Breaking down the WPIAL softball playoffs
Breaking down the WPIAL softball playoffs
DEFENDING CHAMPION Canon-McMillan
THE FAVORITE Canon-McMillan (18-1) finished the season with 16 straight wins after falling to last year's runner-up, Hempfield, 17-6. The Big Macs battled injuries all season, including to catcher Giorgiana Zeremenko, but appear healthy heading into the postseason. Pitcher Alayna Astuto has an ERA around 1.00, and Kayla Kiger has added depth.
THE CONTENDERS Latrobe (15-3) and Hempfield (14-5) were the top teams in Section 1 and split the series. Both have stellar starting pitching — Shelby Noel and Olivia Gumbita for Latrobe and Hope Pehrson and Taylor Bartlow for Hempfield. McKeesport (16-4) cruised to the Section 2 title, led by pitcher Jess Beitler and shortstop Vanessa Falce. North Allegheny (14-3) won the Section 3 title.
DON'T OVERLOOK Shaler (12-5) has reached the championship game four of the past seven seasons. Freshman pitcher Brianna Dobson has filled in well for grad Sydney Smyers. Peters Township (16-4) started 8-0 and finished second to Canon-Mac in Section 4.
PREDICTION Canon-McMillan over Latrobe
DEFENDING CHAMPION Montour
THE FAVORITE Greensburg Salem (17-2), a PIAA qualifier last year, was the top-ranked team all season and with good reason. Pitcher Jayne Oberdorf, a Marist recruit, was nearly unhittable each time she took the mound, posting 17 wins and more than 100 strikeouts. Karly Mellinger, Claire Oberdorf and Taylor Mehan lead the Lions offense.
THE CONTENDERS Ambridge (13-3) went 9-1 in Section 1 for the second straight season and returned all but one starter, including pitchers Hannah Smith and Kelly Haslett. Elizabeth Forward (16-4) and West Mifflin (15-4) were co-champs in Section 3, but the Warriors swept the season series. Trinity (11-4) won the Section 2 title and earned the No. 2 seed but lost four of its final six games.
DON'T OVERLOOK Led by senior shortstop Stacey Capp (.571), defending champion Montour (12-6) won five of its final six games. Blackhawk (10-5), paced by pitchers Danielle Levato and Bridgette Shaffer, has won six of its last seven games, the lone defeat a 7-3 loss to Ambridge.
PREDICTION Greensburg Salem over Ambridge
DEFENDING CHAMPION Deer Lakes
THE FAVORITE Deer Lakes (15-0) has allowed just two runs in its past four games, while scoring an average of 14.5. Led by Katie Gozzard (.512), Hannah Blinn (.488), Tiffany Edwards (.457) and Maureen Hutchinson (.400), the Lancers have been ranked No. 1 all season and averaged nearly 10 runs per game the past two years. Edwards also has posted 15 wins and 113 strikeouts.
THE CONTENDERS Section 2 champion Chartiers-Houston (16-0) and Section 5 winner Riverside (15-0) make Class AA crowded with unbeatens at the top, and the two could meet in the semifinals. The Bucs, led by pitcher Kayla Briggs (15-0, 154 strikeouts), won the Class A title last year. Pitcher Kristen Wilson leads Riverside with 13 wins and 150 strikeouts. Seton-La Salle (12-1) also has the pitching to advance, as Lauren Zola (11 wins, 126 strikeouts) helped the Rebels post seven shutouts. Section 4 champ GCC (10-4), led offensively by Julia Lang (.581), went 9-1 in section play and could make a run.
DON'T OVERLOOK McGuffey (13-5) has won four straight games and was a 14-6 team in Class AAA last season.
PREDICTION Deer Lakes over Chartiers-Houston
DEFENDING CHAMPION Chartiers-Houston
THE FAVORITE Neshannock (15-2) won the PIAA Class AA title a year ago and has breezed through the regular season in Class A, with its two losses coming to Wilmington, Ohio, and Class AA Riverside, both by one run. The Lancers, led by sophomore ace Madison Shaffer, outscored opponents, 215-16, and posted 10 shutouts.
THE CONTENDERS Carmichaels (18-2) and Frazier (16-2) shared the Section 2 title with 13-1 records and split their season series. Erica Burns has 18 wins and 165 strikeouts for the Mikes, while Andrea Lash has 16 wins and 101 strikeouts for Frazier. Burgettstown (15-4) and Jeannette (14-3) each dropped down from Class AA and won the Section 1 and 3 titles, respectively.
DON'T OVERLOOK Sto-Rox (13-4) features one of the top-hitting lineups, with Mary Cersosimo (.667), Aimee Miller (.635), Hayley Weisser (.500) and Josie Buckley (.500). Leechburg (11-4) shared the Section 3 title, and Vincentian (8-5) could make a run behind pitcher Kim Corcoran and power hitter Danielle Melvin.
PREDICTION Neshannock over Carmichaels