2021 WPIAL Class 3A softball preseason breakdown
Saturday, March 27, 2021 | 8:01 AM
After a year away from the diamond, softball players from across Western Pennsylvania are itching to get back in the field of play.
With the 2021 season moving forward as planned, WPIAL teams will get the chance to do just that. Several perennial powers will look to regain their place among the best in class, but others are hoping to challenge for postseason berths and championship titles.
Here is a look at the new district alignment, along with the softball teams and players to watch in WPIAL Class 3A in 2021:
Preseason Top 5
1. Mt. Pleasant (19-2 in 2019) — Mt. Pleasant was the 2019 WPIAL Class 4A runner-up and reached the PIAA semifinals with a talented team that featured a number of underclassmen. Many members of that group return as the Vikings drop down to Class 3A. Six players have made college commitments, including senior pitcher Mary Smithnosky (Western Michigan), senior infielder/outfielder Hailey Brunson (Pitt), junior outfielder Katie Hutter (Akron), senior first baseman Courtney Poulich (Liberty), senior shortstop Hannah Gnibus (Pitt-Johnstown) and junior outfielder Abby Swank (West Liberty). Hutter hit .442, and Smithnosky was 4-0 with a 0.23 ERA and also hit .494 with 14 RBIs in 2019. Mt. Pleasant has won 36 straight section games.
2. Avonworth (21-3) — The 2019 WPIAL Class 3A champions return seven players with varsity experience, including shortstop Leah Logan and pitcher/third baseman Meghan Fissore. Logan and outfielder Abigail Stanley are the only seniors on the roster, which also includes five freshmen. The Lopes reached the PIAA quarterfinals in 2019.
3. Southmoreland (10-7) — The Scotties, who advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals in 2019, return several key pieces and hope to contend in a loaded Section 3. The group includes senior pitcher Jess Matheny, a Robert Morris recruit who hit .431 with four homers as a sophomore. Matheny and senior third baseman Emily Eutsey were starters on Southmoreland’s 2018 WPIAL title team. Senior outfielder Emma Mullet, junior shortstop/outfielder Tyson Martin (.408, 3 HR, 11 RBIs) and junior catcher/outfielder Elle Pawlikowsky also return.
4. Keystone Oaks (14-7) — The Golden Eagles made a run to the WPIAL finals and PIAA quarterfinals in 2019 and return five starters from that team. The group includes seniors Maria Fratangelo, Syd Stahl and Taylor Brooks and juniors Gia Woods and Julia Pratt.
5. South Allegheny (16-3) — The Gladiators won the Section 3 title in 2019 with a high-scoring lineup. Senior outfielder Olivia Stetz returns after earning all-section recognition that season.
Players to watch
Haylie Brunson, Sr., INF, Mt. Pleasant
Izzy DeGorzi, Jr., SS, Quaker Valley
Emily Eutsey, Sr., 3B, Southmoreland
Meghan Fissore, Jr., P/INF, Avonworth
Maria Fratangelo, Sr., C, Keystone Oaks
Hannah Gnibus, Sr., SS, Mt. Pleasant
Katie Hutter, Jr., 2B/OF, Mt. Pleasant
Leah Logan, Sr., C/SS, Avonworth
Jess Matheny, Sr., P, Southmoreland
Courtney Poulich, Sr., 1B, Mt. Pleasant
Mary Smithnosky, Sr., P/OF, Mt. Pleasant
Olivia Stetz, Sr., OF, South Allegheny
Abby Swank, Jr., OF, Mt. Pleasant
• Avonworth defeated Keystone Oaks, 12-0, in the 2019 WPIAL Class 3A championship game. South Park also advanced to the PIAA playoffs.
• There are 18 teams in Class 3A this season, down from 19 in the last two-year PIAA realignment cycle. Mt. Pleasant and Quaker Valley dropped down from Class 4A, and Shady Side Academy and McGuffey moved up from 2A. Beaver, Hopewell, Burrell and Freeport moved up to 4A, and Steel Valley dropped to 2A.
• Ellwood City, which won the Section 2 title in 2019, returns eight players with varsity experience, including senior three-year letter winners Maria Ioanilli and Makinley Magill.
• Junior shortstop Izzy DeGorzi returns for Quaker Valley after an all-section campaign in 2019. The Quakers are young all-around and will look to rebuild early on.
• Deer Lakes, which has won eight section titles and two WPIAL championships since 2005, will have a young lineup under second-year coach Rick Cerra. Third baseman/shortstop Hannah Mass is the lone senior, and she’s accompanied by six juniors, six sophomores and three freshmen.
Section 1: Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, North Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Valley
Section 2: Avonworth, Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Keystone Oaks, Quaker Valley, South Park
Section 3: Brownsville, McGuffey, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny, Southmoreland, Waynesburg
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
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