Westmoreland high school notebook: Coaches want more Class 6A state qualifiers

Sunday, June 4, 2023 | 7:05 PM

Talk about one and done.

WPIAL Class 6A softball coaches think something needs to change.

Only the champion, Hempfield (18-3), moved on to the PIAA playoffs, meaning the semifinal and title-game losers were done for the year.

In other classifications, the top three or four finishers advanced to the state playoffs. Normally, teams that meet in the WPIAL finals play each other again the state tournament.

But not in 6A. Not this year.

With so few 6A teams in certain districts, the PIAA only has so many pre-slotted spots in the bracket.

Last year, the WPIAL champion and runner-up advanced.

“There needs to be more qualifiers. One team makes no sense,” said Seneca Valley coach Marlesse Hames, whose team (17-2) was the PIAA runner-up last year but did not qualify this year after losing to Hempfield, 2-1, in the WPIAL final. “They went to this super section. It should at least be two teams. You come this far, and you’re done? We should still be playing.”

Hempfield coach Tina Madison, whose Spartans missed the state tournament last year after a loss in the WPIAL semifinals, is in agreement with Hames.

“It’s heartbreaking to see teams like Seneca Valley not move on,” Madison said. “A pitcher like (Lexie Hames) shouldn’t be done after the WPIAL final. I understand it’s because of the numbers, but for one team’s season to end like that, it’s tough.”

For perspective, District 1 has six qualifiers because it has a lot more teams. District 3 has four state playoff teams.

Districts 2, 4, and 12 have one qualifier, and districts 6, 8 and 10 potentially have one apiece.

Districts 5 and 9 have none.

Longtime Hempfield coach Bob Kalp has an opinion on the matter.

“The idea is to get the best teams in the tournament,” he said. “Just assigning a number of qualifiers according to size doesn’t accomplish that. Seneca Valley should be in the tournament.”

Kalp recalled his teams in the past often facing North Allegheny or Shaler after playing those teams in the finals.

“They should have two at-large bids to take care of that type of situation,” Kalp said.

Latrobe coach

Latrobe will vote later this month to hire Mackenzie Livingston as its girls basketball coach.

The recommended candidate was most recently an assistant at River Valley, a merger between Blairsville and Saltsburg.

Livingston is a Blairsville graduate, and she was a talented guard who went on to play at Division II college basketball at IUP and Lock Haven, the latter as a graduate student.

She is a grad student chasing a master’s degree at Seton Hill. She would replace Mark Burkhardt, who resigned last season after leading the Wildcats for eight years. Burkhardt went 111-69 with eight playoff appearances.

Under his watch, Latrobe made the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since 1998 and the PIAA tournament for the first time since ’99.

The Latrobe board vote is likely to come June 20.

Lacrosse stars 

The top girls lacrosse players in the WPIAL were recognized with postseason plaudits.

Ava Wilson of Norwin was selected to the Class 3A all-WPIAL team.

Franklin Regional’s Gwen Shilling made the Class 2A team.

Wilson also made the all-Section 1-3A first team, and teammate Ray Mamas was named to the second team.

Other local second-team picks were Raina Slater and Heather Harshman of Hempfield.

Section 1-2A first-teamers included Schilling, Kate Lowe and Katelyn Pitts of Franklin Regional, Sophia Green of Penn-Trafford and Ryley Quinn of Latrobe.

Annabelle Aquino and Georgia Vislocky of Penn-Trafford, Kayla Wright of Greensburg Salem and Taylor Desko of Latrobe made the second team.

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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