Blake Primrose’s father played college football and both of his older brothers now do, as well.

In Blake’s case, playing football was once a love, too. That was until the concussions began piling up, including two over a three-week span his sophomore season at North Catholic that made him decide to step away from the sport.

“I loved hitting people, but I was hitting too many people with my head,” said Primrose, who played linebacker and running back.

Nowadays, Primrose is still getting a lot of enjoyment out of hitting, only it’s home runs and not opposing ball carriers.

Primrose is a senior at North Catholic who is one of the top catchers and power hitters in the WPIAL. A Saint Joseph’s recruit, Primrose used some long drives to drive North Catholic to the Class 4A Section 4 title for the second year in a row. The Trojans (13-5, 9-1) will aim for their first WPIAL title since 2018 when the playoffs get underway next week.

North Catholic’s Blake Primrose has hit seven home runs this season, one coming on this swing in a 4-1 win against Knoch on April 16. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

In just 50 at-bats and 64 plate appearances this season, Primrose has mashed seven home runs and 14 total extra-base hits. He leads North Catholic in both categories, in addition to leading the way with a .480 batting average and 22 RBIs. His long balls have included a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to win a game in Florida and a grand slam against Kiski Area.

Primrose’s power surge has come after he hit 10 home runs last summer with his travel team, the Pittsburgh Diamond Dawgs. That broke a team record previously held by former Pine-Richland star Matt Wood, who is now a catcher in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

“I started to hit home runs when I was a freshman, but the weight room has helped a lot,” Primrose said. “I wanted to get stronger and faster, and I’ve kept doing that.”

Physically, Primrose has gone from being a 5-foot-8, 190-pound freshman to a 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior. Primrose said he was probably benching 205 pounds his freshman year. That number has since risen to 315, a testament to his dedication to the weight room. He said he lifts four or five days a week.

Primrose has also been excellent defensively, committing only four errors on 134 total chances this season, good for a .970 fielding percentage.

Football is big in Primrose’s family, as both of his brothers play. Carson Primrose is a defensive tackle at Rhode Island and Tyler Primrose a defensive lineman at Washington & Jefferson. Their dad, John, played football at Gannon. But the most decorated athlete in the family is mom Heather (Petras) Primrose, once a star volleyball player at Gannon who is in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame and even has her jersey retired.

As a baseball player, Blake Primrose will blaze his own path in college, but before then he’d like to lead North Catholic on a long playoff run after losing in the quarterfinals each of the past three seasons.

“We’ve come together really close as a team,” Primrose said. “We knew what we had to do and what we had to get done to have a successful year, and we’ve done it.”

Hare 8 for 8

It has been not a tortoise, but a Hare who has helped fuel Riverside’s race toward second consecutive WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A titles.

Junior right-handed pitcher Zach Hare is having a tremendous season for the Panthers (13-1 overall, 11-1 in Section 1), his first as one of the team’s primary starters. Not only have the Panthers won in each of Hare’s eight starts, but Hare has been the winning pitcher in all of them. Hare, who was 2-0 in three appearances last season, is 8-0 with a 0.88 ERA this season. In 32 innings, Hare has struck out 63 while giving up 15 hits and nine walks. He has been outstanding offensively, as well, hitting a team-best .553 with 17 RBIs.

The emergence of Hare has given Riverside an outstanding 1-2 punch on the mound, although one half of that duo has been sidelined with an injury as of late. That would be junior right-hander Christian Lucarelli (3-0, 0.93 ERA), a Duke recruit who pulled an oblique muscle while warming up prior to Riverside’s 5-2 loss at Neshannock on April 30 that ended the Panthers’ 36 game-win streak. Lucarelli, who last pitched in a game on April 26, said he is now feeling much better and expects to be ready for the playoffs.

Eden’s Emswiler

Caleb Emswiler is projected to be a pitcher when he begins playing for Gardner-Webb next season, but this Eden Christian senior has proven to be an excellent hitter, as well. His ability to drive in runs at a high rate has driven the Warriors (14-4 overall, 12-0 in Section 3) to a dominant section run and a likely top two seed in the WPIAL Class 1A playoffs.

Emswiler has 37 RBIs this season. According to MaxPreps, that’s one of the top marks in the entire state. And he has done it in 18 games, meaning he drives in an average of just over two runs a game. Emswiler has knocked in at least four runs in six games, something he did four times in Eden’s final six regular-season games when he collected 17 RBIs total.

In addition to the RBI total, Emswiler leads Eden Christian with five home runs. He’s hitting .466, which ranks second on the team behind only sophomore Brady Hull (.509). Emswiler has done good work on the mound, too, going 2-1 with a 3.40 ERA. He has fanned 33 and walked 15 over 22⅔ innings for the Warriors, who won each of their section games by at least eight runs.

Emswiler’s brother, Noah, is a sophomore for the Warriors who is also having a strong season. Noah is batting .326 with 18 RBIs and is 2-0 with a 2.72 ERA.

VanSickle a big hit

Junior Alex VanSickle has been a hit for Waynesburg this spring. His 37 hits say as much, and are among the reasons why the Raiders (15-3 overall, 10-2 in Class 3A Section 4) could be on the brink of capturing their first playoff win since 2019.

VanSickle’s large collection of hits ranks him among the WPIAL and state leaders, as does his team-leading .617 batting average. A three-year starter, VanSickle batted .474 his freshman season and .500 as a sophomore. VanSickle has hits in all but two games and 11 multi-hit games this season. He boasts an on-base percentage of .667.

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at