2021 WPIAL Class 6A softball preseason breakdown

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021 | 8:01 AM


After a year away from the diamond, softball players from across Western Pennsylvania are itching to get back on 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 the WPIAL’s largest classification in 2021:

Class 6A

Preseason Top 5

1. Hempfield (18-7 in 2019) — Hempfield has won five straight WPIAL titles and reached the PIAA semifinals in 2019. Three players return from that team, including senior catcher Emma Hoffner, an Ohio recruit who hit over .500 as a sophomore; senior outfielder Kelsi Terzolino (Pitt-Johnstown); and senior pitcher Callie Sowers (Bloomsburg), who will miss the start of the season with an injury. Sowers had a 2.29 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 2019.

2. Bethel Park (13-4) — Bethel Park, which shared the Section 1 title with Baldwin and Canon-McMillan in 2019, will look to senior infielder Reagan Milliken, an Ohio State recruit; senior outfielder Lauren Caye, a Seton Hall recruit; senior pitcher Delaney Nagy, a UConn recruit; and senior outfielder Gianna Sciullo, who is committed to Georgetown. Milliken and Sciullo were first-team all-section selections as sophomores. Junior outfielder Ali Sniegocki also returns after earning second-team all-section honors. Junior catcher Sandra Soltes, a Pitt recruit, was an honorable mention selection.

3. Canon-McMillan (12-5) — The Big Macs, who won back-to-back WPIAL titles in 2012-13 and a state championship in 2013, again have a strong lineup. They will be led by senior infielder Olivia Ulam, a St. Francis recruit, and senior outfielder Elli Kotar. Both were first-team all-section selections as sophomores. Junior pitcher Brooke Perri also returns after earning second-team all-section honors in 2019 when the team averaged 11 runs per game. Just two players graduated in 2020 (Lindsay Schmidt, Sydney Senay), though both hit near .500 and will be missed.

4. Seneca Valley (15-6) — The Raiders, who were WPIAL semifinalists in 2019, have five starters back from that team. The group includes a pair of all-section honorable mention selections — senior shortstop Mackenzie Baker and junior pitcher/first baseman Maddie Gross. Senior catcher Jocelyn McNany will help anchor the lineup.

5. North Allegheny (15-8) — The 2019 WPIAL runner-up Tigers will feature senior pitcher/outfielder Lauren Haywood (Williams), who is batting .298 over two seasons, and senior outfielder Kendall Trunzo (John Carroll). The young team has just five seniors.

Players to watch

Gabbie Aughton, Jr., P, Pine-Richland

Mackenzie Baker, Sr., SS, Seneca Valley

Lauren Caye, Sr., OF, Bethel Park

Maddie Gross, Jr., P/1B, Seneca Valley

Emma Hoffner, Sr., C, Hempfield

Elli Kotar, Sr., OF, Canon-McMillan

Sydney Lokay, Sr., P, Norwin

Reagan Miliken, Sr., INF, Bethel Park

Delaney Nagy, Sr., P, Bethel Park

Makenna Negley, Sr., C, Butler

Maleah Pacella, Jr., INF, Baldwin

Gianna Sciullo, Sr., OF, Bethel Park

Sandra Soltes, Jr., C, Bethel Park

Callie Sowers, Sr., P, Hempfield

Olivia Ulam, Sr., INF, Canon-McMillan

Notable

• Class 6A is a little smaller this season, thanks to PIAA realignment. Allderdice, Brashear, Fox Chapel, North Hills and Upper St. Clair dropped down to Class 5A, leaving 11 teams spread over two sections.

• Baldwin returns four players with varsity experience, including junior shortstop Maleah Pacella, who hit .483 and was an all-section pick as a freshman.

• Norwin will miss graduates Carly Cook, Leah Yoder and Victoria Shimko, who all went on to play college softball. But the Knights return senior pitcher Sydney Lokay and junior pitcher Angelina Pepe. Lokay was an all-section pick in 2019.

• Junior outfielder Amber Wilkes returns to Peters Township after earning second-team all-section honors in 2019, when the Indians finished 9-10.

• Pine-Richland junior pitcher Gabbie Aughton is a Boston College commit. The Rams return a few starters from 2019 and also have 10 freshmen who could contribute.

Alignment

Section 1: Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township

Section 2: Butler, Hempfield, North Allegheny, Norwin, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley

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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