What to watch for in WPIAL sports for June 10, 2024: 3 area baseball, 6 softball teams set for PIAA semifinals

Sunday, June 9, 2024 | 9:13 PM

Welcome to semifinals Monday in the PIAA baseball and softball playoffs.

Nine WPIAL teams — six softball and three baseball — are still alive heading into the state final four.

How does that compare with recent years?

The answer is not favorably for District 7.

In 2021, there were a combined 15 baseball (7) and softball (8) teams that reached the PIAA semifinals.

A year later, 12 district baseball (5) and softball (7) teams won their first two state playoff games to reach the final four.

Last spring, there were 11 District 7 teams in the third round of the PIAA postseason, including four baseball and seven softball teams.

There is a chance the WPIAL could be represented in as many as seven of the 12 PIAA title games Thursday and Friday at Penn State University.

The two title games they are guaranteed a spot in is the softball Class A finals on Thursday morning and the 2A softball state title game Friday morning.

The five finals they will not be a part of are Class 6A, 5A and 2A baseball, as well as 6A and 3A softball.

The WPIAL busters

Two baseball teams that were a perfect 2-0 in the state playoffs last week in disposing of WPIAL opponents were Fleetwood in 4A and Punxsutawney in 3A.

If they are to reach the finals in their respective classifications, they will have to hit the trifecta against District 7.

Fleetwood may not have Mick on the drums, Lindsey on guitar and Stevie on lead vocals, but the No. 3 team out of District 3 has found ways to win close ballgames.

The Tigers edged WPIAL champion North Catholic in the first round of the state playoffs, 3-2, and then followed up in the quarterfinals with a victory over Montour, 5-3.

Now Fleetwood (15-8) faces the WPIAL runner-up, Indiana (15-10), at Governor’s Park in Bellefonte at 4 p.m.

Little Indians senior Ben Ryan has done damage with his arm and bat thus far in the PIAA postseason.

In the opening round Monday, Ryan combined with Ryan Okopal on a three-hit shutout of defending state champion Bellefonte, 3-0.

Three days later, Ryan was 2 for 4 with a double as Indiana edged District 3 champion East Pennsboro, 6-5.

This is the first PIAA semifinals appearance for both Indiana and Fleetwood.

The world’s most famous groundhog, Phil, would be proud of his home town team at Punxsutawney High School.

The District 9 winner blanked 2023 PIAA champion Riverside in the opening round, 3-0.

In the quarterfinals, the Chucks knocked off South Allegheny, 4-1.

Punxsutawney (17-3) now must face WPIAL champion Avonworth (17-9) at First Commonwealth Field in Homer City at 4 p.m.

The Antelopes are coming off a strong week led by the Trib HSSN Player of the Week, sophomore Carson Franc.

In the 6-1 victory over Central (Martinsburg) in the first round, Franc doubled and drove in two runs.

Against District 10 champion Fairview, Franc, who had only pitched 5 1/3 innings all season, was called on in the third inning and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the ’Lopes came back to win in nine innings, 5-4.

While this is the first PIAA semifinals game for Avonworth, Punxsutawney is 1-3 in final four state games.

The one win for the Chucks came in 2007 against Blackhawk, 14-3. The three losses were against Peters Township in 2005, Central (Martinsburg) in 2022 and Riverside last spring.

Third time’s a charm

Saegertown captured its second District 10 championship in the past three years two weeks ago. This is the third year in a row they have qualified for the PIAA Class A playoffs.

In each of the last two state playoffs, the Panthers lost in the quarterfinals round. They broke that string last week when they first beat WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin in Round 1, then finally cleared the second-round hurdle by crushing Bishop Carroll, 11-0.

Next for Saegertown (20-3) is a battle against WPIAL runner-up Eden Christian Academy (18-6) at Slippery Rock University at 3 p.m.

The Warriors have received contributions up and down their lineup, but sophomore Brady Hull has stood out in both victories.

In the opener against District 5 champion Conemaugh Township, Hull and fellow sophomore Brett Feldman had two hits and two RBIs each as Eden Christian prevailed, 6-3.

In the quarterfinals, Hull was a surprise starter after throwing only 11 innings all season. His curve ball froze up Avella hitters, leading to 11 strikeouts in five innings. Plus, he was 3 for 5 with two RBIs as the Warriors ended the Eagles’ dream season, 11-4.

Eden Christian has played in only one other PIAA semifinals game, beating Southern Fulton three years ago, 8-3, to reach the 2021 PIAA Class A finals.

This will be the first state semifinals appearance for Saegertown.

Rivals in the north

You have to go all the way back to 2017 to find a team not named Laurel or Neshannock winning the WPIAL Class 2A softball crown.

Since Frazier won it all seven years ago, Laurel claimed gold in 2018, 2019 and 2021, and Neshannock just capped off their own three-peat with titles in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

Now the two teams will turn Mohawk High School into a Christmas card as green-clad Laurel (21-5) squares off against red-wearing Neshannock (25-0) at 4 p.m. in a game you can hear on Trib HSSN.

The Spartans reached the final four with a 4-1 win at District 9 Cranberry and a 5-3 revenge victory in the quarterfinals over Bentworth in a rematch of the WPIAL semifinals.

Laurel sophomore Mayci Lang was 4 for 6 with two doubles and four RBIs in the two games, while senior Autumn Boyd had a combined 24 strikeouts in the two wins, putting her over 500 K’s for her career.

The Lancers first defeated West Shamokin, 11-0, thanks to 14 strikeouts by junior Addy Frye and sophomore Jaidon Nogay going 2 for 2 with a double and two RBIs.

In the quarterfinals win over District 10 winner Saegertown, Frye allowed only one hit and again struck out 14 in a second straight state playoff shutout, while junior Miley Anderson was 3 for 4 at the plate and senior Gabby Perod had a triple and three RBIs.

Neshannock beat Laurel twice in the regular season.

Frye threw a perfect game in the first meeting as the Lancers won, 3-0. Then later in the week in the rematch, Laurel managed eight hits off Frye but still lost, 5-1.

This is the fourth playoff meeting between the two in the last three years; Neshannock won the previous three.

In the 2023 WPIAL finals, the Lancers won big, 12-2. In the 2022 PIAA semifinals, Laurel led after four innings, 5-2, before Neshannock exploded offensively to win, 13-6. In the 2022 WPIAL semifinals, the Lancers edged the Spartans in 8 innings, 1-0, on a walk-off double by Frye.

Rivals in the south

It has been an epic struggle every time these two softball teams have collided this spring.

In the first matchup, Chartiers-Houston went on the road and won in mid-April, 6-5.

In the rematch with the Section 2-A title up for grabs, Carmichaels returned the favor in Houston, 7-5.

The section co-champs collided for a third time in the WPIAL semifinals, with the Buccaneers edging the Mighty Mikes, 3-2.

In that game, the Bucs were led by the bats of freshman Sydney English, who went 3 for 3, and junior Ella Richey, who doubled and homered, plus the pitching of junior Meadow Ferri, who struck out nine Mighty Mikes.

Now WPIAL champion Chartiers-Houston (20-2) battles Carmichaels (18-2) for a fourth time this spring when they meet at Peterswood Park in Peters Township at 2 p.m.

For the Buccaneers, they reached the final four after wins over Berlin Brothersvalley and West Branch.

Ferri had the game-winning hit in the opener to give the Bucs a close win, 2-1, while Richey was 2 for 4 with a double in the second-round victory, 4-0.

Sophomore Carys McConnell had the game-winning single in the first-round victory over District 10 champion Cambridge Springs, 2-1 in eight innings.

In the quarterfinals triumph over District 6 winner Claysburg-Kimmel, 8-1, McConnell was 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBIs, while junior Ali Jacobs was 2 for 4 with a home run and five RBIs.

Pitching has been huge for both the Bucs and the Mikes.

Ferri has combined for 22 strikeouts in the two state playoff wins for Chartiers-Houston, while sophomore Bailey Barnyak had a combined 23 punch outs in the two victories for Carmichaels.

Chartiers-Houston won its first six PIAA semifinals games played, the most recent being in 2010, but the Bucs have now lost the last three times they reached the PIAA third round.

This is Carmichaels’ third state semifinals game. The Mighty Mikes defeated Sto-Rox in 1998, 2-0, then lost to Chartiers-Houston in the 1999 Class A semifinals, 3-0.

West vs. East

District 7 is made up of counties around the greater Pittsburgh area in Southwestern Pa.

District 12 is made up of the Philadelphia city schools and Catholic league teams in Southeastern Pa.

Class 4A teams from the two districts meet in the middle, when Elizabeth Forward (22-1) takes on Archbishop Wood (13-7) at 4 p.m. at Chambersburg.

The WPIAL champion Warriors needed eight innings to knock off Big Spring in the first round, 1-0.

Junior Julia Johnson was the hero for EF as she connected on a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the eighth.

Senior Shelby Telegdy is the current Trib HSSN Player of the Week after back-to-back big games.

The Seton Hill commit allowed three hits and struck out 12 in the first-round shutout. Then she went 4 for 5 with a double and a three-run homer while driving in six runs in a win over Chartiers Valley, 11-1. Telegdy struck out six Colts in the win.

The Vikings were the No. 3 team out of District 12. They knocked off Camp Hill Trinity in the first round, 8-1, and then edged District 9 champion St. Marys in the quarterfinals in 10 innings, 5-4.

Elizabeth Forward has reached one PIAA title game in its history, losing to West Perry in the 2019 4A finals, 3-2.

This is the first time in program history that Archbishop Wood has reached the PIAA softball semifinals.

Top cats

Central Mountain won the District 6 Class 5A championship this spring while Thomas Jefferson was the runner-up in District 7.

Now the Wildcats and the Jaguars scrap to determine the top cat in the wild west of Class 5A.

TJ has relied on several players in its two state playoff wins.

Senior Zoe Krizan was 3 for 4 and junior Allie Chalovich had two hits, while the two combined to drive in nine runs as Thomas Jefferson crushed Solanco in the opening-round win, 17-4.

In the quarterfinals, junior Hannah Alonso was 3 for 3 with an RBI, junior Morgan Alisesky was 2 for 3 and sophomore Adalina Bracco delivered the tiebreaking two-run double in the sixth inning as TJ edged West Chester East, 3-1.

Central Mountain has already knocked out two teams from the WPIAL on its path to Penn State.

The Wildcats ousted Penn-Trafford in the first round, 10-0, then stunned WPIAL champion Armstrong in the quarterfinals, 4-1.

Central Mountain (16-5) faces Thomas Jefferson (14-8) at 4:30 p.m. at Mount Aloysius College.

The Jaguars have lost twice before in the PIAA semifinals, losing to WPIAL teams each time. The Jaguars lost to Riverside in the 2001 semifinals, 1-0, and then fell to West Allegheny in the 2018 final four, 7-5.

The Wildcats have never played in a PIAA semifinals game.

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