A-K Valley high school softball playoff preview capsules for May 14, 2024

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Monday, May 13, 2024 | 3:54 PM


WPIAL softball playoffs

Class 3A

First round

14-Deer Lakes (9-10) vs. 3-South Park (16-1)

3 p.m. Tuesday at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: 6-Central Valley (11-2)/11-Mt. Pleasant (11-8) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Players to watch: Maddie Kee, Deer Lakes; Sydney Sekely, South Park

Extra bases: South Park capped the regular season with an 11-0 win over Ringgold last Wednesday. The Eagles went undefeated at 10-0 to claim the Section 4 title. They only allowed two runs and scored 52 in section play. South Park’s lone loss came by one run to Class A No. 3 Chartiers-Houston on March 25. Sekely, a sophomore, is batting over .450 to lead the South Park offense while enjoying a strong season in the pitching circle. South Park hopes to make a run after falling in the first round as the No. 12 seed last year. … Deer Lakes hopes its 13th straight season in the WPIAL playoffs is not unlucky. The Lancers finished tied with Freeport for third place in Section 1 behind Avonworth and Burrell. They handed Avonworth its only section loss, 5-2, on April 10. Maddie Kee, a senior, is at the heart of the Deer Lakes batting lineup and in the pitching circle. She threw a five-inning no-hitter in a win over Highlands early in the season. The Lancers, as the No. 9 seed last year, fell to No. 8 Central Valley in the first round. Deer Lakes won WPIAL titles in 2012 and 2015 and made it to the WPIAL championship game in 2022 before falling to Avonworth.

10-Ellwood City (14-4) vs. 7-Burrell (10-8)

4 p.m. Tuesday at Mars

Winner plays: Winner of 2-Ligonier Valley (13-5)/15-Keystone Oaks (8-9) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Players to watch: Bella Stewart, Burrell; Amber McQuiston, Ellwood City

Extra bases: Burrell is in the WPIAL playoffs for the 18th straight season, and it hopes to make a postseason run that includes a third straight trip to the PIAA tournament. The Bucs got ready for the playoffs with games last week against Class 4A West Mifflin and Class 5A Plum. Freshman Shelby Novak has handled the majority of duties in the pitching circle. Juniors Pyper Ferres, Stewart, and Brae Jones provide pop at the top of the lineup. The Bucs played No. 1 Avonworth tough in both section meetings. … Ellwood City finished third in Section 2 behind champion Mohawk and runner-up Central Valley. The Wolverines defeated Central Valley, 6-4, on April 15. Ellwood City also was the No. 10 seed for last year’s WPIAL playoffs and fell to No. 7 Yough, 11-5, in the first round. Nine starters returned from last year’s squad. Coach Gary Rozanski owns more than 200 wins in 19 seasons at Ellwood City. McQuiston, a sophomore, is 14-4 with a 2.18 ERA and owns 141 strikeouts against 27 walks in 109 1/3 innings of work.

12-Freeport (10-6) vs. 5-Southmoreland (14-2)

2 p.m. Tuesday at Gateway

Winner plays: Winner of 4-Mohawk (14-5)/13-Waynesburg Central (7-11) on Thursday in quarterfinals (site/time TBD)

Players to watch: Sydney Selker, Freeport; Amarah McCutcheon, Southmoreland

Extra bases: Freeport is back in the WPIAL playoffs after a one-year hiatus. The Yellowjackets had made the postseason the previous 12 seasons. Freeport finished tied for third in Section 1 with Deer Lakes. It won five of seven to conclude the regular season, including a 5-2 victory over No. 7 Burrell. Selker, an Akron commit, leads the way in the pitching circle, whereas senior shortstop Abby DeJidas gets it going at the top of the lineup. … Southmoreland is three runs separated from an undefeated regular season. The Scotties finished second in Section 3 with a pair of losses to champion Ligonier Valley, 2-1 and 1-0. They have won five in a row since those setbacks. Southmoreland won a WPIAL title in 2018 and came close last year, falling to Avonworth in the title game. McCutcheon, a senior shortstop, is a Cal (Pa.) commit. Junior Makayla Etling also is a strong hitter in the Scotties lineup.

Class 2A

First round

9-Riverside (6-9) vs. 8-Apollo-Ridge (8-5)

5 p.m. Tuesday at Fox Chapel

Winner plays: 1-Neshannock (19-0) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Players to watch: Mia Willams, Riverside; Camdyn Kowalczyk, Apollo-Ridge

Extra bases: Apollo-Ridge plays in a WPIAL tournament for the seventh year in a row. The Vikings averaged 11.5 runs over 13 regular-season games. Of 149 total runs, 133 came in Section 2 play as they finished runner-up to Serra Catholic at 7-3. Apollo-Ridge closed out the regular season with six wins in seven games. The lone loss was to Serra, 8-4. Jocelyn Snyder, a sophomore, has paced the team in the pitching circle, and veterans Kowalczyk, a senior shortstop, and junior third baseman Madison Butler front the hitting lineup. … Junior outfielder Danielle Rosenberger is a player to watch in the Riverside offense. Williams, a shortstop, is a Fairmont State commit. The Panthers finished fourth in Section 1 at 6-6 behind Neshannock, runner-up Laurel and third-place Shenango. Riverside played Shenango to a pair of 3-1 losses. Last year, the Panthers made it to the quarterfinals as the No. 7 seed before suffering a close 3-2 loss to No. 2 Laurel. Riverside is tied with North Hills for third on the all-time WPIAL-title list with six championships.

Class A

12-Leechburg (8-9) vs. 5-West Greene (11-6)

1 p.m. Tuesday at Peterswood Park #2

Winner plays: 4-Frazier (13-0) on Thursday in quarterfinals (time, site TBD)

Players to watch: Payton Gilbert, West Greene; Madison Weitzel, Leechburg

Extra bases: Leechburg is in the WPIAL playoffs for a WPIAL-record 37th season in a row. The Blue Devils clinched a spot in the Class A tournament with a doubleheader sweep of Bishop Canevin late in the Section 3 schedule. The Blue Devils hope to get back on the winning track after consecutive losses to Section 3 winner Frazier and Class 2A playoff qualifiers Apollo-Ridge and Greensburg Central Catholic to close the regular season. Leechburg, last year as the No. 7 seed, made the WPIAL quarterfinals before falling to No. 2 Carmichaels. Weitzel, a junior, is an all-section infielder. Sophomore Addie Zanotto is a key performer in the pitching circle, and junior Ava Ferretti batted nearly .450 in the regular season. … West Greene won four games in a row before a loss to Class 2A No. 2 Bentworth to close the regular season. The Pioneers won consecutive WPIAL Class A titles from 2016 to 2021 and was a favorite in the covid-canceled 2020 season. West Greene placed third in Section 2 to No. 2 Carmichaels and No. 3 Chartiers-Houston. The Pioneers, fronted by Gilbert, a junior pitcher, held Carmichaels to two runs in a 2-0 loss April 29. Gilbert also leads the team in batting (.527) and RBIs (26).

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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