2022 WPIAL Class A softball preseason breakdown

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Thursday, March 24, 2022 | 9:13 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 A softball.

Preseason top 5

1. West Greene (21-3 last season)

Not even a pandemic could slow down the WPIAL softball golden machine that is West Greene. Even though they it had won four straight district A championships and was favored to win it all again in the 2020 season that was canceled because of the covid-19 outbreak, the Pioneers had some questions entering the 2021 season. However, new faces produced the same results, a section title and another WPIAL crown. They are favored again with the return of a strong battery in junior catcher London Whipkey and senior pitcher Kiley Meek.

2. South Side (12-5)

In 2017, South Side cornered the market on silver after losing in both the WPIAL and PIAA 2A championship games. After a couple of quiet seasons, the Rams hit the reset button for the 2021 campaign. South Side finished as co-champion in Section 1-A and reached the district final four before falling to eventual champion West Greene. Look for the Rams to not head south in 2022 with the return of senior outfielders Laney Lewis and Grace Woodling and senior pitcher Madi Fisher.

3. Greensburg Central Catholic (11-5)

Greensburg Central Catholic finished in second place, three games behind West Greene in Section 2-A after being outscored 13-3 in the two games against the district champs. The Centurions rolled past the Ellis School in the first round of the playoffs but saw their season end with a quarterfinals loss to Union, 6-5. GCC brings back a pair of first-team all-section players in junior pitcher Emma Henry and sophomore outfielder Grace Kindel.

4. Leechburg (13-6)

By finishing tied for first place with Springdale in Section 3-A, Leechburg continued “the streak.” The Blue Devils have qualified for the WPIAL softball playoffs for a record 34 years in a row. Leechburg will have to fill the void of six graduated starters, but it does return senior Gabriella Vozar, a first-team all-section catcher from last season. Other starters back include senior third basemen Tatum Verner, junior center fielder Karli Mazak and junior pitcher Anna Cibik.

5. Springdale (11-4)

A-K Valley rivals Springdale and Leechburg finished tied for the top spot in Section 3-A last year and earned the No. 5 seed in the WPIAL postseason. The Dynamos blanked Rochester in the first round before falling to South Side, 3-2, in the quarterfinals. Springdale returns plenty in an effort to make a deeper run with senior catcher Autumn Sprouse, senior infielder Emily Wilhelm, senior outfielder Brianna Thompson and senior pitcher Alexis Hrivnak.

Players to watch

• Josie Bochicchio, Jr., C, Bishop Canevin

• Bella DeMark, Sr., INF, Bishop Canevin

• Alysha Cutri, Sr., P, Bishop Canevin

• Laney Lewis, Sr., OF, South Side

• Grace Woodling, Sr., OF, South Side

• Madi Fisher, Sr., P, South Side

• Emily Siddall, Sr., OF, Union

• London Whipkey, Jr., C, West Greene

• Katie Lampe, Sr., INF, West Greene

• Olivia Kiger, Sr., OF, West Greene

• Kiley Meek, Sr., P, West Greene

• Jasmine Demaske, Sr., OF, Jefferson-Morgan

• Taylor Dusenberry, Sr., INF, Mapletown

• Macee Cree, Sr., INF, Mapletown

• Grace Kindel, Soph., OF, Greensburg Central Catholic

• Emma Henry, Jr., P, Greensburg Central Catholic

• Autumn Sprouse, Sr., C, Springdale

• Emily Wilhelm, Sr., INF, Springdale

• Brianna Thompson, Sr., OF, Springdale

• Alexis Hrivnak, Sr., P, Springdale

• Gabriella Vozar, Sr., C, Leechburg

• Athena Iverson, Jr., INF, Ellis School

• Stella Swanson, Sr., OF, St. Joseph

Notes

• West Greene is out to make WPIAL history this spring. The Pioneers have won five straight Class A crowns, tying them with Sto-Rox and Hempfield for most consecutive softball titles. West Greene is preseason No. 1, and if it can finish the district playoffs on top, it will set the record.

• While some programs struggled in missing the 2020 season, others took the time to improve themselves in 2021. South Side, Union, West Greene and the Ellis School all improved themselves by at least two wins. Both Riverview and Sewickley Academy won eight games in 2019; however, the Raiders and Panthers were two of six district teams that did not win a game in 2021.

• Watch out for last year’s district runner-up. Union returns five starters from a 12-9 team that beat perennial powers Greensburg Central Catholic and Leechburg to reach the WPIAL finals. The Scotties have Emily Siddall, Raquel Zarlingo, Mallory Gorcacz, Allie Ross and Ella Casalandra back but must find a replacement for pitcher Halaena Blakley and leading hitter Skylar Fisher.

• Another team to watch is Bishop Canevin. The Crusaders finished in third place in Section 1-A in 2021, with an overall record of .500 and were even-steven again in the postseason when they split their two games, beating Jefferson-Morgan and losing to West Greene. BC returns three first team all-section players in junior catcher Josie Bochicchio, senior infielder Bella DeMark and senior pitcher Alysha Cutri.

• Some softball championship anniversaries being celebrated by Class A teams this spring: The last time a team not named West Greene won the WPIAL Class A championship was in 2015 when fellow Greene County foe Jefferson-Morgan claimed gold. Twenty-three years ago, Bishop Canevin won the 1999 2A crown. The Crusaders also won it all in 1990. Thirty years ago, Leechburg won the second of its back-to-back district championships. The Blue Devils won three titles in five years, taking home gold in 1991, ’92 and ’95.

2022 alignment

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

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