2022 WPIAL Class 3A softball preseason breakdown
Tuesday, March 22, 2022 | 4:47 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 3A softball.
Preseason top 5
1. Mt. Pleasant (21-3 last season)
The Vikings won WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A titles last season and have another talented group ready to defend their crown. Senior outfielder Katie Hutter (Akron), senior pitcher/first baseman Abby Swank (West Liberty) and juniors Krista Brunson and Sophia Smithnosky are among the returning starters. Mt. Pleasant will have to replace several key players who went on to play in college, including Hannah Gnibus (Pitt-Johnstown), Courtney Poulich (Liberty), Lexis Shawley (Gannon), Haylie Brunson (Pitt), Lexi Puskar (military) and Mary Smithnosky (Western Michigan).
2. Ellwood City (14-6)
The Wolverines reached the WPIAL championship a year ago as the No. 11 seed and return the bulk of their roster, including sophomore pitcher Julia Nardone and veteran hitters Angie Nardone, Kyla Servick and Aliya Garroway. Ellwood City will miss graduate Maria Ioanilli, who hit .500 with six home runs.
3. Avonworth (14-7)
Avonworth edged Ellwood City and Keystone Oaks for the Section 2 title last season and went on to beat Southmoreland in the WPIAL third-place consolation game to earn a spot in the PIAA tournament. The Lopes return eight starters, including three all-section players: senior infielder Meghan Fissore, sophomore designated hitter Leah Kuban and sophomore pitcher Alivia Lantzy. Fissore and catcher Rylee Gray were all-state picks.
4. Southmoreland (11-6)
The Scotties started 7-0 last season but finished just 4-4 in section play. They then went on a run to the WPIAL semifinals. Sophomore infielder Amarah McCutcheon, a first-team all-state selection, returns to lead Southmoreland.
5. Deer Lakes (11-4)
The Lancers return three all-section players in senior pitcher Jenna Bisegna, senior outfielder Reese Hasley and junior infielder Shayne Cerra. Senior outfielder Lydia Guthrie also will be back after a wrist injury sidelined her for most of her junior season.
Players to watch
• Izzy DePalma, Jr., C, Derry
• Jenna Bisegna, Sr., P, Deer Lakes
• Shayne Cerra, Jr., INF, Deer Lakes
• Reese Hasley, Sr., OF, Deer Lakes
• Leah Taliani, Jr., INF, Valley
• Liliana Koller, So., OF, North Catholic
• Abbie Sutton, Sr., INF, North Catholic
• Aliya Garroway, Jr., INF, Ellwood City
• Angie Nardone, Sr., INF, Ellwood City
• Meghan Fissore, Sr., 3B, Avonworth
• Leah Kuban, So., DH, Avonworth
• Alivia Lantzy, So., P, Avonworth
• Lanie Schultz, Jr., OF, South Park
• Julia Piatt, Sr., P, Keystone Oaks
• Madison Pikula, Sr., INF, South Allegheny
• Amarah McCutcheon, So., INF, Southmoreland
• Katie Hutter, Sr., OF, Mt. Pleasant
• Klover Perkins, Jr., OF, McGuffey
• Hannah Wood, Jr., DP, Waynesburg
Class 3A notes
• History is not on Mt. Pleasant’s side in a quest to repeat as WPIAL Class 3A champion. There have been four different district champions since the move to six classes: Ellwood City (2017), Southmoreland (2018), Avonworth (2019) and Mt. Pleasant (2021). The Vikings also won the 2016 title in Class AAA. There was no champion in 2020 because of covid.
• North Catholic (11-5) captured the Section 1 title, edging Deer Lakes by one game, but the Trojans were bounced in the first round by Southmoreland. Senior infielder Abbie Sutton (Chowan recruit) and sophomore outfielder Liliana Koller were all-section players last season.
• Derry will be led by junior catcher Izzy DePalma, a Pitt-Johnstown recruit who hit .564 with four home runs and 17 RBIs last season. Senior infielder Abby Doperak batted .485.
• Senior infielder Madison Pikula, an IUP recruit, returns after earning all-state honors at shortstop to lead South Allegheny, which made a run to the WPIAL quarterfinals last season and finished 12-6.
• This is the 50th anniversary of the first WPIAL softball title awarded in Class 3A when Franklin was crowned a champion in 1972.
Section 1: Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, North Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Valley
Section 2: Avonworth, Beaver Falls, Ellwood City, Keystone Oaks, Quaker Valley, South Park
Section 3: Brownsville, McGuffey, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny, Southmoreland, Waynesburg
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at email@example.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
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