Breaking down the WPIAL softball playoffs
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5697.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5617.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
California (7-11) vs. Riverview (12-7) at Hempfield, 2 p.m.
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.
Chartiers-Houston (19-1) vs. California/Riverview at California University (Pa.), 2 p.m.