2023 WPIAL Class 5A softball preseason breakdown
Tuesday, March 14, 2023 | 8:01 AM
Armstrong has reached the WPIAL and PIAA softball title games two straight seasons, and could again challenge for both championships.
Here is a rundown of the 2023 preseason top 5 teams, some of the players to watch and other diamond notes in WPIAL Class 5A softball.
Preseason Top 5
1. Armstrong (23-5 last season)
The Armstrong softball team celebrated its first WPIAL championship last spring and has the makings of a team ready to defend its title. All-state honorees Jenna Clontz, Emma Paul, Emma Smerick and Jessie Pugh are back for the River Hawks, who also were PIAA runners-up. Clontz, a Gannon recruit, hit .395 with 28 RBIs, including walk-off homer in the finals. Pitcher Cameryn Sprankle and catcher Isabella Atherton also return after earning first-team all-section honors.
2. Penn-Trafford (20-4)
The WPIAL runner-up Warriors lost to Armstrong in the district finals and PIAA semifinals last season. They will miss graduate Mia Smith, a first-team all-state pitcher who was 20-4 with a 1.38 ERA and 203 strikeouts. Sophomore third baseman Cameron Ponko returns after earning second-team all-state laurels.
3. Trinity (16-3)
The Hillers won the Section 4 championship and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals. Back are four first-team all-section players — sophomore infielder Hanna Suhoski, senior outfielders Amber Morgan (Southern Illinois recruit) and Ryleigh Hoy and senior pitcher Taylor Dunn — as well as junior DH Finley Hohn.
4. North Hills (17-5)
North Hills tied Fox Chapel for the Section 3 title last season and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs. Senior third baseman Hanna Murphy was a first-team all-section selection, and senior second baseman Brenna Westwood was a second-team pick. Shortstop Alyvia Merz also returns. The Indians graduated 11 players, including three all-state honorees in Kassidy Wittig, Maria Chutko and Abby Scheller.
5. Bethel Park (9-9)
The Black Hawks graduated three all-state players in Abby Quickel, Ali Sniegocki and Sandra Soltes after reaching the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals. Pitcher Makenzie Wade returns after earning first-team all-state honors. Juniors Becky Gillenberger and Savana Knauff return after picking up all-section recognition.
Players to watch
Isabelle Atherton, sr., C, Armstrong
Sami Bewick, sr., INF, Peters Township
Ciara Camacho, so., INF, Franklin Regional
Jenna Clontz, sr., OF, Armstrong
Sydney DeGram, sr., OF, Latrobe
Taylor Dunn, sr., P, Trinity
Mackenzie Fevero, sr., INF, Kiski Area
Eloise Facher, sr., OF, Shaler
Toryn Fulton, so., OF, Franklin Regional
Ryleigh Hoy, sr., OF, Trinity
Mackenzie Keenan, jr., DH, Penn-Trafford
Amber Morgan, sr., OF, Trinity
Hanna Murphy, sr., DH, North Hills
Madison Nguyen, sr., DH, Franklin Regional
Emma Paul, jr., SS, Armstrong
Aubrey Police, so., INF, West Allegheny
Cameron Ponko, so., INF, Penn-Trafford
Ava Pries, sr., INF, Upper St. Clair
Jessie Pugh, jr., INF, Armstrong
Hannah Simpson, sr., P, Kiski Area
Emma Smerick, sr., OF, Armstrong
Cameryn Sprankle, sr., P, Armstrong
Olivia Stock, so., INF, Thomas Jefferson
Hanna Suhoski, so., INF, Trinity
Makenzie Wade, jr., P, Bethel Park
Kayla Williams, jr., P, Latrobe
• There was lots of movement between sections in Class 5A to accommodate new teams.
In addition to Bethel Park and Peters Township dropping down from Class 6A, New Castle moved up to 5A. Indiana, Woodland Hills, Albert Gallatin, Chartiers Valley and Hampton dropped out of the class and down to 4A, leaving 24 teams across four sections.
Armstrong, Kiski Area and Franklin Regional will move from Section 1 to 2. South Fayette, Moon, West Allegheny and Western Beaver will slide from Section 4 to 3. Connellsville and Thomas Jefferson will move from Section 2 to 4.
• Senior shortstop Sami Bewick, a Miami (Ohio) recruit, returns to lead Peters Township (7-10). She earned all-state honors after batting .500 last season.
• Shaler (16-4) returns just two starters but has a talented group of underclassmen, including three sophomores and four freshmen. Senior outfielder Eloise Facher (Kent State) and senior pitcher/first baseman Bethany Rodman (Muskingum) are college-bound players.
• Five starters are back for Plum (7-12), including infielder/pitcher Mackenzie Lang (.442, 6 HR, 14 RBIs), catcher Danielle Pici (.392, 4 HR, 18 RBIs) and outfielder Kendall James (.340). Lang is moving from the circle to first base.
• Sydney DeGram, a St. Bonaventure recruit and all-section pick, and pitcher Kayla Williams return to lead the way for Latrobe (10-5), which was third in Section 2 last year and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Section 2: Armstrong, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Kiski Area, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at email@example.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
More High School Softball• Trib 10: Baseball power rankings shaken up despite poor week of weather
• Leechburg softball team proud to uphold playoff streak
• Westmoreland County softball notebook: Southmoreland captures elusive section title
• Close games sharpen Greensburg Central Catholic softball for battles ahead
• Trib HSSN softball player of the week for May 1, 2023