2022 WPIAL Class 2A softball preseason breakdown

Wednesday, March 23, 2022 | 6:10 PM

Last spring was a celebration as district athletes returned to the diamonds after the 2020 season was canceled because of the covid-19 shutdowns.

Softball was a success throughout as the WPIAL crowned four new champions while Laurel and West Greene remained on top in 2A and A.

District softball squads also did well in the state playoffs, as WPIAL teams captured two PIAA championships and three runner-up trophies.

Here is a rundown of the 2022 preseason top-five teams, players to watch and other notes in WPIAL Class 2A softball.

Preseason Top 5

1. Laurel (18-2 last season)

Laurel captured the WPIAL Class 2A championship for the third straight season last year with a 6-5 win over Shenango. The Spartans then advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals before falling to Union City, which snapped a 17-game winning streak for the Section 4 champs. Sophomore outfielder Addie Deal returns after earning first-team all-state honors. Also back are sophomore pitcher Autumn Boyd, who struck out 13 in the WPIAL finals and 19 in the WPIAL semifinals, and junior infielder Grace Kissick. Both players were named second-team all-state.

2. Ligonier Valley (22-3)

The Rams had quite the debut season in the WPIAL. They won the Section 2 title and earned the top seed for the district playoffs, finished third in the WPIAL and reached the PIAA final, losing to Line Mountain, 1-0, in nine innings. They have to replace six starters but return senior first-team all-state pitcher Maddie Griffin. The Youngstown State recruit went 19-3 with 11 no-hitters and finished with 316 strikeouts.

3. Frazier (16-6)

Frazier, which won the 2017 district title, was the WPIAL fourth-place finisher last season. The Commodores won the Section 3 title and should again be a team to beat. Junior catcher Jensyn Hartman returns after earning first-team all-state honors. Junior outfielder Maria Felsher and sophomore pitcher Nicole Palmer were all-section picks.

4. Shenango (16-6)

The only WPIAL team to beat Laurel last season, Shenango also reached the PIAA playoffs but fell to Chestnut Ridge in the first round. They will miss pitcher Mia Edwards, who has moved on to Colgate. Shenango will be led by junior all-section infielder Ashley DeCarbo.

5. Chartiers-Houston (13-6)

Seven starters return for Section 1 runner-up Chartiers-Houston, which reached the quarterfinals last season. The group will be led by senior outfielder Bella Hess, who earned first-team all-state honors. Also back are senior pitcher Nicolette Kloes and senior infielder Paige McAvoy, who were all-section selections.

Players to watch

• Aubry Krivak, Sr., INF, Burgettstown

• Tanner Kephart, Jr., INF, Carlynton

• Bella Hess, Sr., OF, Chartiers-Houston

• Nicolette Kloes, Sr., P, Chartiers-Houston

• Paige McAvoy, Sr., INF, Chartiers-Houston

• Justena Giles, Jr., P, OLSH

• Delaney Walsh, Sr., OF, OLSH

• Brooke Farrah, Jr., C, Steel Valley

• Bailey Zidek, Sr., INF, Apollo-Ridge

• Caroline Malandra, Jr., INF, Serra Catholic

• Maddie Griffin, Sr., P, Ligonier Valley

• Katie Conway, Jr., OF, Brentwood

• Casey Barton, Sr., P, Seton LaSalle

• Maria Felsher, Jr., OF, Frazier

• Jensyn Hartman, Jr., C, Frazier

• Nicole Palmer, So., P, Frazier

• McKenna DeUnger, So., C, Charleroi

• Riley Jones, So., OF, Charleroi

• Sophia Zalar, Jr., OF, Carmichaels

• Aaralyn Nogay, Jr., INF, Neshannock

• Neleh Nogay, Sr., OF, Neshannock

• Gabby Period, So., C, Neshannock

• Ashley DeCarbo, Jr., INF, Shenango

• Autumn Boyd, So., P, Laurel

• Addie Deal, So., OF, Laurel

• Grace Kissick, Jr., INF, Laurel

Class 2A notes

• OLSH (14-3) won the Section 1 title last season and should again be a contender after reaching the quarterfinals in 2021. Senior outfielder Delaney Walsh and junior pitcher Justena Giles were all-section selections last season. Burgettstown (11-8) also should contend in Section 1 after finishing 9-3 a year ago.

• Junior all-state outfielder Sophia Zalar (.373, 22 steals) returns to lead Carmichaels (11-8), which has six starters back and a talented freshman class.

Serra Catholic (9-5) has seven starters returning, including junior all-section third baseman Caroline Malandra (.511) and first baseman Tori Tom (.512, 5 HR).

• Eric Kowalczyk has taken over coaching duties at Apollo-Ridge, which finished 7-5 last season. Senior infielder Bailey Zidek returns after being named all-section last year.

• Neshannock outfielder Nelah Nogay (Fordham recruit) was a second-team all-state selection after hitting .408 with 15 stolen bases last season and is among eight returning starters for the Lancers, who will start short-handed as the girls basketball team is playing in the PIAA finals this weekend.

• Six starters return for Riverside, which was 8-6 last season and reached the postseason. Sydney Hale is a first baseman/outfielder and also one of the WPIAL’s top throwers in track and field.

2022 alignment

Section 1: Aliquippa, Burgettstown, Carlynton, Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry, OLSH, Sto-Rox

Section 2: Apollo-Ridge, Brentwood, Jeannette, Ligonier Valley, Serra Catholic, Seton LaSalle, Steel Valley

Section 3: Bentworth, Beth-Center, California, Carmichaels, Charleroi, Frazier, Washington

Section 4: Freedom, Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside, Shenango

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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