Jeff Bywalski celebrated Father’s Day how you might expect a baseball coach to celebrate it.

“I’m going to coach my travel baseball team today,” Bywalski told a reporter Sunday. “We had two games yesterday at Seton Hill and I’m on my way back to Seton Hill.”

That’s right, a day after coaching Avonworth in the PIAA baseball championship at Penn State, Bywalski was in Westmoreland County coaching his 16U travel team in a tournament. The team made it all the way to the semifinals, too.

At Avonworth, it was a championship season. In just his second season, Bywalski guided the Antelopes, the No. 7 seed, to their first WPIAL title in 32 years, this after a slew of near-misses that saw them fall in the semifinals the previous three seasons. But these Antelopes weren’t content. After going 14 innings to top defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Riverside in the WPIAL Class 3A championship, they ran all the way to the PIAA title game for the first time before falling to Philadelphia Catholic League champ Neumann-Goretti in the final. The Antelopes had one PIAA win ever coming into the season. They picked up three this spring alone.

Avonworth coach Jeff Bywalski talks to his team during their game against Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA Class 3A championship at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Bywalski is a 1990 South Park graduate who still resides in that community today. He played baseball at South Park and collegiately for two seasons at CCAC-South, but Bywalski has a background in basketball, as well. He finished among the WPIAL’s scoring leaders his senior season and began his coaching career on the court, not the diamond. Bywalski was an assistant at Canon-McMillan and then at South Park before taking a break from high school coaching as he and his wife, Christine, raised their two boys, Tyler and Ryan.

Bywalski’s sons eventually gravitated toward baseball, and so did dad. Bywalski coached both of his boys at South Park, which reached the WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A championship games in 2017 when Tyler was one of the team’s top players. Tyler is now one of dad’s assistants. Jeff then moved over to Baldwin, where he served as junior varsity coach before getting the Avonworth job in 2023.

A sales representative, Bywalski sure did get this Avonworth team to buy in this season, which in turn saw the Antelopes go where they had never gone before. For that, Bywalski has been named PUP baseball Coach of the Year. All coaches in the WPIAL and City League were considered for the honor that was selected by the PUP sports staff.

Under the direction of second-year coach Jeff Bywalski, Avonworth won its first WPIAL championship since 1992 and advanced to the PIAA championship for the first time. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Q: Favorite moment from this season?

A: Winning the WPIAL championship. Seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces. Seeing them do something really historical for their community and their school. To be the first baseball team at Avonworth to win a championship since 1992. A lot of those kids played on teams that lost in the semifinals three years in a row, so to see their faces after getting over the hump was special.

Q: Unsung hero on the team?

A: The one kid who didn’t get the praise he deserved because he struggled during the regular season but was our glue that had to perform in the playoffs for us to be successful, and that was Mason Metz. He’s a Division I prospect and I think he put pressure on himself where he wanted to do too much. When we got to the playoffs, I told one of my assistants “we are going to go as far as he takes us.” He absolutely performed and had an unbelievable postseason.

Q: You won four playoff games by one run. Have you gained any gray hairs?

A: Absolutely. No doubt about it. Lost some weight, too. I didn’t eat very much during that postseason.

Q: Favorite field you played on this season, not counting your own?

A: When you play at Penn State … It’s an unbelievable venue. Unbelievable scenery behind the field with the mountains. And that’s where you want your season to end. We were lucky enough to have our season end there. It didn’t end the way we wanted, but that place is unbelievable. My youngest son goes there. We took him up there last fall and took a picture. I said, “We’re going to be up there in the middle of June. We’re going to end our season there.” And he kept telling me I was out of my mind.

Q: Your son, Tyler, is one of your assistants. What’s it like coaching with him?

A: It’s so hard to put into words because we’re both very passionate about the game, him especially. He puts everything he can into it. To be able to share this moment with him, it was pretty cool. Like he says, “It’s a dream come true.” And it is. He lost in 2017 in the state championship. He always said he wanted to go back. And he dreamed of winning a WPIAL title since he was 11 years old. So to be able to do it with him was special.

Q: How big of a baseball fan is mom?

A: There’s no doubt that my wife, she’s awesome. To be able to put up with us at home, three boys and she being the only girl, she’s done a great job. Some days she says we’re not allowed to talk about the “B word,” but sometimes she likes to play the coach’s role and tell us what we should do. I tell her to leave the coaching to us. She’s awesome.

Q: One thing you would change about high school baseball?

A: I think we need more games. I think we should be allowed to play more games. Go to West Virginia or go to Ohio, and they play 28 to 32 games in the regular season. I think they should allow us to play 24 or 26 games a regular season because it gives you more time to develop players and develop the team. They try not to [have more games] because of the smaller schools, but if the program is big enough, they should be allowed to play if they want.

Q: Favorite MLB player growing up?

A: I could name a lot. I remember the ’79 [Pirates] team. I was probably 9 years old. I was a big Phil Garner and Rennie Stennett fan. And when I graduated high school, Bonds, Van Slyke and Bonilla were playing. I really loved those guys. I’m a huge Pittsburgh guy. My kids make fun of me for having a Pittsburgh accent and all, but I love Pittsburgh.

Q: Among WPIAL high school baseball coaches, are you the best basketball player?

A: I’m going to say yes because I don’t know who else played bask etball. [Laughs] When I was a senior, I was in the top 15 in scoring in the WPIAL.

Q: What food can you eat the most of?

A: It’s hard to say now because I’m 52 and don’t eat as much, but probably pizza. That, and I make some pretty good wings. I can put those down pretty good.

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