Westmoreland County well represented in softball playoffs

Thursday, May 11, 2023 | 9:00 PM

WPIAL softball teams waited with anticipation most of Thursday for the outcome of one last section game so they could see the playoff seedings and brackets.

Some practiced to stay busy, while others played nonsection games.

It sure beat twiddling their thumbs.

Imagine how the teams playing that all-important final game felt.

With all eyes watching, Seneca Valley edged past Hempfield, 3-0, to secure the Class 6A section title and the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Once the WPIAL had that result, it could cross the T’s, dot the I’s and finally reveal the brackets.

Hempfield (16-3) knew it was getting the No. 2 seed after the loss, which earned the defending champion Raiders (15-1) and star pitcher Lexie Hames a season split with the Spartans.

A third meeting this season between the largest classification’s headliners would come in the WPIAL finals.

Hempfield, which lost to Seneca Valley in last year’s semifinals, has a bye into the semis, just like the Raiders.

The teams won’t play again until May 24.

“We were excited to be in a position to be competing for the section title,” Hempfield second-year coach Tina Madison said. “We knew we were going to have to play clean defensively and try our best to push a couple (runs) across. We’re looking forward to the playoffs and hoping to make a run.”

Overall, 16 teams from Westmoreland County qualified for the postseason, including at least one in each of the six classes.

This is the first time Class 6A had only one section of nine teams. The top six qualified for the playoffs.

Norwin (14-5) is the No. 3 seed in 6A, which was easy to figure after the Knights capped a sweep of No. 4 North Allegheny with a 5-2 win Wednesday.

The Knights open against No. 6 Canon-McMillan (7-11) 5 p.m. Wednesday at Gateway. If they win, they will see Hempfield for a third time after the rivals split.

“We had a seven-day layoff recently, and it really threw us off our rhythm,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “We didn’t want a bye. We want to play right away.

“It’s tough to beat a team three times in a season. It should be a competitive tournament.”

Class 3A has the most area teams in the bracket, but which is the best one?

Southmoreland (14-2) won Section 3, but Yough (9-4) was second, Ligonier Valley (8-6) third and Mt. Pleasant (11-8) fourth.

All are playoff regulars with championship pedigree.

Southmoreland opens with McGuffey (8-6) at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Waynesburg University.

“I don’t really care where we’re seeded. I don’t read into that stuff because I am not the one doing the seedings,” Southmoreland coach Todd Bunner said. “But I would think we’d be somewhere near the top. Our section, with how good it is, has to carry weight.

“I feel like this is one of the better teams we have put on the field.”

Mt. Pleasant and Ligonier Valley will play back-to-back Tuesday at Plum.

No. 7 Yough (9-4) gets No. 10 Ellwood City (11-5) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny. No. 13 Mt. Pleasant (10-8) takes on No. 4 Burrell (11-5) at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Plum, and No. 11 Ligonier Valley (8-7) faces No. 6 Hopewell (10-6) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Plum.

In 5A, No. 6 Latrobe (13-3), No. 7 Franklin Regional (11-6) and No. 14 Penn-Trafford (6-10) will open the tournament Monday.

Latrobe meets Western Beaver (8-7) at 5 p.m. at Gateway, and Franklin Regional plays Moon (6-8) at 4 p.m. at Peterswood Park in Peters Township after Penn-Trafford and Trinity (14-2) play at the same site at 2.

Belle Vernon (15-4) and Greensburg Salem (10-7) made the Class 4A tournament.

The Leopards have a first-round bye, and No. 9 Greensburg Salem faces No. 8 Hampton (11-5) at 5 p.m. Monday at Fox Chapel in the first round.

“I am pleased, yes,” Belle Vernon coach Tom Rodriguez said. “I thought we might get the five seed. I was hoping for three or six, so we would be opposite Elizabeth Forward.”

Greensburg Central Catholic (11-2) grabbed the No. 5 seed in 2A despite a recent 13-0 loss to Serra Catholic that gave the Eagles the Section 2 title.

The heavy-hitting Centurions take on No. 12 Bentworth (6-8) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at West Mifflin.

“I thought we’d get a No. 5 or 6,” GCC coach Mike Gaffney said. “Losing to Serra hurt us. We had two starters out, but there are no excuses. We’ll play where we’re at.”

GCC hopes to get those two starters back for the playoffs. Against Serra, Gaffney had eight of nine starters playing new positions to compensate.

Resurgent Jeannette (11-4) is back in the postseason. The Jayhawks will play Carlynton (8-5) in the Class A first round at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Peterswood Park. It is the 8-9 game, with Jeannette the 9.

Monessen (7-7) is No. 12 in that bracket and has No. 5 West Greene (11-7) at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Waynesburg. That game follows Southmoreland-McGuffey in the third local doubleheader.

The WPIAL finals will be May 31-June 1 at Cal (Pa.)’s Lilley Field.

The top three finishers in Classes 2A, 4A and 5A and the top four in 3A and A, will advance to the PIAA playoffs.

Only the 6A champion will make the state tournament.

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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