2024 WPIAL Class 6A softball preseason breakdown

Sunday, March 10, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Hempfield climbed back to the top of the pack in WPIAL Class 6A softball last season. The Spartans had won five straight championships in the highest classification from 2015-19 and added their eighth district crown last spring.

They return a loaded lineup and Division I pitcher for another run at the top spot, but several contenders exist, including runner-up Seneca Valley and Norwin. Both teams possess plenty of talent and experience.

Here is a look at the 2024 preseason top 5 teams, some players to watch and other diamond notes in WPIAL Class 6A softball.

Preseason Top 5

1. Hempfield (21-4 last season)

Hempfield won its eighth WPIAL title last season and finished as the PIAA runner-up after falling to North Penn, 1-0, in the state championship game. Led by the classification coach of the year, Tina Madison, the Spartans feature seven returning starters who earned postseason all-section honors. Junior pitcher Riley Miller, a first-team all-section pick, is a Kent State recruit, senior Maggie Howard is headed to Georgetown, senior Peyton Heisler is committed to Penn, and junior shortstop Allie Cervola is an Ohio commit. Sophomore third baseman Lauren Howard also was a first-team all-section honoree. Miller, who was 19-4 with a 1.25 ERA and 175 strikeouts while hitting .340 with 14 RBIs, and Howard, who hit .443 with 14 RBIs, were all-state selections.

2. Seneca Valley (17-2)

The WPIAL runner-up Raiders won the 2022 Class 6A title and were PIAA runners-up that year. They return the 2023 Trib HSSN Player of the Year, junior pitcher Lexie Hames, who was 17-2 with a 0.45 ERA and 0.48 WHIP in 122 innings. The Clemson commit had 269 strikeouts while limiting teams to a .066 batting average. She also hit .343 with five homers and 14 RBIs. Junior third baseman Bella Gross also returns after earning all-state honors. Senior outfielder Kara Pasquale is a Slippery Rock commit.

3. Norwin (15-6)

The Knights advanced to the WPIAL semifinals last season where they fell to Hempfield, 8-5. Back is senior shortstop Bailey Snowberger, a Holy Cross commit who batted .519 with five homers and 39 runs scored. Senior third baseman Josey Michalski joined Snowberger as a first-team all-section selection and all-state honoree.

4. Pine-Richland (7-15)

The Rams reached the WPIAL semifinals last season before falling to Seneca Valley, 7-2. Senior outfielder Jocelyn Langer, a Millersville recruit, returns after earning first-team all-section and all-state recognition, while junior catcher Calle Henne, a Pitt recruit, was also picked to the all-state team after hitting .530. Senior infielder Isabella Sulesky, who is headed to Susquehanna, also earned postseason honors.

5. North Allegheny (14-7)

The Tigers finished fourth in Section 1 last season and fell in the first round to Pine-Richland. Senior designated player Anne Melle, a Keiser commit, returns after earning first-team all-section honors. The Tigers will miss graduates Reagan Sheets and Meghan McDonough, an all-state outfielder. Junior pitcher Sammy Plotsko and Gannon commit Carlyn Vaupel also return.

Players to watch

Morgan Doyle, sr., OF, Canon-McMillan

Olivia Ford, sr., INF, Canon-McMillan

Bella Gross, jr., INF, Seneca Valley

Lexie Hames, jr., P, Seneca Valley

Calle Henne, jr., C, Pine-Richland

Lauren Howard, so., INF, Hempfield

Maggie Howard, sr., OF, Hempfield

Jocelyn Langer, sr., OF, Pine-Richland

Anne Melle, sr., DP, North Allegheny

Josey Michalski, sr., INF, Norwin

Riley Miller, jr., P, Hempfield

Neve Miller, so., DP, Seneca Valley

Kara Pasquale, sr., OF, Seneca Valley

Sammy Plotsko, jr., P, North Allegheny

Bailey Snowberger, sr., INF, Norwin

Isabella Sulesky, sr., INF, Pine-Richland

Diamond notes

• This will be the second year Class 6A will have only one section containing nine teams. The top six finishers advance to the WPIAL playoffs.

• Canon-McMillan (7-12) returns a pair of all-section performers in seniors Morgan Doyle and Olivia Ford. The Big Macs reached the WPIAL playoffs last year after finishing in a tie for fifth in section play at 6-10.

Mt. Lebanon (7-13) finished tied for fifth in Section 1 at 6-10 last season. The Blue Devils return six players with starting experience for first-year coach Paige Flore. Outfielder Hanna Boomhower and first baseman Ella Donahue were honorable mention all-section last season. Pitcher Gabrielle Boone and infielder Rebecca Davis are returning after missing time with injuries last season.

• Hempfield is tied for third in WPIAL history with eight softball championships, trailing Baldwin and Sto-Rox, with 10 each, and tied with Chartiers-Houston.

Baldwin (3-17) returns a pair of juniors who earned all-section honorable mention honors — infielder Gabriella Jaquay and outfielder Kaylee Smolko.

Butler (2-16) will look to rebound behind senior pitcher Kelsy Ogin, junior infielder Gracie Negley and junior catcher Lily Vicari.

2024 alignment

Section 1: Baldwin, Butler, Canon-McMillan, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Norwin, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley

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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