcher because he's that good. But obviously, with him being our ace pitcher, we can't put him in both places. I let him play third base sometime and let him hit, too. ... I'm kind of in a preventive measure because I don't want him to get hurt.

"I think he has a chance to be something special. But a lot depends on how hard he works."

Home run queen

Seven home runs is considered a good season for a softball player. But Plum's Hannah Adamski hit seven home runs in the first three games. And she's only a sophomore.

Adamski's power surge started when she hit three home runs in the first game of the season. She followed with two home runs in the next game and two more in the next game. All of the homers were over a fence there were no inside-the-park jobs.

Adamski is an excellent athlete. She also qualified for the PIAA swimming championships this year.

Miller bypasses baseball

Nick Miller was one of the main reasons the Western Beaver baseball team won the WPIAL Class A title a year ago, with Miller pitching a complete game in the championship.

But Miller, a senior, decided not to play baseball this season. The decision might seem a little odd when you consider that Miller's father, Chad, is Western Beaver's baseball coach. But Chad Miller said his son wants to concentrate on basketball. Nick Miller led the WPIAL in scoring this past season, averaging 30.1 points a game.

Rowan ranked

Recruiting website Rivals.com recently released its top 60 sophomore basketball players in the country and a WPIAL standout made the list.

Lincoln Park guard Maverick Rowan was ranked No. 47. He already has accepted a scholarship from Pitt, and is one of two Pitt recruits ranked highly in the Class of 2016. The other is Mustapha Heron, who committed to Pitt in January, plays at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, Conn., and is ranked No. 19. Rowan and Heron are guards.

Tri-state meet Saturday

One of the largest early season track and field invitationals the Tri-State Track Coaches Association meet Saturday at West Mifflin. The meet annually attracts some of the top athletes in the WPIAL.

The meet is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and continue through most of the day.


For more on high school sports, go to Varsity Blog at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.

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