It was during his sophomore year at Penn-Trafford when Zach Mancz made a bold statement about his future in sports. Now, the Warriors first baseman, bound for Pitt, has no regrets.
What was it going to be: football or baseball?
Dan Miller, the Penn-Trafford baseball coach, got a quick answer.
“Coach (John) Ruane pulled me aside and pleaded with me about talking to Zach and (right-handed pitcher) Ben Mongelluzzo about playing football,” Miller said this week at Penn-Trafford’s gymnasium, where the Warriors settled for another indoor workout because of the weather. “I would never hold anyone back if they wanted to do something else.”
Turns out Miller didn’t need to worry about Mancz or Mongelluzzo missing the baseball season in favor of offseason football workouts. Mancz was true to his first love in sports and is hoping it will pay off as he looks to his college future and beyond.
“I’ve found my success in baseball, and I want more,” said the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Mancz. “It’s just a mindset. My dad played a year at Pitt after he transferred from Geneva. At a very young age — 6 or 7 — I knew I wanted to play baseball, and for as long as I can remember, Pitt is where I’ve wanted to play. Being from this area, Pitt has always been the team our family has rooted for.
“Baseball’s a family thing, too. My grandfather played. My dad played. I’ve been playing all my life.”
Soon after Mancz accepted a scholarship offer from Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano, he said in August 2016 he decided to go all-in on the diamond and was willing to work harder even away from it.
“Baseball has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, but it has gotten more intense lately,” he said then. “Baseball is a routine. You get up and go play or you hit the gym. If you want to play at a high level, it is seven days a week.”
Mancz chose Pitt from a number of college offers, including West Virginia, Michigan State, VCU and Ohio University.
As the weeks have turned into months, which are turning into years, Mancz said he has continued training and working on every aspect of his game.
“Zach has worked very hard on the defensive end of it,” Miller said of the converted third baseman. “He’s finding out just how very different those positions are. You don’t just go from third to first and not notice the little things that you need to know over there.”
Miller said Mancz obviously is “blessed with talent” and “caught the attention of many college coaches” with his offensive prowess.
“He’s trying to be more than a one-dimensional player.”
Mancz isn’t the only Division I-bound senior on the Penn-Trafford baseball team. Catcher Josh Spiegel will attend Oklahoma State. Mongelluzzo, meanwhile, is ticketed for Division II Clarion.
Yet with all the talent, the Warriors once again are in a fight with other contenders for the top spot in a bunched-up Section 2-6A race.
Mancz was batting .333 with four RBIs, five runs and eight walks through seven games.
“It’s been tough to get out on the field with this weather,” said Mancz, who has played for several Pittsburgh-area summer league teams in the past. “I’m hoping it warms up pretty soon so I can get as much work in between now and the start of next season (at Pitt). I want to be as ready as I can be because the ACC is the major leagues of college baseball.”
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.