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High School Sports

Breaking down the WPIAL softball playoffs

| Friday, May 11, 2012, 12:30 a.m.

Class AAAA

DEFENDING CHAMPION Latrobe

THE FAVORITE Shaler (18-2), which has four runner-up finishes in the previous six seasons, shrugged off two early losses and won 14 games in a row to end the regular season. The Section 3-AAAA champion Titans, who last won a WPIAL title in 2005, are led by pitcher Sydney Smyers and catcher Lauren Hackett.

THE CONTENDERS Hempfield (16-4) and Norwin (15-3) shared the Section 1 title and split their season series. Peters Township (14-4) won seven of eight down the stretch to claim a share of the Section 4 crown.

DON'T OVERLOOK Franklin Regional (17-2) cruised to the Section 2 title behind the pitching of Samantha Johnson, who had 15 wins in the regular season and was part of the Panthers' WPIAL championship team in 2009. Latrobe(13-7), which finished just one game behind Hempfield and Norwin in Section 1, will get a shot at Shaler in the quarterfinals if the Wildcats can get past Plum in the first round.

PREDICTION Shaler over Hempfield

Class AAA

DEFENDING CHAMPION Yough

THE FAVORITE Section 1 champion Ambridge (16-2), last year's WPIAL runner-up, overwhelmingly has outscored its opponents this season, losing only to section rival Blackhawk (10-4) and Seneca Valley (13-4). The Bridgers are led by pitcher Hannah Smith (15 victories, 89 strikeouts) and a pair of freshmen — outfielder Heather Mueller, who is batting .519, and first baseman Kelly Haslett (.457).

THE CONTENDERS Section champions Montour (13-5), Greensburg Salem (13-2) and Belle Vernon (15-5) possess stellar pitchers — Kaitlyn Kutchman (155 strikeouts), Jayne Oberdorf (121) and Haley Bashada (125).

DON'T OVERLOOK McGuffey (14-5) rode Cassie Weiss (14 victories, 172 strikeouts) to a runner-up spot in Section 2.

PREDICTION Ambridge over Montour

Class AA

DEFENDING CHAMPION Burrell

THE FAVORITE In perhaps the closest classification, Neshannock gets the slight nod following an 18-0 regular season that included a pair of Section 5 wins over contender Riverside. No. 1 pitcher Amanda Furst sets the tone for the Lancers.

THE CONTENDERS Seton-La Salle (14-1) has one of the most productive offenses around, scoring at least 10 runs in 12 of its games, and standouts Jess Weiss and Lauren Zola each hit over .600. Deer Lakes (15-1), a year after reaching the semifinals, has three capable pitchers and consistent hitting throughout its lineup, led by Candace Scanga. Tested Mt. Pleasant(15-5) has an ace in senior Leigha Pehrson, and sophomore second baseman Paige Hertzog bats .557.

DON'T OVERLOOK Two-loss teams Burgettstown and Riverside are capable of reaching the final but could face difficult quarterfinal matchups.

PREDICTION Neshannock over Seton-La Salle

Class A

DEFENDING CHAMPION Chartiers-Houston

THE FAVORITE It might be that the only team capable of holding Chartiers-Houston (19-1) from back-to-back titles is itself. Junior pitcher Kayla Briggs has a sub-1.00 ERA and bats .552, while senior catcher Colby Miller is hitting .509 with 36 RBI.

THE CONTENDERS Sto-Rox(17-0) is looking to erase last year's one-and-done showing and has six players hitting better than .400, led by Hayley Weisser (.571) and pitcher Natalya Smarra (.512). Carmichaels (19-1) has an offense just as potent and also put up 10 shutouts.

DON'T OVERLOOK Vincentian (11-5) is just two years removed from a title and always is a tough out. The Royals' two section losses came to Sto-Rox by three runs.

PREDICTION Sto-Rox over Chartiers-Houston

Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dstefano@tribweb.com or 412-380-5697.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dmackall@tribweb.com or 412-380-5617.

THE SCHEDULE

WPIAL Playoffs

Class AAAA

First round

Tuesday's schedule

Plum (12-5) vs. Latrobe (13-7) at Gateway, 4 p.m.; Canon-McMillan (12-5) vs. McKeesport (10-8) at California University (Pa.), 4 p.m.; North Allegheny (13-6) vs. Baldwin (12-6) at Fairhaven Park, 4 p.m.; Franklin Regional (17-2) vs. Seneca Valley (13-4) at North Allegheny, 4 p.m.

Shaler (17-2), Norwin (15-3), Hempfield (15-4), Peters Township (14-4) received a bye

Class AAA

Preliminary round

Monday's schedule

Highlands (7-8) vs. Ellwood City (6-10) at Hampton, 4 p.m.; Kittanning (10-8) vs. New Castle (6-11) at North Allegheny, 4 p.m.

First round

Monday's schedule

Indiana (13-6) vs. Elizabeth Forward (14-6) at Hempfield, 4 p.m.; Blackhawk (10-4) vs. Yough (9-8) at Baldwin, 6 p.m.; Belle Vernon (15-5) vs. Valley (7-10) at Baldwin, 4 p.m.

Wednesday's schedule

Ambridge (16-2) vs. Highlands/Ellwood City at Seneca Valley, 2 p.m.; Greensburg Salem (13-2) vs. Knoch (12-6) at Gateway, 4 p.m.; Mars (11-6) vs. West Allegheny (12-8) at North Allegheny, 2 p.m.; Montour (13-5) vs. Kittanning/New Castle at Seneca Valley, 4 p.m.; McGuffey (14-5) vs. Thomas Jefferson (10-6) at California University (Pa), 2 p.m.

Class AA

First round

Monday's schedule

Keystone Oaks (12-4) vs. Freeport (14-3) at Hampton, 2 p.m.; Seton-La Salle (14-1) vs. South Fayette (11-8) at Baldwin, 2 p.m.; Greensburg Central Catholic (11-6) vs. Burrell (11-7) at Hempfield, 2 p.m.; Riverside (14-2) vs. OLSH (12-5) at North Allegheny, 2 p.m.

Wednesday's schedule

Deer Lakes (15-1) vs. Southmoreland (11-5) at Gateway, 2 p.m.; Burgettstown (16-2) vs. Mohawk (12-7) at North Allegheny, 4 p.m.; Mt. Pleasant (15-5) vs. Waynesburg (10-9) at California University (Pa.)., 4 p.m.

Neshannock (18-0) received a bye

Class A

Preliminary round

Tuesday's schedule

California (7-11) vs. Riverview (12-7) at Hempfield, 2 p.m.

First round

Tuesday's schedule

Elderton (15-4) vs. Jefferson-Morgan (15-3) at Gateway, 2 p.m.; South Side Beaver (16-3) vs. West Greene (11-8) at Burgettstown, 2 p.m.; Vincentian (11-4) vs. Rochester (10-9) at Burgettstown, 4 p.m.; Sto-Rox (17-0) vs. Avella (6-11) at Fairhaven Park, 2 p.m.; Leechburg (15-4) vs. Frazier (11-5) at Hempfield, 4 p.m.; Carmichaels (19-1) vs. Serra (9-8) at California University (Pa.), 2 p.m.; Shenango (12-7) vs. Sewickley Academy (9-6) at North Allegheny, 2 p.m.

Thursday's schedule

Chartiers-Houston (19-1) vs. California/Riverview at California University (Pa.), 2 p.m.

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