Breaking down the WPIAL softball playoffs
DEFENDING CHAMPION Canon-McMillan
THE FAVORITE Canon-McMillan has averaged more than 11 runs per game and if the bats continue to produce — the Big Macs have hit 49 home runs — few teams will be able to keep them from a WPIAL three-peat.
THE CONTENDERS Shaler, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley battled each other in Section 3 and are tested for the playoffs. The Titans ended the season on a 10-game winning streak. Penn-Trafford had won nine in a row before a 7-1 loss to Hempfield in the regular season finale.
DON'T OVERLOOK Led by Hannah Adamski (11 HR), Plum won its first eight games and tied with McKeesport for the Section 2 title.
PREDICTION Canon-McMillan over Shaler
Class AAADEFENDING CHAMPION Greensburg Salem
THE FAVORITE Greensburg Salem graduated ace pitcher Jayne Oberdorf but hasn't missed a beat. Her sister, junior shortstop Claire Oberdorf, has a school-record 10 home runs and was hitting over .600 for most of the season, and Melissa Wagner has filled in well in the circle.
THE CONTENDERS South Fayette won a showdown with Trinity, 10-0, to claim the Section 2 title Tuesday and locked up the No. 2 seed. The Lions are led by pitcher Ashley Iagnemma and several young contributors. West Mifflin, led by pitcher Paige Flore, won Section 3 and finished on a nine-game winning streak. Section 5 champ Knoch has won six straight.
DON'T OVERLOOK Blackhawk, the Section 1 champ, started the season 4-0 and finished with three straight wins.
PREDICTION Greensburg Salem over West Mifflin
Class AADEFENDING CHAMPION Riverside
THE FAVORITE Deer Lakes was a WPIAL runner-up last year and was rarely challenged this year. Led by pitcher Tiffany Edwards, the Lancers have outscored opponents 160-15 and have won 29 straight Section 3 games.
THE CONTENDERS Top-seeded Beaver posted five shutouts in its last seven games en route to the Section 5 title. Riverside graduated ace pitcher Kirsten Wilson but cruised through its section slate, with the exception of two losses to Beaver. Led by pitcher Lauren Zola, Seton-La Salle shared the Section 1 title with Keystone Oaks.
DON'T OVERLOOK Pitcher Cassie Weiss and catcher Sammie Weiss give McGuffey one of the better battery combinations in the WPIAL.
PREDICTION Deer Lakes over Beaver
Class ADEFENDING CHAMPION Neshannock
THE FAVORITE Neshannock, a PIAA champion in 2012 (AA) and runner-up last year, again appears to be the team to beat. The Landers rolled through their Section 4 schedule, with the exception of a 4-2 loss to Shenango. Three all-state players returned for Neshannock — Marissa DeMatteo, Allie Fischer and Madison Shaffer.
THE CONTENDERS Jefferson-Morgan and Carmichales had a showdown in Section 2, with J-M winning 1-0 and Carmichaels winning 4-2. The Mikes, who were WPIAL runenrs-up the past two seasons, are led by pitcher Erica Burns, while Jefferson-Morgan is led by hurler Maddie Ludrosky, who struck out 17 batters in a win over West Greene on Monday. Shenango won eight of its last nine games and has outscored opponents 66-0 in its past four games. Burgettstown was unbeaten in Section 1.
DON'T OVERLOOK South Side Beaver features Pitt recruit Connor McGaffic and has outscored opponents 217-37 this season. The Rams had won nine straight before losing to Neshannock on Wednesday.
PREDICTION Neshannock over Carmichaels