Trib HSSN WPIAL softball bracket breakdown

Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 9:16 PM

Class 6A

Favorite: Bethel Park is top seeded and a heavy favorite for a reason, with five Division I players on the roster. The Black Hawks (15-0) have scored 10 or more runs in nine games. One of their wins was against 2019 finalist North Allegheny, 13-2. Their closest game was a 3-2 nonsection victory against Chartiers Valley. The Division I players include senior shortstop Reagan Milliken (Ohio State), senior pitcher Delaney Nagy (Connecticut), senior outfielder Lauren Caye (Seton Hall), senior outfielder Gianna Sciullo (Georgetown) and junior catcher Sandra Soltes (Pitt). Miliken is hitting .707 with 11 home runs, 29 hits and 35 RBIs. Soltes is batting .524 with 5 home runs and 16 RBIs, Sciullo is hitting .503 with 25 hits and 24 RBIs, and Caye is hitting .487 with 21 hits and 24 runs scored. Nagy is 14-0.

Contenders: No. 2 Norwin might be able hang with Bethel Park offensively. The Knights have displayed a lot of power this season. Sophomore Madie Kessler has nine home runs, 21 RBIs and a .480 batting average. Norwin as a team has 18 home runs. Pitcher Sydney Lokay is hitting .417 with three home runs, and Bailee Bertani is hitting .396. … Hempfield has won the past five WPIAL championships. Though the Spartans had a couple of hiccups during the regular season, they are still dangerous. Senior catcher Emma Hoffner is an Ohio U recruit, and senior pitcher Callie Sowers pitched the Spartans to the 2019 title. … Canon-McMillan is a dangerous squad with two left-handed hurlers: senior Lauren Duke and junior Brooke Perri. Second baseman Olivia Ulam, a St. Francis (Pa.) commit, is hitting .452 with five home runs and 20 RBIs.

Don’t overlook: Pine-Richland is a dangerous squad capable of beating anyone.

Prediction: Norwin over Bethel Park

Class 5A

Favorite: In perhaps the WPIAL’s deepest classification, there were multiple candidates to be named top seed. Penn-Trafford got the nod. A WPIAL semifinalist and state champion in 2019, Penn-Trafford won 13 of 14 games to close the regular season after a 1-3 start. The Warriors have scored 10 or more runs in a game six times this season. They have quality wins over Class 6A No. 2 seed Norwin, Class 6A playoff qualifier Canon-McMillan and five other teams in the Class 5A field — North Hills, Trinity, Connellsville, Latrobe and Thomas Jefferson.

Contenders: West Allegheny has won all three WPIAL Class 5A titles since the PIAA went to six classifications in 2017. The Indians went 9-2 in Section 4 and split a pair of one-run games with Chartiers Valley. West Allegheny capped the regular season winning nine of 10 games. Addi Vicari-Baker and Emily Nolan each drove in two runs in the Indians’ 5-4 triumph over Chartiers Valley on April 28. … Latrobe, 8-1 in Section 2 before its section finale Thursday against Thomas Jefferson, handed Penn-Trafford its only loss in section play, 15-8, May 5. … Chartiers Valley topped West Allegheny in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel in early April. It was one of six shutouts the Colts produced in the regular season. … Plum, in the WPIAL playoffs for the 11th time in 12 years, topped Section 3 rival Armstrong, 5-0, on Monday and followed it up with victories over Kiski Area and Penn Hills on Tuesday to hold on to the section lead. … Shaler has won five in a row since an 11-3 loss to North Hills, its lone loss in Section 3 play this year. The Titans avenged that loss, 9-8, on Tuesday to clinch the section title.

Don’t overlook: North Hills led Shaler 4-1 in the second and 8-5 in the seventh Tuesday before Shaler rallied for the win. The Indians moved down from Class 6A after the 2019 season and are in the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five seasons. North Hills thumped Hampton and shut out Fox Chapel, both playoff qualifiers from Section 3, in recent section play.

Prediction: West Allegheny over Penn-Trafford

Class 4A

Favorite: The clear-cut favorite from the day pitchers and catchers reported is Elizabeth Forward. The Warriors have the best arm in the classification in senior Kailey Larcinese, a Towson commit, and an active defense behind her. Elizabeth Forward won the WPIAL title two years ago and finished as the PIAA runner-up. Six players — Anna Resnik, MacKenzie Kearns, Brianna Sersevic, Brooke Markland, Shelby Telegdy and Grace Smith — are hitting .400 or better. The Warriors have allowed just six runs all season to WPIAL teams and have 13 shutouts.

Contenders: Undefeated Beaver, stopped in the quarterfinals in 2019, is one of the highest-scoring teams in the WPIAL with 137 runs in 14 games. The Bobcats scored 10 more runs in half of their games. Strikeout pitcher Payton List is a Virginia Tech commit. She and Larcinese would make for a hot ticket at Cal U should they meet in the WPIAL final. … West Mifflin is one of the more threatening hitting teams in the bracket, with three of the Titans’ losses coming against Elizabeth Forward (2) and Class 6A No. 1 Bethel Park. A late, 4-0 loss to Laurel Highlands could hurt their seeding. … Section 1 champion Highlands also has a propensity for offense. The Golden Rams have nine double-digit-run games, including wins against Armstrong (10-9), Freeport (13-2), Knoch (11-3) and Greensburg Salem (16-2). … Montour finished second in Section 3 behind Beaver and averages 11 runs per game. Beaver shut out the Spartans, 9-0.

Don’t overlook: Perennial playoff contender Yough has a young lineup but has impressive wins against 5A Penn-Trafford and 6A Canon-McMillan.

Prediction: Elizabeth Forward over Beaver

Class 3A

Favorite: With a power-packed offense and a tested defense, Mt. Pleasant is primed to make a title run. The WPIAL runner-up to Elizabeth Forward in 4A two years ago, the Vikings have numerous college-ready players including seniors Haylie Brunson (.603, 16 doubles, 5 HR, 29 RBIs), Courtney Poulich (.536, 3 HR, 12 runs) and Hannah Gnibus (.417, 13 RBIs, 17 runs), and junior Katie Hutter (.566, 6 triples, 12 RBIs) — who are headed to Pitt, Liberty, Pitt-Johnstown and Akron. Senior pitcher Mary Smithnosky, a Western Michigan commit, is 9-0 with 62 Ks. The Vikings’ lone 3A loss was to Waynesburg, 11-10. The others are to 6A teams Norwin and Hempfield.

Contenders: Section 2 champion Avonworth took a 10-game winning streak into the final day of the regular season. The Antelopes, who captured the WPIAL championship in 2019, had won their last four games by a combined score by 61-6. Junior Meghan Fissore and senior Leah Logan are key players. … Like many other teams in the bracket, North Catholic, which clinched the Section 1 title, can put up runs. The Trojans scored 15, 19 and 17 runs in a few of their late-season wins. The Trojans are led by pitcher Liana Morreale. … Deer Lakes, another well-seasoned playoff team, began the season 8-1 with hot bats and ended up finishing second to North Catholic in Section 1. The Lancers have just one senior. … Southmoreland rushed to get in games late in the season after a covid-related stoppage, but the youthful Scotties, who feature 10 freshmen, have budding potential. Freshman Amarah McCutcheon is hitting over .600 and is a serious home run threat. … “Scrappy” best fits South Allegheny, a team that can’t be discounted after the Gladiators beat Southmoreland twice, split with Waynesburg and gave Mt. Pleasant two good games.

Don’t overlook: Opportunistic Waynesburg split with Section 3 heavyweights Mt. Pleasant and Southmoreland. Also keep an eye on Ellwood City.

Prediction: Mt. Pleasant over North Catholic

Class 2A

Favorite: WPIAL newcomer Ligonier Valley (16-1) has one loss, to Class 3A No. 1 Mt. Pleasant. Junior pitcher Maddie Griffin has thrown nine no-hitters and struck out 211 batters. Bella Vargulish had three hits including a double and four RBIs against Class 5A Connellsville and Griffin had two hits. The Rams have been a strong squad in District 6 the past five seasons. Griffin had 18 strikeouts against Connellsville.

Contenders: Laurel is seeded No. 2 and Frazier is No. 3. The Commodores were the Class AA PIAA champions in 2019 while Laurel has won consecutive WPIAL titles, defeating Frazier in the finals both seasons. Frazier was the 2017 WPIAL champion. … Laurel (13-1) lost to Shenango early in the season and has currently won 12 consecutive games. They are led by senior first baseman Frankie Duddy and senior centerfielder Kaylee Withrow. Laurel is a young team with three solid pitchers. … Frazier (15-3) has won 11 consecutive games and scored 10 or more runs in eight games. Like Laurel, the Commodores are young. Freshman pitcher Nicole Palmer punched out 11 batters against Carmichaels while Rylee Evans, Delaney Warnick and Maria Felsher hit home runs against the Mikes. .. No. 4 seed is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (13-2).

Don’t overlook: Shenango is led by pitcher Mia Edwards. Section 4 teams Shenango, Neshannock and Riverside are all capable of pulling off big wins.

Prediction: Ligonier Valley over Laurel

Class A

Favorite: West Greene, ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL and the state by TribLive HSSN, is going for its fifth straight WPIAL Class A title. The Pioneers rolled through Section 2 and completed the regular season 14-2 with losses coming to only Section 3-2A champ Frazier and Class 3A Waynesburg. West Greene enters the playoffs on a six-game winning streak. Sophomore catcher/infielder London Whipkey leads the Pioneers with a .567 batting average, 33 RBIs and 13 doubles. Sophomore Lexi Six (.436) and senior Jersey Wise (.420) also help lead a potent offense.

Contenders: Leechburg (11-4, 9-1 Section 3) returns to the playoffs for a WPIAL-record 34th year in a row, and it brings with it a potent lineup that scored 15 or more runs six times. Senior McKenna Pierce is hitting .564 with four home runs, nine doubles and 15 RBIs, while fellow senior Emma Ritchie had a team-best 16 RBIs and has formed a 1-2 pitching punch with sophomore Anna Cibik. … Union seeks its first WPIAL title. The Scotties, who finished 9-1 in Section 1, averaged 16 runs a game over a five-game winning streak to close the regular season. Union fell to West Greene in the 2019 WPIAL Class A championship game. Senior first baseman and co-captain Skyler Fisher has been a hitting standout all season for the Scotties. … South Side handed Union its lone section loss, 9-2, in early April behind the hitting of Lily Shychuck, Madi Fischer, Sage Tellish and Josie Patosky and the pitching of Fischer, and clinched a share of the section title with a doubleheader sweep of Cornell on Thursday.

Don’t overlook: Springdale, paced by the pitching of junior Alexis Hrivnak and hitting from the likes of Hrivnak and juniors Emily Wilhem, Brianna Thompson and Autumn Sprouse, clinched a tie with Leechburg for the Section 3 title. The Dynamos handed the Blue Devils a 5-4 walk-off loss April 28. Springdale is in the WPIAL playoffs for the second season in a row. The Dynamos made the 2019 Class A quarterfinals before falling to Union.

Prediction: West Greene over Leechburg

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