Breaking down the 2018 WPIAL softball playoffs
Thursday, May 10, 2018 | 11:00 PM
Here's a breakdown of the 2018 WPIAL softball playoffs.
Favorite: Two-time defending PIAA champion Hempfield showed some kinks in its armor this season after winning 46 straight games and 41 straight section contests. The three-time reigning WPIAL champs lost to Penn-Trafford and McDowell in nonsection games and to section rival Latrobe. But, the Spartans still won Section 2, led by senior pitcher Maddie Uschock, a Dominican recruit, and junior Laura Fox.
Contenders: Latrobe earned the No. 3 seed but remains a title contender after knocking off Hempfield. Losses to Norwin and Penn-Trafford late in the season, however, likely hurt the Wildcats' seeding. Junior pitcher Kiley Myers allowed just two hits and struck out 15 in the win over Hempfield. Karley Kovatch, Sarah Blair, Rebecca Tatone and Makayla Munchinski all were all-section selections in 2017, when Latrobe finished second in the WPIAL. Baldwin claimed the Section 1 title, led by Pitt-Johnstown recruit Carly Santillo and George Mason recruit Taylor Dadig. North Allegheny rallied to the Section 3 title despite missing all-state shortstop Rachel Martindale, who is injured.
Don't overlook: Norwin finished third in Section 2 and suffered late-season losses to Connellsville and Elizabeth Forward. The Knights are led by pitcher Natalie Krzywiec.
Prediction: Latrobe over Hempfield
Favorite: West Allegheny apparently liked the feeling of winning its first WPIAL softball title last season. The Indians started strong and haven't relented. They opened 5-1 at the Ripken Experience and then blitzed WPIAL competition, outscoring teams 129-24 en route to a 12-0 mark in Section 3. Senior pitcher Ashley Seamon was an all-state selection a year ago after leading West Allegheny to the PIAA semifinals.
Contenders: Pitt recruit Annalia Paoli leads the way for Albert Gallatin, which won the Section 2 title with a 10-2 record. The sophomore slugger is batting .510 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. Junior Maddie Flowers is hitting .520, and senior Ally Bezjak is batting .451 with 28 RBIs. Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional shared the Section 1 title with 12-2 records and split their season series. The Warriors feature a powerful lineup that helped knock off Class 6A's Hempfield and Latrobe, a pair of title contenders. Emma Nedley (.481) and Morgan Nedley (.455) lead the way, and each have three home runs. The Panthers rely on the pitching of junior Angalee Beall.
Don't overlook: Moon finished as the WPIAL runner-up a year ago and returned plenty of talent, including senior all-section catcher Morgan Toal, who went 6 for 6 in a win over Montour earlier this season.
Prediction: West Allegheny over Penn-Trafford
Favorite: Mt. Pleasant returned as the PIAA champion and lived up to its season-long No. 1 ranking. The Vikings, who have won 20 straight games, went 10-0 to win Section 1 and outscored opponents 146-10. Talent abounds for the Vikings, including a slew of college recruits in senior Meadow Uncapher (Seton Hill), senior Chloe Poulich (Towson), freshman Courtney Poulich (Liberty) and freshman Haylie Brunson (Louisiana-Lafayette).
Contenders: Yough was the WPIAL runner-up to Belle Vernon a year ago, but the Cougars avenged that loss with two Section 2 wins over the Leopards this season to claim the section title. The Cougars feature Pitt recruit Hannah Bach, along with senior infielders Aubrie Mance and Kayley Westerman. Penn State recruit Bailey Parshall leads Belle Vernon into the playoffs. The senior pitcher has 219 strikeouts. She also is batting .479 with three home runs. Beaver claimed the Section 3 title and won eight straight to finish the regular season.
Don't overlook: Elizabeth Forward finished third in Section 2, but its lone losses were two Yough twice and Belle Vernon once.
Prediction: Mt. Pleasant over Yough
Favorite: South Park picked up where it left off after winning the 2017 PIAA championship. The Eagles went 10-0 in winning Section 3 and lost once during the regular season — a 17-16 shootout at Class 6A North Allegheny. Pitt recruit Katlyn Pavlick is batting .644 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. Penn State recruit Kaitlyn Morrison is hitting .633 with nine homers and 31 RBIs.
Contenders: Freeport used an unbeaten regular season to lock up the No. 2 seed. They are led by junior Allison DeJidas (.622, 5 HR, 22 RBIs) and senior Ashleigh Schmidt (.512, 10 RBIs), who has a 9-0 record and 1.25 ERA. Section 2 champion Avonworth started 3-2 at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, but found success during the regular season led by pitcher Maya Kozup. After winning four straight games, Southmoreland tied for second in Section 3. Three-time all-section selection Bethany Bunner leads the Scotties. Led by senior Morgan Farrah (.722, 5 HR, 25 RBIs), Steel Valley won five of its final six.
Don't overlook: Section 1 runner-up Burrell finished strong with wins over Plum and Apollo-Ridge.
Prediction: South Park over Freeport
Favorite: Frazier captured the program's first WPIAL title a year ago and again rolled through Section 3 opponents, finishing 10-0. Kara Mastowski and Emi Curcio combined for a no-hitter over California on Thursday. Logan Hartman has 116 strikeouts as the team's primary pitcher. Kathryn Barch is hitting .431 with three home runs and 19 RBIs.
Contenders: Section 1 champion Seton LaSalle features two of the classification's top players in senior shortstop Lexi Wagner, an Oregon recruit, and senior pitcher Jada Simon, who struck out 14 batters in a win over Central Valley on Wednesday. A PIAA qualifier a year ago, Chartiers-Houston finished second in Section 3 and won its final five games. The Bucs average nearly 11 runs with a lineup led by sophomore Kaci Alderson, who has eight home runs, and junior Ella Brookman, who has five. Mohawk claimed the Section 2 title with an 11-1 record, but split its season series with rival Laurel. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic went undefeated in claiming the Section 2 title.
Don't overlook: Section 1 runner-up Serra Catholic reached the quarterfinals a year ago. The Eagles are led by senior pitcher Rebekah Pais, who has 131 strikeouts, as well as Nina Grandey (.592, 28 steals).
Prediction: Seton LaSalle over Frazier
Favorite: West Greene had a few hiccups during the regular season, but the Pioneers have a team built to contend for a third straight WPIAL title. They again are led at the plate by junior twin sisters McKenna (.549, 5 HR, 17 RBIs) and Madison Lampe (.483, 5 HR, 31 RBIs), as well as Madison Renner (.549, 5 HR, 31 RBIs) and Jade Renner (.526, 2 HR, 26 RBI). Three losses came against title contenders — Class 4A Belle Vernon, Class 2A Chartiers-Houston and Section 2 rival Monessen. West Greene outscored opponents 200-40.
Contenders: Monessen shared the Section 2 title with West Greene and rose to No. 1 in the Tribune-Review rankings. The Greyhounds are led by Robert Morris recruit Dana Vatakis (.554, 23 RBIs), a senior pitcher who is 13-2 with a 1.10 ERA and 179 strikeouts. Junior infielder Mattie Telegraphis (.491, 7 HRs, 26 RBIs) also leads the offensive attack. Union captured the Section 1 title with a 12-0 mark and suffered its only loss to Poland, Ohio. The Scotties outscored opponents 233-35. Led by senior pitcher Morgan Pierce, Section 3 champion Leechburg qualified for the playoffs for the 32nd straight season.
Don't overlook: Sewickley Academy finished second in Section 1 and won six of its final eight, with two losses to Union the lone blemishes.
Prediction: West Greene over Monessen