2022 WPIAL Class 4A softball preseason breakdown

Monday, March 21, 2022 | 10:45 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, and Laurel and West Greene remained on top in Class 2A and A.

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

Here is a rundown of what’s to come in the 2022 season:

Preseason top 5

1. Beaver (21-0 last season)

While most district teams stepped carefully back into the softball waters last spring, Beaver made quite the splash upon its return. The Bobcats won a WPIAL title for the first time since 2014 and a PIAA championship for the first time in school history. At the top of the success list for Beaver was Payton List, a Virginia Tech recruit who earned Trib HSSN Player of the Year honors after batting .409 with 5 home runs and 23 RBIs. In the circle, List was 16-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 233 strikeouts. List is one of five starters back for the defending district and state champs.

2. Highlands (18-6)

If it wasn’t for Beaver, Highlands would have lived up to the nickname of the Golden Rams in 2021. Highlands finished as co-champs with Knoch in Section 1-4A and reached the WPIAL championship game and the PIAA semifinals only to lose to the Bobcats both times. The Golden Rams return three first-team all-section players in junior infielder Abbie Deiseroth, senior outfielder Maera Williams and senior pitcher Jaycee Haidze.

3. Montour (12-6)

With a young team a year ago, Montour finished in second place behind Beaver in Section 3-4A and enjoyed a five game midseason winning streak. The Spartans had momentum heading into the postseason with nine wins in their last 11 games and a bye in the first round as the No. 4 seed. However, it was one-and-done in the playoffs after Montour lost to Highlands, 10-2, in the district quarterfinals. That young team may pave the way for special things this season with eight returning starters including senior shortstop Angelina LeMarca and junior center fielder Mia Arndt as first-team all-section players from 2021.

4. Yough (11-6)

Yough fielded one of the youngest teams in the district last year with five freshman, a sophomore and a junior. Youth and inexperience didn’t prevent the Cougars from finishing 11-6 and reaching the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals, where their season ended with a loss to Beaver. Leading the seven starters returning for the green and orange is first team all-section senior pitcher Emma Augustine, who finished 12-6 with a 1.72 ERA and 140 strikeouts.

5. West Mifflin (16-6)

Led by Lauren Yuhas (Ohio University), West Mifflin had a heavyweight lineup that led to them scoring double-digit ruins in 10 of their 16 wins. While some of that pop returns, the Titans may rely more on pitching for success this year. West Mifflin has two pitchers back in junior Addison Hilligsberg, who also can play first base and outfield, and senior pitcher and shortstop Emily Buchleitner. Senior Abby Farmer and junior Aurora Rosso will help lead the Titans offense.

Players to watch

• Natalie King, Sr., C, Freeport

• Jess Cekada, Sr., INF, Highlands

• Abbie Deiseroth, Jr., INF, Highlands

• Maera Williams, Sr., OF, Highlands

• Jaycee Haidze, Sr., P, Highlands

• Lindsay Edwards, Jr., OF, Knoch

• Taylor Davis, Sr., OF, Knoch

• Katie Armstrong, Jr., P, Burrell

• Sequoia Dunlap, Jr., C, Uniontown

• Shelby Telegdy, Soph., INF, Elizabeth Forward

• Maren Metikosh, Jr., OF, Belle Vernon

• Emma Augustine, Sr., P, Yough

• Addison Hilligsberg, Jr., P, West Mifflin

• Jonalyn Wharry, Sr., C, New Castle

• Macy Littler, Jr., INF, Central Valley

• Kylie Heid, Sr., OF, Central Valley

• Angelina LeMarca, Sr., INF, Montour

• Mia Arndt, Jr., OF, Montour

• Kayla Cornell, Jr., INF, Beaver

• Payton List, Sr., P, Beaver

Class 4A notes

• Beaver will try to do what has become commonplace in WPIAL 4A softball: repeat. Three of the last five Class 4A champions were able to win back-to-back crowns with Belle Vernon in 2017 and 2018, Hempfield in 2015 and 2016 (the Spartans won three straight 6A titles after expansion) and Canon-McMillan in 2012 and 2013. Only Shaler in 2014 and Elizabeth Forward in 2019 did not follow up with more gold, although in fairness to the Warriors, they would have had a good shot if not for the 2020 season being cancelled.

• The new Class 4A softball season will begin with Beaver owning the longest current winning streak at 21 in a row, but a couple of programs that qualified for the 2019 playoffs and fell on hard times last spring open the season trying to flush away losing skids. Ambridge has dropped 10 straight, and Ringgold ended the 2021 season losing nine in a row.

• While some programs struggled in missing the 2020 season, others took the time to improve themselves. Blackhawk and Uniontown finished 2019 with a combined record of 1-25. Last year, the Cougars and Red Raiders were a combined 14-17. Then there was even-Steven McKeesport. The Tigers finished 2019 with a record of 2-11, the same record they ended up with in 2021.

• It speak volumes for the Yough youth softball association that Art “Dutch” Harvey keeps ending up with fabulous freshmen on his varsity squad. Last year, the Cougars started five ninth-graders in Madi Horvat, Makayla Spoonhoward, Maria Lindich, Kaylin Ritenour and Katie Proctor. This spring, Yough could be starting two more freshmen in power-hitting third baseman and shortstop Adoria Waldier along with left fielder and reserve pitcher Sidney Bergman.

• The Beaver championship last year ended a long title run for schools in Westmoreland and Southern Allegheny County over the last ten years. The teams, mostly from what is now Section 2-4A, were Greensburg Salem, Thomas Jefferson, Belle Vernon, Mt. Pleasant and Elizabeth Forward. The BVA Leopards claimed three Class 3Aor 4A championships in that time.

• Some softball championship anniversaries being celebrated by Class 4A teams this spring: Belle Vernon won the first 4A title after the expansion to six classifications five years ago. 15 years ago, again Belle Vernon was lifting gold after winning the 2007 Class 3A crown. 20 years ago, Center won the first of its two softball championships when the Trojans claimed the 2002 Class 2A title. Center is now part of the Central Valley school district. Finally, 35 years ago, the first of three WPIAL titles was captured by Montour, the 1987 Class 3A champs.

2022 Alignment

Section 1: Burrell, Freeport, Greensburg Salem, Highlands, Knoch, McKeesport

Section 2: Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Uniontown, West Mifflin, Yough

Section 3: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Montour, New Castle

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