2021 WPIAL Class 4A softball preseason breakdown
Friday, March 26, 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 4A in 2021:
Preseason Top 5
1. Elizabeth Forward (20-4 in 2019) — Elizabeth Forward captured its first WPIAL title in 2019 and has hopes of repeating that feat this season. Senior pitcher Kailey Larcinese, a Towson recruit, returns after helping EF to a runner-up finish at the PIAA tournament. She was 17-5 and had 202 strikeouts as a sophomore and earned all-section honors. Senior shortstop Anna Resnick and senior catcher Bri Sersevic also were all-section picks in 2019.
2. Yough (13-6) — Returning seven players with varsity experience, Yough has high expectations for 2021. The Cougars reached the WPIAL quarterfinals with help from senior all-section outfielder Savannah Manns and senior catcher Kaylyn Odelli, a 2018 all-section selection. Junior Emma Augustine will handle the pitching. Four freshmen starters also are expected to make an impact.
3. Beaver (13-5) — The Bobcats, who won the 2014 WPIAL title, move up from Class 3A where they reached the WPIAL quarterfinals in 2019. They will be led by junior pitcher Payton List, a Virginia Tech recruit who was an all-section selection as a freshman infielder.
4. West Mifflin (13-8) — West Mifflin will be led by junior pitcher Emily Buchleitner, who was all-section in 2019, and senior shortstop Lauren Yuhas, an Ohio recruit who hit .491 in 2019. Buchleitner belted two home runs and had five RBIs in a preseason game against Seton LaSalle earlier this week. She also homered in a scrimmage against Serra Catholic. Senior infielder Allyssa Schmidt, an IUP recruit, and senior outfielder Emma Mackulin, a Shippensburg recruit, also should be impact players.
5. Belle Vernon (7-13) — Four starters return for the Leopards, including senior pitcher Sophia Godzak, an all-section selection in 2019 who hit .328 with four home runs and 19 RBIs and posted a 2.90 ERA. They also return junior shortstop Ashley Joll, who hit .350.
Players to watch
Emily Buchleitner, Jr., P, West Mifflin
Ashley DeWeese, Sr., P, Ambridge
Sophia Godzak, Sr., P, Belle Vernon
Kylie Heid, Jr., SS, Central Valley
Ashley Joll, Jr., SS, Belle Vernon
Kailey Larcinese, Sr., P, Elizabeth Forward
Payton List, Jr., INF, Beaver
Emma Mackulin, Sr., CF, West Mifflin
Savannah Manns, Sr., OF, Yough
Kaylyn Odelli, Sr., C, Yough
Anna Resnick, Sr., SS, Elizabeth Forward
Allyssa Schmidt, Sr., 2B, West Mifflin
Emily Schmidt, Sr., INF, Freeport
Bri Sersevic, Sr., C, Elizabeth Forward
Lauren Yuhas, Sr., SS, West Mifflin
• Elizabeth Forward defeated Mt. Pleasant, 3-0, to win the 2019 WPIAL Class 4A title. Mt. Pleasant has since dropped to Class 3A.
• Class 4A includes 20 teams over three sections, up from 19 in the past two-year PIAA alignment cycle. Indiana and Thomas Jefferson moved up to Class 5A. Mt. Pleasant and Quaker Valley dropped to Class 3A. Carrick is not competing in the WPIAL this season. Laurel Highlands and Montour joined from 5A. Beaver, Hopewell, Burrell and Freeport moved up from 3A.
• Ambridge will look to contend for the Section 3 title behind senior pitcher Ashley DeWeese, who was an all-section performer in 2019 after going 11-4 with a 2.43 ERA and 106 strikeouts.
• Knoch went 18-3, won the Section 3 title, finished third in the WPIAL and reached the PIAA playoffs in 2019. The Knights return shortstop Liv Vissar.
• Freeport, which went 10-4 and finished second in Section 1-3A two years ago, moves up from Class 3A with a solid group of upperclassmen. Senior infielder Emily Schmidt earned all-section honors in 2019 after hitting .440 and hitting three home runs. Junior pitcher Autumn Powell also returns after batting .417 with 18 RBIs.
• Central Valley has seven players with varsity experience, including junior shortstop Kylie Heid, who was an all-section selection in 2019. Third baseman Breannan Colville, pitcher Abigal Borello and second baseman Macy Littler also will be key contributors. Colville is the lone senior on the roster.
• Hopewell will make the move up from Class 3A with a couple returning starters from 2019 in shortstop Kylie Snouffer and second baseman Haley Cook and some promising newcomers in Jordyn Glumac and Chloe Nale.
Section 1: Burrell, Freeport, Greensburg Salem, Highlands, Knoch, McKeesport
Section 2: Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Uniontown, West Mifflin, Yough
Section 3: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Montour, New Castle
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.