Breaking down the 2019 WPIAL softball playoffs
By: Bill Hartlep
Thursday, May 9, 2019 | 8:03 PM
Here’s a breakdown of the 2019 WPIAL softball playoffs:
Favorite: The top seed in a unique eight-team bracket, North Allegheny opened the season with nine straight victories and finished in a three-way tie for the Section 2 title with Norwin and Hempfield. Norwin and NA swept Hempfield, and North Allegheny swept Norwin. The Tigers lean on seniors Rachel Martindale (.524, 4 HR, 18 RBIs) and Kristen Chomos (.426, 2 HR, 18 RBIs) as part of a potent lineup. Pitcher Ashley Adams has been steady with a 2.426 ERA and 69 strikeouts.
Contenders: Hempfield has won the past four WPIAL championships and three straight PIAA titles. Though the Spartans had a few hiccups during the regular season, they won six of their last seven games. Senior Laura Fox and junior Ashley Orischak, a St. Francis (Pa.) commit, were all-state selections last season, and sophomore catcher Emma Hoffner is a Division I prospect. The Knights are led by Victoria Shimko, Alexandra Brentzel and Alexandra Dillner, who have helped the team average seven runs. Baldwin, Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan shared the Section 1 title. The Big Macs finished the season on a seven-game winning streak, including wins over Bethel Park and Baldwin. The Highlanders reached the semifinals a year ago and advanced to the PIAA tournament. They are led by senior pitcher Addie Tagg (1.68 ERA, 72 strikeouts), who has 16 shutouts the past three seasons.
Don’t overlook: Upper St. Clair qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 20 years and won six straight at the end of the season.
Prediction: Canon-McMillan over North Allegheny
Favorite: Penn-Trafford slugged its way past its first 16 opponents before dropping a 2-1 nonsection decision to Elizabeth Forward on Tuesday. The Warriors average 7.5 runs with a powerful lineup featuring Emma Armstrong (.417, 7 HR), Morgan Nedley (.386), Emma Little (.377) and Brooke Cleland (.473). The Warriors have never won a WPIAL softball title.
Contenders: Plum and Hampton split the Section 2 championship and were awarded the No. 2 and 3 seeds. The Mustangs had won nine straight, outscoring opponents 108-19 in that stretch, before a loss to Hempfield on Wednesday. Hampton’s lone losses were to Plum and Moon. Led by hurler Mia Burd, No. 4 seed Connellsville tied for second in Section 1 with Franklin Regional. Defending WPIAL champion West Allegheny tied South Fayette for second in Section 3. The Indians are led by all-state catcher Britney Wilson and pitcher Angela Costa. Trinity captured the Section 3 title thanks to a eight-game winning streak toward the end of the regular season.
Don’t overlook: Latrobe reached the WPIAL Class 6A title game the past two seasons but is seeking consistency after losing pitchers throughout the season. The Wildcats started 8-0, but Kiley Myers left the team, and Jordan Tallman suffered an injury. They have lost five of their past seven games.
Prediction: Penn-Trafford over Hampton
Favorite: A PIAA semifinalist a year ago and state champions in 2017, Mt. Pleasant has maintained its momentum this season, rolling to an undefeated mark in the regular season behind the pitching of Carolyn Alincic (1.00 ERA, 147 strikeouts), a Morehead State commit who has played on WPIAL and PIAA title teams. Mt. Pleasant also features the hitting of sophomore Mary Smithnosky (.554), freshman Katie Hutter (.429), junior Autumn Shogun (.390) and Louisiana-Lafayette recruit Haylie Brunson (.356). The Vikings have outscored opponents 86-19.
Contenders: Elizabeth Foward was a WPIAL finalist a year ago and found success in Section 2, finishing first with a 12-0 record. Led by pitcher Kailey Larcinese and several clutch hitters, the Warriors have won 13 straight since a 4-0 loss to Mt. Pleasant. Knoch went 10-0 in winning Section 3 and was rarely challenged, playing just two games decided by two runs or less. Pitcher Amanda Fischer and the Knights posted seven shutouts. Thomas Jefferson, a WPIAL finalist in Class 5A a year ago, finished second in Section 2-4A. Led by catcher Haleigh Karcher, the Jaguars won their past four games and eight of their last nine.
Don’t overlook: Yough was a WPIAL semifinalist last season and posted some impressive victories behind pitcher Kierra Waywood this season. The Cougars’ lone losses were to Mt. Pleasant twice and to Class 6A Norwin and Parkland and Class 5A Latrobe.
Prediction: Mt. Pleasant over Elizabeth Forward
Favorite: Avonworth reached the PIAA tournament last season and has kept up its winning ways, claiming the Section 2 title with a 9-1 mark. The Lopes’ lone losses were to Ellwood City and West Mifflin. They started the season with six wins at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach. They brought back eight starters, including pitcher Maya Kozup.
Contenders: South Allegheny captured the Section 3 championship with a 10-2 record. The Gladiators are led by Mikala Swearingen (.600), Madison Taylor (.538), Olivia Stetz (.500, 26 RBIs), Kennedy Pikula (.483, 23 RBIs), Christina Pasinski (.481) and Aliyah Rotharmel (.456). Burrell won the Section 1 title and showed a flair for the dramatic in doing so, with three late multirun comebacks. Senior catcher Lea Coffman, a Gannon recruit, has 10 homers. Beaver reached the Class 4A quarterfinals last season. The Bobcats were second in Section 2-3A this year. Freeport made it to the semifinals last season and boasts a hot-hitting team, led by senior Ally DeJidas, a Mercyhurst recruit (.579, five homers, 16 RBIs) and junior Tori Radvan (.641, six homers, 26 RBIs). South Park, a WPIAL finalist last season, finished second in Section 3. The Eagles are led by Penn State recruit Kaitlyn Morrison, as well as senior pitcher Jess Dean. Defending champion Southmoreland returned eight starters and has been one of the top home run-hitting teams in the WPIAL. The Scotties have 25 homers this season. Top players include Lexi Klatt, a senior catcher who is headed to Alderson-Broaddus. Senior second baseman Faith Miller is a Robert Morris recruit, while junior outfielder Charity Henderson committed to Cal (Pa.).
Don’t overlook: Deer Lakes struggled early but found its form late to finish third in Section 1. The Lancers are young, but the program has postseason pedigree, appearing in five WPIAL championship games from 2012-17.
Prediction: South Allegheny over Avonworth
Favorite: Chartiers-Houston returned eight starters this season, and they performed up to expectations by winning the Section 3 title at 11-1. Winners of five straight, the Bucs are led by Kaci Alderson (.522, 27 RBIs), Bella Hess (.500), Ella Brookman (.492), Karlyn Bayer (.449) and Lauren Lober (.404, 25 RBIs, 5 HR).
Contenders: Laurel and Neshannock shared the Section 4 title, though the second-seeded Lancers swept the season series, giving Laurel its two losses. Laurel won the WPIAL championship a year ago, edging Frazier, 1-0. Vincentian Academy won the Section 2 title at 12-0 and suffered its only nonsection loss to Highlands. Led by pitcher Elizabeth Arnold, the Royals outscored opponents 129-28. Frazier was second in Section 3 but won five straight games late in the season before a narrow loss to Yough on Wednesday. Seton LaSalle, which won Section 1, is riding a 10-game winning streak. The Rebels are led by pitcher Casey Barton.
Don’t overlook: Mohawk was a WPIAL semifinalist and PIAA finalist last season. The Warriors finished 9-5 in Section 4 despite losing five starters to graduation.
Prediction: Chartiers-Houston over Neshannock
Favorite: West Greene has won back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA titles in Class A and again has a lineup to repeat. With eight starters back, the Pioneers rolled to the Section 2 title at 10-0 and posted nonsection wins over Serra Catholic, Carmichaels and Chartiers-Houston, among others. They are led by McKenna Lampe (.587, 23 RBIs), Kaitlyn Rizor (.530, 25 RBIs), Madison Lampe (.516, 29 RBIs) and Jade Renner (.483, 26 RBIs). Renner is 15-4 this season and 52-9 in her career. She has 98 strikeouts and 291 in her career.
Contenders: Leechburg is making its WPIAL-record 33rd consecutive playoff appearance. The Blue Devils, who made the semifinals the last two seasons, rolled to their third straight Section 3-A championship, mercy-ruling all but one opponent in section play. Union captured the Section 1 title with a 10-0 record and won nine of its last 10 games. The Scotties, who reached the PIAA tournament last season, rebounded from a 1-4 start, outscoring opponents 155-20 the rest of the way. Sewickley Academy was the runner-up in Section 1. The Panthers are led by junior pitcher Alexis Barlock, junior infielder Alyssa Winters and senior outfielder Theresa Wilson. They have outscored teams 134-76. Freshman pitcher Alexis Hrivnak helped Springdale to a breakthrough season; the Dynamos are appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Two of their three losses came against Leechburg in section play.
Don’t overlook: Greensburg Central Catholic is led by two converted pitchers in sophomore Jaden Cox and senior Bella Skatell. The Centurions won three of their final four games while outscoring their opponents 44-9.
Prediction: West Greene over Leechburg
Bill Hartlep is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .
Tags: Avonworth, Baldwin, Beaver, Bethel Park, Burrell, Canon-McMillan, Chartiers-Houston, Connellsville, Deer Lakes, Frazier, Freeport, Greensburg C.C., Hampton, Hempfield, Knoch, Latrobe, Laurel, Leechburg, Mohawk, Mt. Pleasant, Neshannock, North Allegheny, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Plum, Sewickley Academy, South Allegheny, South Park, Southmoreland, Springdale, Thomas Jefferson, Union, Upper St. Clair, Vincentian Academy, West Allegheny, West Greene, Yough