2021 WPIAL Class A softball preseason breakdown
Monday, March 29, 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 A in 2021:
Preseason Top 5
1. West Greene (21-5 in 2019) — The Pioneers have dominated Class A since 2016. The four-time defending WPIAL champions reached the PIAA semifinals in 2019. They have won two state titles in their span of success. Senior outfielder Jersey Wise (.368, 21 RBIs) returns after earning all-section and second-team all-state recognition. Junior Kiley Meek, an all-section honoree in 2019, will move to the pitching circle this season. Junior second baseman Katie Lampe also returns, and sophomore London Whipkey should be an impact player.
2. Leechburg (17-3) — The Blue Devils rolled to the Section 3-A title at 12-0 in 2019. Senior pitcher Emma Ritchie was 17-3, with a 2.54 ERA and 125 strikeouts and also makes an impact at the plate (.429, 29 RBIs). Senior all-section shortstop McKenna Pierce (.468, 3 HR, 23 RBIs) also returns. Leechburg has qualified for the playoffs 33 straight seasons, a WPIAL record.
3. Union (12-7) — Union won the Section 1 title in 2019 and went on to finish second in the WPIAL and reach the PIAA playoffs. Senior infielders Skylar Fisher and Gianna Trott and senior pitcher Halaena Blakley return after being named all-section in 2019. All three players had four hits, as Union knocked off New Brighton, 21-4, on Saturday.
4. Springdale (13-4) — The Dynamos were the Section 3 runners-up to Leechburg in 2019 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals. It was their first postseason berth since 2000. They will be led this year by junior pitcher Alexis Hrivnak (12-3, 131 strikeouts), who hit .523 with four home runs; junior all-section catcher/shortstop Brianna Thompson (.498); junior infielder Emily Wilhelm (.423); and senior first baseman Natalie Woitas (.443).
5. Monessen (6-10) — Seven starters return for the Greyhounds, under the guidance of second-year coach Mia Emiliani. Waynesburg recruit Hannah Yorty, who hit .414 as a freshman and .585 as a sophomore, returns for her senior season. Senior catcher Loni Scott and sophomore outfielder Tatyana VanHooser also should be impact players.
Players to watch
Halaena Blakley, Sr., P, Union
Alysha Cutri, Jr., P, Bishop Canevin
Jasmine Demaske, Jr., SS/P, Jefferson-Morgan
Skylar Fisher, Sr., INF, Union
Alexis Hrivnak, Jr., P, Springdale
McKenna Pierce, Sr., SS, Leechburg
Emma Ritchie, Sr., P, Leechburg
Brianna Thompson, Jr., C, Springdale
Gianna Trott, Sr., INF, Union
Jersey Wise, Sr., OF, West Greene
Hannah Yorty, Sr., P, Monessen
• West Greene defeated Union, 11-0, to win the 2019 WPIAL Class A title. Leechburg advanced to the PIAA playoffs as the third-place finisher.
• There are 18 teams across three sections in Class A, down from 19 teams in the last two-year PIAA alignment cycle. South Side, Riverview and Northgate dropped down from Class 2A. Jeannette and California moved up to Class 2A. Geibel opted out for the 2021 season. Quigley Catholic was aligned to be in Section 1-A but closed last summer.
• Mapletown, which finished 12-6 in 2019, returns six starters, including infielders Madi Blaker, Taylor Dusenberry and Macee Cree. Cree and Blaker also will pitch.
• Greensburg Central Catholic was 9-8 in 2019 and will feature a young lineup with just two seniors. Sophomore Emma Henry will pitch, and GCC will rely on Jaden Cox’s bat.
Section 1: Bishop Canevin, Cornell, Rochester, Sewickley Academy, South Side, Union
Section 2: Avella, Greensburg Central Catholic, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene
Section 3: Ellis School, Leechburg, Northgate, Riverview, St. Joseph, Springdale
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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