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Previews for the PIAA softball tournament

| Monday, June 7, 2010

Class AAAA

2009 champion: Parkland

Teams to watch: Central Bucks South (19-2), Mt. Lebanon (19-3), Stroudsburg (20-5), Hatboro-Horsham (21-3)

Today's first-round games to watch: Mt. Lebanon vs. Brashear at Fairhaven Park, 4 p.m.; Shaler vs. State College at Penns Valley, 3:30 p.m.; Stroudsburg vs. Governor Mifflin at Patriots Park, 3 p.m.

Notable: Last season was the first time that a District 1 team failed to appear in the championship game since the classification was added in 2005. ... No City League team has ever won a PIAA Class AAAA playoff game. ... Shaler has lost in the WPIAL championship game four of the past five times it has played but has reached the state title game three times, winning in 2004 (Class AAA) and 2006. ... Mt. Lebanon pitcher Geena Badolato has 180 strikeouts in 144 innings. ... Central Bucks South and Shaler played each other in the semifinals last year and are the only semifinalists to return this season. ... Shaler won that game, 2-1. ... Mt. Lebanon has never played in a state softball championship game.

Players to watch: Chelsea Siar, Sr., SS, Shaler; Sydney Smyers, So., P, Shaler; Geena Badolato, Sr., P, Mt. Lebanon; Jess Epler, Jr., P, Governor Mifflin; Fran Carullo, Jr., P, Central Bucks South

Sleeper: Shaler

Prediction: Mt. Lebanon over Central Bucks South

Class AAA

2009 champion: Greencastle-Antrim

Teams to watch: Yough (20-2), Montour (17-6), Daniel Boone (21-5), Nazareth Academy (22-0), Ambridge (17-4)

Today's first-round games to watch: Montour vs. Langley at Fairhaven Park, 2 p.m.; Yough vs. Warren at Penn State-Behrend, 5 p.m.; Nazareth Academy vs. Muhlenberg at West Chester East, 2 p.m.; Bellefonte vs. Ambridge at Penns Valley, 5:30 p.m.

Notable: Ambridge was the last WPIAL team to win the Class AAA state championship (2005). ... Montour does not have a senior on its roster but still won the WPIAL title and has not given up a run in three postseason games, its longest shutout streak of the year. ... Yough is making its first state playoff appearance and has the pitching to make a lengthy run. ... Cougars starter Nicole Sleith, who has committed to Robert Morris, is on a short list for the state Class AAA player of the year and has won 15 of her 20 games by shutout. ... District 1 champion Nazareth Academy is the only team from last year's quarterfinals to make the tournament this season. ... Warren pulled off a big upset over perennial contender Corry to win the District 10 title.

Players to watch: Nicole Sleith, Jr. P, Yough; Casey Hafer, Sr., P, Daniel Boone; Erica Cipolloni, Sr., P, Nazareth Academy; Kayla Haslett, Jr., P, Ambridge; Liz Aniska, So., SS, Valley View

Sleeper: Yough

Prediction: Nazareth Academy over Daniel Boone

Class AA

2009 champion: Bald Eagle Area

Teams to watch: Valley (21-0), Burrell (17-3), Brandywine Heights (21-2), Nanticoke (17-1)

Today's first-round games to watch: Brandywine Heights vs. Central Columbia at Lyons Field, 3 p.m.; Valley vs. Chestnut Ridge at North Allegheny, 4 p.m.; Burrell vs. St. Marys at Brockway, 2:30 p.m.; Sto-Rox vs. Wilmington at Penn State-Behrend 3 p.m.

Notable: No WPIAL team has won the Class AA state championship since Bishop Canevin in 1999. ... All three of Burrell's losses this season have come against Valley, its closest rival. ... Valley will move up to Class AAA next season. ... Brandywine Heights lost in the state championship game each of the past two years -- including against Bald Eagle Area in 2009 -- and has a stellar 74-5 record over the past three seasons. ... Nanticoke was the No. 2 seed in District 2 and defeated previously unbeaten Elk Lake in the finals when pitcher Sarah Bertoni threw a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts. ... District 10 is always tough in this classification, which makes Wilmington a contender.

Players to watch: Caitlin Nealer, Jr., P, Valley; Casey Moses, Jr., P, Burrell; Sarah Bertoni, Jr., P, Nanticoke; Leanda Helms, Sr. C, Brandywine Heights; Abby Sotter, Fr., P, Wilmington

Sleeper: Phillipsburg-Osceola

Prediction: Brandywine Heights over Valley

Class A

2009 champion: Curwensville

Teams to watch: Vincentian (17-2), Old Forge (17-1), Ligonier Valley (20-0), Chartiers-Houston (18-2)

First-round games to watch: Christopher Dock vs. Minersville at Upper Merion, 4 p.m.; Ligonier Valley vs. Clarion at Hollidaysburg, 4 p.m.; Vincentian vs. Sharpsville at North Allegheny 2 p.m.; Chartiers-Houston vs. Conneaut Valley at Penn State-Behrend, 1 p.m.

Notable: Old Forge, the District 2 champion, has lost in the semifinals (2008) and in the championship game (2009) the past two years. ... Old Forge outscored its three opponents in the District 2 playoffs, 25-1. ... Vincentian won the championship in 2008 when current pitcher Nina Melvin was the team's catcher. ... The Royals have won three consecutive WPIAL championships but were knocked out in the 2009 state semifinals by eventual champion Curwensville. ... Chartiers-Houston has won seven WPIAL championships but has five state championship game losses. ... Ligonier Valley freshman shortstop Maddy Grimm has 10 home runs this season and had a squeeze bunt that won the District 6 title for the Mounties.

Players to watch: Nina Melvin, Sr., P, Vincentian; Jess Armillay, Sr., P, Old Forge, Chrissy Belko, Sr., 3B, Old Forge; Christine Henderson, Jr., P, Ligonier Valley; Kiersten Conwell, Jr., P, Chartiers-Houston.

Sleeper: Claysburg-Kimmell

Prediction: Old Forge over Vincentian

All championship games will be played June 18 at Shippensburg University's Robb Field, but times have not been determined.

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