Slow-pitch softball league planning ‘full bore’ for upcoming season

Sunday, August 16, 2020 | 5:41 PM

The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Softball League’s 15th fall season is scheduled to begin Labor Day weekend.

League officials are planning to start on time, but they also are monitoring upcoming announcements from the PIAA and other possible rulings from school districts and local and state government officials that might throw a wrench into the schedule.

“With players and teams following the guidelines to the best of their ability with games and tournaments this summer, I think we can move ahead safely as long as the districts or the governor don’t make a mandate otherwise,” said Leo Orelli, the league’s president.

“Groups have had summer tournaments or seasons without issue. Our games are outside and low contact. We’re hoping for the best and planning for the worst. We’re planning now like we are going full bore. If we are underprepared, it would be difficult to make the necessary changes, and the kids will suffer.”

The WPISL is not affiliated with the PIAA or WPIAL, but the league and its teams often work closely with school districts.

Earlier this summer, the league touched base with schools hoping to get an understanding of what policies were being adopting for athletic activities.

The only teams not designated as school clubs are Mt. Lebanon, West Allegheny, Mt. Pleasant and Fort Cherry.

Orelli said Mt. Lebanon, which is independent of its school district, could still shut its season down if the school district gives a recommendation or implements no field usage for sports or the township says the same.

“It’s too early to tell for sure,” he said. “There are too many questions still to answer.”

The deadline for varsity teams to declare for the season is Monday. Junior varsity and junior high teams must declare by next week. He said the deadlines assure everyone is committed and schedulers know what teams are playing.

“We’re hoping to all play this season, but we’re all keeping an eye on what the PIAA is saying and what each school will say in response,” said Plum manager Eric Seigh, who plans to begin workouts Monday.

Plum hopes to win its fourth varsity championship this fall. The Mustangs, Montour and North Allegheny are tied with three titles apiece.

“Our principal, Joe Fishell, reached out and wanted to know if the PIAA cancels, does that mean we (the league) cancel,” Seigh said. “I said, ‘No it doesn’t, but there is still more to be decided.’ I do know our girls are ready to play.”

The PIAA postponed the start of preseason practices for fall sports until Aug. 24 as it hoped to use the extra time to converse with Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration.

Wolf on Aug. 6 issued a recommendation that fall sports be delayed until after Jan. 1 to help slow the spread of covid-19.

The PIAA board plans to meet again Friday to further discuss the future of its fall seasons.

North Hills is the defending WPISL varsity champion. The Indians defeated Plum in the 2019 tournament finals.

Orelli said a new program this fall will be a combination of players from Ellwood City and Riverside.

Hempfield and Mt. Pleasant return as co-op programs. Hempfield welcomes Yough, and players from Southmoreland and Latrobe will join Mt. Pleasant.

“We have a spring rec league which normally draws girls from Southmoreland and Latrobe,” said Mt. Pleasant assistant Chris Hamm, whose daughter, Alexandra, is a rising senior and plays in the WPISL and also plays on the Vikings tennis team.

His younger daughter, Isabella, plays on the Mt. Pleasant junior high WPISL team and is a cheerleader. His son, Douglas, is a freshman on the Vikings football team.

“A lot of the girls play together in the spring and then go into an all-star season all of July into the beginning of August. But before, we would lose a couple (in the fall) to Southmoreland or Latrobe. This (co-op) does help our numbers, but it also gives more girls an opportunity to play in the league, and it keeps those girls together into the fall.”

Hamm said the program, also independent of the school district, will follow all the district’s guidelines for practices.

“We are proceeding with practices in hopes the season will go on, but we are adhering to all of the safety standards the school has put in for all their (PIAA) fall sports,” Hamm said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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