2022 WPIAL Class 6A softball preseason breakdown

Saturday, March 19, 2022 | 10:32 PM

Last spring was a celebration as district athletes returned to the diamonds after the 2020 season was canceled because of 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 5 teams, some of the players to watch and other diamond notes in WPIAL Class 6A softball.

Preseason Top 5

1. Bethel Park (18-1 last season)

You can use several words when describing the 2021 Bethel Park softball season. Impressive, explosive or dominant all work, as does golden. The Black Hawks won their first WPIAL softball championship by beating Canon-McMillan in the finals to improve to 18-0. Their season ended in a first-round state playoff loss to Penn Manor. Bethel Park will have to replace some outstanding graduates, but the cupboard is not bare as returning starters include Pitt recruit Sandra Soltes, who had two homers and eight RBIs in the district title game.

2. Norwin (14-3)

After years of playing second fiddle to Hempfield in softball, the Knights finally sprinted past the Spartans last year, winning Section 2 by three games. However, one win away from a championship game berth, Norwin was stunned in the district semifinals by Canon-McMillan. Perhaps 2022 is the year for the Knights to win gold. They return one of the top power hitters in junior Maddie Kessler, along with senior pitcher Angelina Pepe.

3. Hempfield (12-6)

It will be strange for Hempfield to start a new softball season without the tag of defending champions in front of its name. The Spartans lost in the district quarterfinals last year, ending their five-year championship run in the league’s highest classification. Several Spartans return, including sophomore infielders Olivia Grimmer and Sarah Podkul, along with two more Olivia’s — Olivia Orischak in left field and Olivia Kline at third base.

4. Mt. Lebanon (10-8)

Things were looking up for explosive Mt. Lebanon last May. The Blue Devils had just scored 25 runs in a win over playoff-bound Baldwin to improve to 10-5 for the season. But that would be the Blue Devils’ final win as they lost their last three, including a quarterfinals loss to Pine-Richland. One of the top sophomores a year ago is back in junior catcher Deirdre Flaherty. She is joined in the Blue Devils infield by seniors Iris Barone and Elizabeth Kubancek, along with junior DP Brooke Boehmer.

5. Seneca Valley (11-7)

Seneca Valley lost its first three section games last spring and four of the first five, a hole the Raiders tried to get out of, but could not overcome as they missed the WPIAL postseason for the first time in five years. A return to the postseason is possible this year as Seneca Valley returns three second-team all-section players, including senior pitcher Isabella Roule.

Players to watch

Sandra Soltes, Sr., C, Bethel Park

Ali Sniegocki, Sr., OF, Bethel Park

Abby Quickel, Sr., OF, Bethel Park

Delaney Sierka, Sr., INF, Bethel Park

Deirdre Flaherty, Jr., C, Mt. Lebanon

Iris Barone, Sr., INF, Mt. Lebanon

Elizabeth Kubancek, Sr., INF, Mt. Lebanon

Brookelle Holby, Sr., P, Baldwin

Maleah Pacella, Sr., INF, Baldwin

Grace Schumacher, Jr., OF, Baldwin

Brooke Perri, Soph., P, Canon-McMillan

Sami Bewick, Jr., INF, Peters Township

Alaina Whipkey, Sr., INF, North Allegheny

Meghan McDonough, Jr., OF, North Allegheny

Maddie Kessler, Jr., OF, Norwin

Mallory Wenzel, Sr., INF, Norwin

Olivia Mastrilli, Sr., OF, Norwin

Gabriela Aughton, Sr., P, Pine-Richland

Madelyn Gross, Sr., INF, Seneca Valley

Angelina Chardella, Sr., OF, Seneca Valley

Isabella Roule, Sr., P, Seneca Valley

Olivia Kline, Sr., INF, Hempfield

Ellie Nichols, Sr., INF, Hempfield

Olivia Grimmer, Soph., DH, Hempfield

6A Diamond notes

• In the last 15 years, there have only been four one-and-done champions in Class AAAA or 6A that could not repeat the year after they won. They were Hempfield in 2009, Mt. Lebanon in 2010, Latrobe in 2001 and Shaler in 2014. Bethel Park hopes it won’t be the fifth team on that list since 2007.

• Now that it is over, Hempfield’s five-year championship run from 2015-19 is tied for the longest title run in district softball history. Sto-Rox won five straight Class A crowns between 2000-04 and West Greene is on a five-year Class A championship streak that started in 2016 and continued last spring.

• Speaking of Hempfield, legendary Spartans coach Bob Kalp retired following the 2021 season. Kalp coached Hempfield for 25 years with a 229-42 record. During his tenure, the Spartans won 16 section titles, seven WPIAL championships and four PIAA crowns. The Spartans will turn to former player and assistant coach Tina Madison to take over as head coach.

• How big is pitching in the postseason? In the 2021 WPIAL 6A playoffs, there were a total of seven games played. The winning teams outscored their opponents 48-9, with only one losing team scoring more than two runs. The average final score in the 6A playoffs last year was 6.8 to 1.2.

• Of the two 6A representatives from the WPIAL in the 2021 PIAA softball playoffs, undefeated champion Bethel Park lost in the first round while Cinderella Canon-McMillan reached the state semifinals before losing to North Penn. In the last 10 years, teams from District 7 have won four PIAA titles in the highest classification. Hempfield won three straight from 2016-18 and Canon-McMillan won state gold in 2013.

• Northern teams have hit a drought when it comes to striking softball gold in the highest classification. From 1999 through 2006, WPIAL teams north of the City of Pittsburgh won six of the eight championships. However, only once in the last 16 years has a northern team won in Class AAAA and now 6A, which was in 2014 when Shaler claimed the district Quad-A title.

2022 Alignment

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

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

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