Latrobe in lofty spot as Westmoreland County softball squads earn top WPIAL seeds

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Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 8:30 PM


Even though it seemed like it at first glance, there was no clerical error or mix-up on the right side of the WPIAL Class 5A softball playoff bracket when it met public eyes Thursday.

Latrobe, the No. 2 seed?

It even surprised Latrobe’s coach.

Bob Kovalcin was slightly taken aback when he heard about the Wildcats’ lofty spot in the tournament. Happy, but surprised.

“I really thought we’d be a 5 or 6,” Kovalcin said. “I had West Allegheny at 2. I guess it’s because we played Penn-Trafford so well. I am surprised, yes.”

Latrobe (9-4), which lost to Thomas Jefferson on Thursday in the Section 2 finale — a result that obviously was not taken into consideration by the WPIAL committee — overcame a key injury to senior pitcher Jordan Tallman to finish a game behind Penn-Trafford in the standings.

“P-T is the section champ,” Kovalcin said. “We didn’t split it. They’re first and we’re second.”

“Latrobe belongs there,” said Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little, whose potent Warriors (14-4) earned the No. 1 seed in 5A two years after winning a PIAA championship. “I’m not surprised at all by that. I see why (the WPIAL) did it.”

Latrobe will open against Indiana (10-7) at Valley, while Penn-Trafford plays Hampton (7-8) at Gateway. Both games are 4 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’re going to prepare the same as if we’re the No. 1 or No. 16 seed,” Little said. “We’re only worried about ourselves and how we prepare.”

Three-time defending 5A champion West Allegheny (12-3) plummeted to No. 6. The odd draw speaks to the competition in the class.

Plum (11-3) is No. 3, Shaler (11-4) is 4, and Chartiers Valley (11-7) is 5, which means Latrobe is seeded better than three first-place teams.

“You had better be ready to play,” Kovalcin said. “We’re not taking Indiana lightly, I can tell you that. You have to play your best.”

It looks like another banner year brewing for Westmoreland County softball. Two other local teams also picked up No. 1 seeds.

Big bat-toting Mt. Pleasant (14-3) is the favorite in 3A, and Ligonier Valley (16-1), pleasantly dominant in its first WPIAL season, is No. 1 in 2A.

Mt. Pleasant has a first-round bye, while Ligonier Valley will play the winner of a preliminary game between Bentworth (5-11) and California (5-13) 2 p.m. Wednesday at Gateway.

The winner faces the winner between 8-Charleroi (11-7) and 9-Neshannock (8-5).

“I think our section might have an advantage because of its depth,” Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson said. “There are so many good-hitting teams, and you can tell by all of the high-scoring games.”

Section 3 appears to be the best in the classification and the seeds are proof. Waynesburg is No. 3, South Allegheny 5 and Southmoreland 7.

Southmoreland (9-4), taxed with doubleheaders on two consecutive days this week to squeeze in games, has a tough opener at 4 p.m. Tuesday against No. 10 Keystone Oaks (10-5) at West Mifflin.

Ligonier Valley, spurred by junior pitcher Maddie Griffin’s nine no-hitters, is primed for a playoff run.

“We figured we’d be in the top two,” Rams coach Mark Zimmerman said. “We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and trust the formula.”

In a condensed, eight-team 6A bracket, Norwin (13-2) is the No. 2 seed and will face No. 7 and postseason rival North Allegheny (8-9) in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Gateway.

Hempfield (12-5), the winner of five straight WPIAL titles in the largest class, is No. 3 and opens against No. 6 Canon-McMillan (7-9) at 4 p.m. Wednesday at West Mifflin.

Norwin and Hempfield could meet for a third time, in the semifinals.

Other local first-round matchups:

5A: 11-Franklin Regional (9-6) vs. 6-West Allegheny (12-3), 2 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny.

4A: 7-Yough (10-4) vs. 10-Freeport (9-6), 3 p.m. Wednesday at Norwin; 6-Burrell (7-5) vs. 11-Belle Vernon (10-9), 2 p.m. Wednesday at Plum.

3A: 9-Derry (6-6) vs. 8-South Park (8-6), 2 p.m. Tuesday at Norwin.

A: 6-Greensburg Central Catholic (10-4) vs. 11-Ellis School (4-5), 2 p.m. Tuesday at Fox Chapel.

The other top seeds are Bethel Park (15-0) in 6A, Elizabeth Forward (15-2) in 4A, and West Greene (14-2) in A.

The WPIAL finals will be June 2-3 at Cal U’s Lilley Field.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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