Penn-Trafford, Mt. Pleasant set to begin softball playoffs as favorites

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Thursday, May 9, 2019 | 8:12 PM


Perhaps as clear-cut as No. 1 seeds come, Penn-Trafford and Mt. Pleasant didn’t give the WPIAL softball steering committee much to think about in Class 5A and 4A.

Playoff pairings came out Thursday, and both were slotted comfortably into the top-left corner of the brackets, earmarking them as the teams to beat in each classification.

Both have first-round byes and won’t play until May 20.

Penn-Trafford (17-1) is No. 1 in 5A and will chase after its first WPIAL title in the sport. Its first loss came Tuesday against Elizabeth Forward, but the WPIAL did not dock the hot-hitting Warriors, who won Section 1 with a perfect 14-0 mark and looked the part against a tough nonsection schedule, defeating three of the top five teams in 6A.

“I tell my team, only worry about the things you can control,” Warriors coach Denny Little said. “Brackets are out of our control. Continue to focus on your job regardless of your opponent.”

Penn-Trafford has made the playoffs seven straight times but has back-to-back losses in the first round.

Mt. Pleasant (15-0), the lone unbeaten team in the playoffs, is the top seed in 4A for the second year in a row. The Vikings won a PIAA title two years ago and a WPIAL championship in 2016.

They have made at least the WPIAL semifinals three straight times.

“If you made the bracket you have a chance to win it,” Mt. Pleasant first-year coach Chris Brunson said. “I’ve tried to keep our kids grounded all year by instilling in them that the next game is the biggest game of your season, and not to take anything for granted or look ahead at anything.”

The Vikings, who powered through Section 1 with a 10-0 mark, posted seven shutouts behind their lone senior, ace right-hander Carolyn Alincic, and several talented hitters.

In Class 6A, four-time defending champion Hempfield (13-6) was tabbed the No. 3 seed despite sharing the Section 1 title with North Allegheny and Norwin, which swept the Spartans in two section games.

The Spartans open against No. 6 Baldwin (12-3) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Gateway.

“I don’t put much stock in (seedings),” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “I think all the teams in our section are about the same. The committee had to put someone at 3 so they picked us. We have just as good a chance as a No. 1. It is all about how you play.”

Hempfield was the top seed the last two years as it went on to win three consecutive PIAA titles.

Norwin (11-7), which reached the semifinals last year, is No. 5 and will take on No. 4 Bethel Park (12-3) at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Gateway.

The WPIAL committee faced a challenge in bracketing Class 6A. With only two sections, there are just eight teams in the playoffs. Avoiding section rematches in the quarterfinals was the crux of the issue, but the committee skated around it.

“Seventy-five percent of the teams are section champions,” WPIAL softball chairman Scott Moore said. “It probably took the longest to sit there and try to hash that thing out. We looked at everything. … We knew that when we went in the room.”

Ten additional Westmoreland County teams learned their playoff opponents.

• Yough (12-5) drew a No. 5 seeding in 4A and meets No. 12 Central Valley (6-9) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Peters Township.

• Latrobe (12-6), the No. 3 seed in 6A last year and a finalist the past two years, was dropped to a No. 14 seed in 5A. The injury-plagued Wildcats face No. 3 Hampton (15-2) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Gateway.

• Franklin Regional (11-6), which finished third in Section 1-5A, is sixth in 5A and opens against No. 11 Montour (8-8) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hampton.

• In Class 3A, defending champion Southmoreland (9-6) is No. 9 and faces No. 8 Deer Lakes, a perennially strong program, at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Shaler.

The other top seeds are: North Allegheny (6A), Avonworth (3A), Chartiers-Houston (2A) and West Greene (A).

The six championship games will be May 29-30 at Peterswood Park in Peters Township.

The top three teams in 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A and A qualify for the PIAA playoffs. The top four in 2A advance to states.

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

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