Westmoreland County sends 8 top-4 seeds to WPIAL softball playoffs

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Thursday, May 10, 2018 | 8:34 PM


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Favorable seedings and first-round byes were the order of the day for Westmoreland County teams when the WPIAL softball playoff pairings were released Thursday afternoon.

This year's brackets stand to serve as a script for what is expected to be a bountiful — and potentially historic — postseason for local teams.

Hempfield (Class 6A) and Mt. Pleasant (4A) earned No. 1 seeds, Yough (4A) and Monessen (A) were tabbed No. 2's, and Latrobe (6A), Penn-Trafford (5A) and Southmoreland (3A) are No. 3 seeds.

Franklin Regional (5A) is a No. 4 seed.

All eight teams received first-round byes and will sit for about a week before beginning potential title runs.

Hempfield (16-3) is the top seed in the largest classification for the fourth straight season as it chases a fourth consecutive district championship — and a third PIAA title in a row.

Some expected Hempfield and Latrobe (10-3) to be 1-2, but the WPIAL went with Section 1 champ Baldwin (10-4) at No. 2.

Hempfield beat Latrobe in the championship last season. The teams split their season series this time.

“As always, seeding doesn't mean that much to me,” Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “I don't see Latrobe as No. 3, however.”

Latrobe coach Rick Kozusko thought a late-season loss to Penn-Trafford dropped his Wildcats a notch. He was not surprised to see his team third.

“I'm sure it was well-debated, and that's how it came out,” Kozusko said. “A win (vs. Penn-Trafford) would have altered it. I'm fine with it. It's all on paper; what happens on the field is what matters.”

Penn-Trafford (16-3) and Franklin Regional (14-5) tied for the Section 1-5A title, but Penn-Trafford scored nonsection wins over Hempfield and Latrobe.

Still, the Warriors were rated third behind No. 1 West Allegheny (17-1) and No. 2 Albert Gallatin (11-3).

“It's always a good thing when your team gets sold short,” Penn-Trafford coach Denny Little said. “It is good bulletin-board material and puts a chip on the players' shoulders.”

Class 4A is loaded with local talent, with Mt. Pleasant (15-0) and Yough (15-3) on a collision course to meet in the final. Defending PIAA champion Mt. Pleasant topped Yough, 7-2, in the semifinals last year. The Vikings, on a 20-game winning streak, are one of only two undefeated teams in the WPIAL (Freeport is 12-0).

“We expect whoever we play to come out with their ‘A' game,” Mt. Pleasant coach Lauren Armanious said. “We're not looking past anyone.”

Yough is expected to get ace pitcher Kierra Waywood back for the playoffs. She suffered a deep bruise on her elbow when she bumped her hip bone while warming up and missed a couple of games.

“The (seedings) played out like I thought they would,” Yough coach Dutch Harvey said. “The final four looks like the way I thought it would. If we play the way we can, we'll be fine.”

Defending champion Belle Vernon (17-3) and star pitcher Bailey Parshall are No. 4 in 4A and open against No. 13 Uniontown (3-11), one of the six teams from Section 1 to qualify.

That game is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Latrobe.

Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner thought his team playing in a strong Section 3-3A, which includes No. 1 South Park (13-1), boosted the Scotties' stature and led to the No. 3 seed.

“I'm surprised a bit,” he said. “But I expected to be in the top with the competition we play.”

Another is No. 12 Derry (5-9), which gets No. 5 Ambridge (8-5) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Baldwin.

Other top seeds included other defending champions Frazier (12-5) in 2A and West Greene (16-4) in A.

West Greene and Monessen could meet again in the A final.

Other local first-round matchups:

• 6A: No. 5 Norwin (10-6) vs. No. 12 North Hills (5-9), 2 p.m. Tuesday at Plum.

• 5A: No. 7 Kiski Area (10-6) vs. No. 10 Mars (10-8), 4 p.m. Monday at Hampton.

• 3A: No. 5 Burrell (11-4) vs. No. 12 McGuffey (4-7), 5 p.m. Tuesday at Latrobe.

Westmoreland has produced at least two WPIAL champs in a softball season six times since 2007. The banner year that could be challenged this season was 2011, when three teams won: Latrobe, Yough and Burrell.

Proof of the championship potential in Westmoreland lies in scrimmages. Even those are loaded.

“It's tough to get them,” Harvey said. “I've been calling around, and some teams are all booked up.”

Mt. Pleasant-Hempfield and Yough-Penn-Trafford are a couple of pre-playoff scrimmages scheduled for next week.

The WPIAL finals move to Seton Hill this season and will be played May 30-31. Traditional host Cal (Pa.) is undergoing renovations.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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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