2023 WPIAL Class 2A softball preseason breakdown

Friday, March 17, 2023 | 8:01 AM

Neshannock’s perfect 2022 season will be tough to match, but the Lancers have their sights set on defending their section, WPIAL and PIAA Class 2A softball titles this season.

Coach Jackie Lash likes her lineup’s speed and power as well as the Lancers’ experienced pitching.

Several teams hope to challenge, but the Lancers begin the season as the team to beat.

Here is a rundown of the 2023 preseason top 5 teams, some of the players to watch and other diamond notes in WPIAL Class 2A softball.

Preseason Top 5

1. Neshannock (26-0 last season)

With a plethora of underclassmen, Neshannock rolled to section, WPIAL and PIAA titles last season. Sophomore pitcher Addy Frye was the state’s Class 2A pitcher of the year with a 20-0 record, 0.761 ERA and 175 strikeouts. She also hit .447. Also back among the eight returning starters are three more all-state selections in first baseman Hunter Newman (Morgan State recruit), shortstop Aaralyn Nogay (Bowling Green recruit) and catcher Gabby Perod. Newman hit .648 last season. The team’s lone graduate from last season, Neleh Nogay, is playing at Fordham.

2. Laurel (19-5)

Laurel made a run to the WPIAL and PIAA semifinals last season, but section rival Neshannock proved to be a thorn in the Spartans’ side. They lost to the Lancers in all four meetings a year ago, including 1-0 in the WPIAL semis and 13-6 in the state final four. Nine starters return for Laurel, including three all-state honorees — pitcher/third baseman Grace Kissick (Malone commit), pitcher Autumn Boyd (Youngstown State commit) and pitcher/first baseman Addison Deal (St. Francis, Pa. commit). Deal hit .425 with seven homers, Boyd hit .421, and Kissick batted .411 with six homers. Senior Grace Zeppelin hit .424 with three home runs.

3. Serra Catholic (13-7)

The Eagles have high expectations after tying for second in Section 2 last season. They return nine starters, including second-team all-state infielder Caroline Malandra (.470). Senior shortstop Lida Wos hit .500 to earn all-section honors. Senior Victoria Tom belted six home runs and 34 RBIs, and junior Madison Ziggarovich had 11 wins, a 2.79 ERA and 147 strikeouts in the circle.

4. Greensburg Central Catholic (13-7)

The WPIAL’s third-place finisher in Class A last season, the Centurions hope to contend with top teams in 2A. Senior Emma Henry, a Central Connecticut State commit, had a .548 average and 26 RBIs and earned seven pitching wins. Junior outfielder Grace Kindel and senior catcher Isabella Marquez also earned all-section honors last season.

5. Charleroi (11-6)

Charleroi had five underclassmen earn all-section recognition last season — pitcher Sofia Celaschi, catcher McKenna DeUnger, infielders Leena Henderson and Riley Jones and designated player Emma Stefanick. The Cougars were second in Section 3 and reached the quarterfinals.

Players to watch

Shaye Bailey, jr., INF, Freedom

Autumn Boyd, jr., P, Laurel

Sofia Celaschi, jr., P, Charleroi

Addison Deal, jr., INF, Laurel

McKenna DeUnger, jr., C, Charleroi

Addy Frye, so., P, Neshannock

Justena Giles, sr., P, OLSH

Leena Henderson, sr., INF, Charleroi

Emma Henry, sr., P, Greensburg C.C.

Athena Iverson, sr., INF, Ellis School

Grace Kindel, jr., OF, Greensburg C.C.

Grace Kissick, sr., INF, Laurel

Camdyn Kowalczyk, jr., C, Apollo-Ridge

Riley Jones, jr., INF, Charleroi

Carman Lucas, sr., INF, Fort Cherry

Caroline Malandra, sr., INF, Serra Catholic

Isabella Marquez, sr., C, Greensburg C.C.

Abigale Measel, jr., DP, Neshannock

Peyton Mermon, so., OF, Burgettstown

Abbie Miles, sr., DP, Laurel

Gracyn Murray, sr., INF, Burgettstown

Hunter Newman, sr., INF, Neshannock

Aaralyn Nogay, sr., INF, Neshannock

Gabby Perod, jr., C, Neshannock

Danny Rosenberger, so., OF, Riverside

Katie Rose Smith, sr., OF, Burgettstown

Emma Stefanick, jr., DP, Charleroi

Juliette Vybiral, sr., OF, OLSH

Lida Wos, sr., INF, Serra Catholic

Diamond notes

Ellis School and Greensburg Central Catholic moved up to join Class 2A and will be in Section 2. Class 2A dropped from 28 teams to 20 as Carlynton, California, Carmichaels, Chartiers-Houston, Frazier and Jeannette dropped to Class A.

Teams from the defunct Section 4 moved into Section 1 with Aliquippa: Freedom, Laurel, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside and Shenango.

Former Section 1 rivals Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and OLSH slid into Section 3.

• OLSH (10-6) made a run to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs last season before being ousted by Neshannock. Senior all-section outfielder Juliette Vybiral, a Seton Hill commit, returns to lead the Chargers in the new-look Section 3.

• Junior shortstop Shaye Bailey was a first-team all-state selection for Freedom (2-11) last season. She’s recovering from an injury suffered during basketball season.

• Sophomore outfielder Danny Rosenberger, an all-section pick last season, returns to lead Riverside (9-7), which finished third in Section 4 last season.

• Seniors Gracyn Murray and Katie Rose Smith were all-section picks for Burgettstown (9-8) last season, and sophomore outfielder Peyton Mermon batted .540.

Apollo-Ridge (7-7) is going after a sixth straight playoff appearance after finishing fourth in Section 2 last season. Senior catcher Camdyn Kowalczyk was an all-section selection in 2022.

New Brighton (1-12) returns six starters, including college-bound pitcher/first baseman Jocelyn Stasiowski (Carlow) and centerfielder Haylie Kidd (Thiel).

2023 alignment

Section 1: Aliquippa, Freedom, Laurel, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside, Shenango

Section 2: Apollo-Ridge, Brentwood, Ellis School, Greensburg C.C., Serra Catholic, Steel Valley

Section 3: Bentworth, Beth-Center, Burgettstown, Charleroi, Fort Cherry, OLSH, Washington

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.

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