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Breaking down the WPIAL baseball playoffs

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 11:09 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Connor Coward pitches against North Allegheny on April 25, 2013. The Raiders are the defending WPIAL champions in Class AAAA and are a favorite to repeat this year.

Breaking down the WPIAL baseball playoffs

CLASS AAAA

DEFENDING CHAMPION Seneca Valley

THE FAVORITE Seneca Valley (16-3), the two-time defending champion, used 15 straight wins to establish itself as the team to beat. CF Jonathan Dorogy, 2B Sam Fragale and C Brad Gresock also started the past two title runs. Carson Kessler is hitting .474 and Zach Spangler is batting .425 this season for the Raiders.

THE CONTENDERS A one-run loss to Seneca Valley was the only blemish for North Allegheny (16-4) during its final 13 games. Section 2 champion Hempfield (17-3), led by pitchers Greg Martin and Zack Martinelli, enters the playoffs having beaten three other section winners — Central Catholic (16-4), Pine-Richland (15-4) and Canon-McMillan (11-7) — in the past two weeks. Central Catholic won Section 3 behind senior 3B P.J. DeMeo, a Pitt recruit. Pine-Richland, the 2010 champion, shared the Section 4 title with Shaler (11-9).

DON'T OVERLOOK Franklin Regional (16-3) has won eight consecutive, including wins over Central Catholic, 17-16, and Plum, 2-0.

PREDICTION Seneca Valley over North Allegheny

CLASS AAA

DEFENDING CHAMPION Blackhawk

THE FAVORITE South Park (20-0) could become the third undefeated Class AAA champion in the past seven seasons, joining Elizabeth Forward (21-0 in 2011) and West Allegheny (23-0 in 2007). The Eagles have seven players batting better than .350, including Nick Yobbi (.525), who along with Jake Bywalski are leading pitchers.

THE CONTENDERS Led by SS Ryan Cox, a St. Bonaventure recruit, Hopewell (17-3) could win a second title in four years. Hampton (17-2) was undefeated in Section 5, and its only WPIAL loss was to Class AAAA Seneca Valley, 1-0, on April 22. After a 12-1 start, Chartiers Valley (16-4) lost three of its final seven to share the Section 3 title with Keystone Oaks (14-4).

DON'T OVERLOOK Blackhawk (9-6), the 2012 champion, has junior lefty Brendan McKay, who creates a tough matchup.

PREDICTION Hampton over South Park

CLASS AA

DEFENDING CHAMPION Ellwood City

THE FAVORITE Riverside (15-3), the two-time defending state champion, could reach the WPIAL title game for the third straight season, led by seniors Tyler Falk, Dylan Jones and Blaise McCarty. Riverside was WPIAL runner-up to rival Ellwood City last year.

THE CONTENDERS Led by Radford pitching recruit Austin Ross, Beaver (13-3) beat Riverside twice in Section 5 play, where both finished with 12-2 records. Beaver lost twice to section foe Neshannock (12-6), the WPIAL Class A champion in 2011 and 2012, which missed this year's playoffs. Quaker Valley (17-0), the Section 1 winner, was one of only two undefeated teams in the WPIAL. Deer Lakes (15-3), undefeated in Section 3, lost to Riverside in the 2012 quarterfinals. The Lancers won 14 of 15 down the stretch.

DON'T OVERLOOK Laurel (9-7) has one of Class AA's top pitchers in Brandon Ritchie, a George Washington recruit. Led by Garrett Brooks (.600), 12th seed Greensburg Central Catholic (11-4) has won five straight games and nine of its last 10.

PREDICTION Beaver over Deer Lakes

CLASS A

DEFENDING CHAMPION Neshannock

THE FAVORITE Serra Catholic (16-1), the WPIAL champion in 2009 and ‘10, lost only once this season, to Class AAA's Elizabeth Forward. Serra Catholic has been the top seed in the tournament three of the past four seasons, but in 2012, the team was seeded fifth and lost to OLSH in the second round — the team's earliest exit since a first-round loss to Geibel in 2006.

THE CONTENDERS Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (16-2) has won 15 straight, led by Preston Falascino, a Slippery Rock recruit who's batting .540. The Chargers reached last year's semifinals. Riverview (14-2), led by Akron recruit Anthony Malky, shared the Section 4 title with North Catholic (10-4). Malky was the WPIAL's strikeout leader. Western Beaver (14-2) was undefeated in Section 3 at 12-0, led by junior Nick Miller. Carmichaels (12-3) won Section 1 but ended the regular season with a loss to California.

DON'T OVERLOOK California (15-4) was runner-up to Neshannock in last year's title game.

PREDICTION OLSH over Serra Catholic

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