2023 WPIAL Class 3A softball preseason breakdown
Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 8:01 AM
Avonworth’s softball team enters the 2023 season with a lot of targets on its proverbial back.
The Lopes won section, WPIAL and PIAA championships last season, rolling to an 8-1 win over Deer Lakes in the district final and beating Lewisburg, 7-2, for the state title.
They certainly will be challenged this season, notably against loaded Section 1 competition.
Here is a rundown of the 2023 preseason top 5 teams, some of the players to watch and other diamond notes in WPIAL Class 3A softball.
Preseason Top 5
1. Avonworth (21-5 last season)
The Antelopes won WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A titles with a young lineup last season and many of the stars are back and ready to shine. Sophomore outfielder Leah Kuban hit .459 with eight homers and 26 RBIs to earn first-team all-state honors. Also back is first-team all-state junior catcher Rylee Gray and first-team all-state junior pitcher Alivia Lantzy, who had an ERA under 2.00. All-state third baseman Meghan Fissore graduated.
2. Burrell (14-3)
The Bucs reached the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals and PIAA playoffs last season after winning the Section 1 title. They were led by all-state pitcher Katie Armstrong, who returns for her senior season after going 14-3 with a 0.18 ERA and 0.58 WHIP with 257 strikeouts. The Gannon recruit shut out District 10 champion Villa Maria Academy, 6-0, for Burrell’s first PIAA victory since 2011. Sophomore catcher Bella Stewart was an all-section selection, and sophomore infielder Piper Ferres also returns after batting .321.
3. Yough (13-4)
Yough, a WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinalist last season, has eight starters back, including senior outfielder McKenzie Pritts (.475) and senior all-section shortstop Kaylin Ritenour. Sophomore Adoria Waldier (.386, 4 HR) has flashed power. Sydney Bergman is slated to replace graduated pitcher Emma Augustine.
4. Deer Lakes (14-6)
The Section 1 champion Lancers finished as WPIAL silver medalists last season and won a PIAA playoff game. Junior pitcher Maddie Kee returns after earning second-team all-state honors. She was 14-3 with a 1.88 ERA and 141 strikeouts and also hit .371 with 24 RBIs. Senior infielder Anna Bokulich also earned all-section honors. Deer Lakes will need to replace the production of all-state outfielder Reese Hasley.
5. Southmoreland (14-5)
The Scotties were Section 3 runners-up and went on to reach the PIAA playoffs last season. Senior Brynn Charnesky (Waynesburg commit) returns after earning all-state honors at second base. Pitcher Maddie Brown is also back, along with all-section shortstop Amarah McCutcheon (.339, 4 HR), all-section outfielder Riley Puckey and all-section catcher Makayla Etling. All-state third baseman Tyson Martin graduated.
Players to watch
Katie Armstrong, sr., P, Burrell
Anna Bokulich, sr., INF, Deer Lakes
Brynn Charnesky, sr., INF, Southmoreland
Abby DeJidas, jr., INF, Freeport
Izzy DePalma, sr., C, Derry
Sarah Dettling, sr., OF, Derry
Sophia Doherty, so., INF, Derry
Morgan Dunkel, sr., P, Valley
Makayla Etling, so., C, Southmoreland
Sydnee Foust, so., C, Ligonier Valley
Aliya Garroway, sr., C, Ellwood City
Rylee Gray, jr., C, Avonworth
Alivia Hare, so., OF, Mohawk
Maddie Kee, jr., P, Deer Lakes
Leah Kuban, jr., OF, Avonworth
Paige Kuisis, sr., OF, Seton LaSalle
Alivia Lantzy, jr., P, Avonworth
Cali Legzdin, jr., OF, Beaver Falls
Macy Littler, sr., OF, Central Valley
Amarah McCutcheon, jr., INF, Southmoreland
Kylie Mettrick, so., OF, South Park
Cheyenne Piper, jr., INF, Ligonier Valley
Riley Puckey, so., OF, Southmoreland
Kaylin Ritenour, jr., INF, Yough
Sydney Savatt, so., INF, Avonworth
Sydney Selker, jr., P, Freeport
Sophia Smithnosky, sr., P, Mt. Pleasant
Bella Stewart, so., C, Burrell
Leah Taliani, sr., INF, Valley
Ruby Wallace, sr., OF, Ligonier Valley
Aricka Young, jr., INF, Mohawk
• Burrell, Freeport, Central Valley, Hopewell and Yough dropped to Class 3A. Also new to 3A are Mohawk, Ligonier Valley and Seton LaSalle, which moved up a class. Class 3A will have 24 teams, up from 18, and will have four sections instead of three.
• Youngstown State recruit Macy Littler, a senior outfielder, returns to lead Central Valley (8-8), which finished third in Section 3-4A last season. Waynesburg commit Kaitlyn Sullivan also returns in the outfield and is among seven returning starters.
• Aliya Garroway, an all-section catcher and three-year starter, is among five returning starters for Ellwood City (11-4), which reached the quarterfinals last season under 18th-year coach Gary Rozanski.
• Freeport (10-7) reached the quarterfinals in Class 4A last season. Abby DeJidas was a second-team all-state shortstop. Junior pitcher Sydney Selker is a St. Francis (Pa.) recruit. All-state catcher Natalie King graduated.
• Senior pitcher Morgan Dunkel struck out 90 batters and also hit .413 with four homers and 27 RBIs for Valley (7-7), which reached the playoffs for the second straight season after a seven-year hiatus. Dunkel and senior infielder Leah Taliani earned all-section honors.
• Seton LaSalle (13-5) reached the WPIAL quarterfinals in Class 2A in 2022. Senior outfielder Paige Kuisis (.417) returns after earning all-section laurels. Also back are Hannah Alonso (.470) and several talented sophomores and freshmen.
• South Allegheny (13-5) won Section 3 last season but returns just three starters — shortstop Ava Martorelli, catcher Morgan Mosqueda and centerfielder Lily Dranko.
• McGuffey (4-8) returns nearly its entire starting lineup, including Julia Barr, who hit .500 last season, and pitcher Makenna Crothers.
• Ligonier Valley (14-4) won Section 2-2A last season but will miss graduated pitcher Maddie Griffin (Youngstown State). Junior Cheyenne Piper threw a perfect game last year when Griffin was injured.
• Hopewell (4-10) has eight starters back, including sophomore outfielder/pitcher Kara Barkovich and juniors Chloe Nale and Mya Parish.
Section 1: Avonworth, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Shady Side Academy, Valley
Section 3: Derry, Ligonier Valley, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny, Southmoreland, Yough
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
Tags: Avonworth, Beaver Falls, Burrell, Central Valley, Deer Lakes, Derry Area, Ellwood City, Freeport, Hopewell, Ligonier Valley, Mohawk, Mt. Pleasant, Seton La Salle, South Allegheny, South Park, Southmoreland, Valley, Yough
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