2021 WPIAL Class 5A softball preseason breakdown

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Thursday, March 25, 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.

Check out a WPIAL Class 6A preview here.

Here is a look at the new district alignment, along with the softball teams and players to watch in WPIAL Class 5A in 2021:

Class 5A

Preseason Top 5

1. Penn-Trafford (23-2 in 2019) — The defending PIAA champion Warriors are one of the few teams with lots of varsity experience returning. Penn-Trafford welcomes back four all-section players from 2019, including senior center fielder Brooke Cleland, a Seton Hill recruit who was an all-state pick after hitting .470 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs. Catcher Emma Little, a Bloomsburg recruit who hit .380 with five homers and 24 RBIs; third baseman Allie Prady, a Fairmont State commit; and pitcher Mia Smith (1.55 ERA) also earned all-section honors.

2. West Allegheny (13-8) — West Allegheny won three straight WPIAL Class 5A titles before covid-19 shut down the 2020 season. The Indians again have some talented players who could keep the streak going. Senior pitcher Angela Costa and senior first baseman Megan Pollinger return after helping the 2019 team to victory. Costa was a second-team all-section selection. The Indians, however, only have two other seniors — Kaley Joseph and Emma Sorensen.

3. Trinity (14-5) — Toledo recruit Emma Morgan, an all-section third baseman, and senior all-section pitcher Kylie Poland are among the returning starters for Trinity, which went 14-5 and shared the Section 3 title with West Allegheny in 2019. Senior infielder Bayleigh McCullough is a Niagara recruit. The Hillers scored 10 or more runs 13 times before falling in the quarterfinals.

4. Hampton (16-4) — The Talbots shared the Section 2-5A title with Plum and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals in 2019. Junior catcher Bella Henzler, who was second-team all-section in 2019 after hitting over .400, is a James Madison recruit. Senior shortstop Hannah Bradfield and senior left fielder Arianna Erka also return. Sophomore Addie Maguire will be a key bat in the lineup. Freshman Charlotte Lomb will handle the pitching.

5. Connellsville (16-8) — The Falcons made a run to the WPIAL Class 5A title game in 2019 and return four starters from that squad. Senior shortstop Abby King, a four-year letter-winner, was a second-team all-section selection. Senior Jena Hixson, junior Maddie Kinneer and junior Mallory Orndorff also return.

Players to watch

McKenzie Egley, Jr., 3B, Armstrong

Brooke Cleland, Sr., CF, Penn-Trafford

Angela Costa, Sr., P, West Allegheny

Jillian Durst, Sr., OF, Plum

Abby King, Sr., SS, Connellsville

Bella Henzler, Jr., C, Hampton

Ryleah Hlatky, Jr., SS, Albert Gallatin

Emma Kennedy, Sr, C, Slippery Rock

Emma Little, Sr., C, Penn-Trafford

Liv Logan, Jr., 3B, Moon

Bayleigh McCullough, Sr, INF, Trinity

Emma Morgan, Sr., 3B, Trinity

Neena Pietropaolo, Sr., OF, Fox Chapel

Allie Prady, Sr., 3B, Penn-Trafford

Mia Smith, Jr., P, Penn-Trafford

Jordan Tallman, Jr., P, Latrobe

Mel Taylor, Sr., INF, North Hills

Notable

• West Allegheny defeated Connellsville, 3-2, to win the WPIAL Class 5A title in 2019. Penn-Trafford, which won the third-place consolation game against Franklin Regional, went on to claim the PIAA title by defeating Lampeter-Strasburg, 5-3.

• Class 5A features 26 teams over four sections. The last two-year cycle had 23 teams spread over three sections. Allderdice, Fox Chapel, North Hills and Upper St. Clair dropped down from Class 6A. Indiana and Thomas Jefferson moved up from Class 4A. Laurel Highlands and Montour dropped down to 4A.

• Thomas Jefferson finished 15-5 and was a WPIAL semifinalist in Class 4A in 2019. The Jaguars return four starters — seniors Claire Whalen, Paige Truax and Lily Rockwell and junior Graci Fairman — and have a number of young players ready to contribute.

• Latrobe will lean on senior pitcher Jordan Tallman, a Georgetown recruit, and senior infielder Jordan Novak. Both were second-team all-section in 2019. Outfielder Sydney DeGram, who transferred in last year, could also be a key bat at the top of the lineup.

• Shaler returns two starters — catcher/outfielder Cam Murphy and infielder/outfielder Megan Povich — from a team that finished 11-8 in 2019.

• Junior shortstop Rylea Hlatky was an all-county performer as a freshman for Albert Gallatin, which graduated four players now competing at the college level.

• Fox Chapel returns senior center fielder Neena Pietropaolo, who was all-section as a sophomore. The Foxes also feature junior pitcher Mackenzie Borkovich, who was honorable mention all-section in 2019.

• Moon returns six starters from a team that finished 8-9 in 2019, including juniors Liv Logan (.419, 2 HR, 17 RBIs) and Fran Latino (.316).

• Franklin Regional, a WPIAL semifinalist in 2019, will rely on senior pitcher Makinzie DeRiggi, who has returned from a leg injury, as well as senior outfielders Kamaria Kelly and Sara Cowell.

• Plum, which shared the Section 2 title in 2019 and went 15-4, returns Carlow recruit Jillian Durst.

Alignment

Section 1: Armstrong, Franklin Regional, Indiana, Kiski Area, Penn Hills, Plum, Woodland Hills

Section 2: Albert Gallatin, Connellsville, Gateway, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford, Thomas Jefferson

Section 3: Fox Chapel, Hampton, Mars, North Hills, Oakland Catholic, Shaler

Section 4: Chartiers Valley, Moon, South Fayette, Trinity, Upper St. Clair, West Allegheny, Western Beaver

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@triblive.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

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