What to watch for in WPIAL sports for June 3, 2024: State playoffs commence for spring sports

Sunday, June 2, 2024 | 10:14 PM

The district diamond playoffs are in the books as the curtain rises on the PIAA baseball and softball playoffs Monday.

While the other five classifications sent either three or four WPIAL teams into the state baseball and softball playoffs, the biggest classification has the smallest amount of qualifiers.

The Class 6A state playoffs only have two baseball and one softball team from District 7.

Seneca Valley (21-1) is the lone WPIAL rep in the 6A softball postseason.

The Raiders, who lost to Spring-Ford in the PIAA finals two years ago, are the only WPIAL champion to hit the road in the opening round as they visit District 10 champion McDowell (13-9) at 2 p.m.

Another team traveling to Erie is Mt. Lebanon (18-5) in a 6A baseball state opener. The 2023 PIAA runner-up Blue Devils will battle District 10 champion McDowell (14-7) at 4:30 p.m.

The WPIAL baseball 6A champion, North Allegheny, will host the No. 3 team out of District 3, West Lawn Wilson (15-7) at 4 p.m. in a game that can be heard on Trib HSSN.

Been there, done that

The Bethel Park baseball team knows all about bouncing back once the calendar hits June.

The Black Hawks lost in the WPIAL championship in 2021, but rebounded to win the PIAA Class 5A championship.

Bethel Park lost in the district semifinals in 2022, but won the WPIAL consolation game and went on to successfully defend its state crown with a second straight PIAA title.

Last spring, the black and orange lost to Shaler in the WPIAL championship game, however the Hawks could not three-peat as they fell in the state quarterfinals to Monsignor Bonner.

Now Bethel Park (15-7) heads east to visit District 3 champion Mechanicsburg (19-3) at Memorial Park at 4 p.m.

Elsewhere in 5A baseball:

• WPIAL 5A champion Penn-Trafford (20-3) will go up against the No. 5 team out of District 3, Lower Dauphin (17-9) at Plum at 4:30 p.m.

• WPIAL consolation game winner Franklin Regional (15-8) heads east to visit District 6 winner Hollidaysburg (14-5) at 4 p.m.

State rematch

Two of the four first=round games involving WPIAL teams in Class 4A baseball are rematches from last year’s PIAA postseason.

For the second straight season, Montour (16-7) battles District 10 champion Cathedral Prep (19-3) at Mercyhurst in Erie at 2:30 p.m. In the 2023 opener, the Ramblers edged the Spartans, 6-5.

WPIAL runner-up Indiana (13-10) visits District 6 champion Bellefonte (18-2) at Governor’s Park at 4 p.m. These two met in the PIAA quarterfinals a year ago with the Red Devils rolling past the Little Indians, 11-5. Bellefonte went on to win the state championship.

Elsewhere in 4A baseball:

• WPIAL champion North Catholic (17-4) will face the No. 3 team out of District 3, Fleetwood. The game will be at Seneca Valley at 4:30 p.m.

• The No. 4 team out of the WPIAL, Thomas Jefferson (19-4), will head east to Visit District 3 champion East Pennsboro (19-2).

Defending champs hit the road

The spring of 2023 was absolutely perfect for the Riverside baseball team as it won both WPIAL and PIAA gold with a perfect record.

After failing to repeat in the district, the Panthers hit the road as they begin the title defense of their PIAA crown.

Riverside (16-2) tries to bounce back after a marathon loss in the district finals when they face District 9 champion Punxsutawney (15-3) at Showers Field in DuBois at 4 p.m.

The Panthers defeated the Chucks in the PIAA semifinals a year ago, 8-5, with Christian Lucarelli picking up the win with 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Elsewhere in 3A baseball:

• WPIAL champion Avonworth (15-9) looks to continue its amazing postseason run when it plays District 6 runner-up Central Martinsburg (16-7) at Seneca Valley at 2 p.m.

• WPIAL consolation winner South Allegheny (19-5) will visit District 6 champion Central Cambria (15-7) at 6 p.m.

• The No. 4 team out of the WPIAL, Burrell (13-11), will challenge District 10 winner Fairview (16-3) at Mercyhurst in Erie at noon.

No Gio, no problem

The most amazing aspect of the latest Seton LaSalle district championship run is the Rebels did it without the leading hitter in the WPIAL.

Gio LoNero hit better than .600 for the second straight season, batting .644 to lead all District 7 hitters.

However, the North Alabama recruit was ejected in the WPIAL Class 2A semifinal victory over OLSH for using foul language toward his brother Roman. The ejection also carries with it a two-game suspension, plus Seton LaSalle school officials added another game to the suspension.

Even without the senior LoNero, the Rebels blanked top-seeded Serra Catholic in the 2A finals, 5-0.

Seton LaSalle (17-3) will once again be without LoNero on Monday when it faces District 9 runner-up Moniteau (12-8) in a state opening round contest at the Boyce-Mayview Complex in Upper St. Clair at 4 p.m.

Elsewhere in 2A baseball:

• WPIAL runner-up Serra Catholic (17-2) will try to regroup when it visits District 5 champion North Star (19-4) at 4 p.m.

• WPIAL consolation winner Burgettstown (13-5) will play District 9 champion Redbank Valley at Stern Family Field in DuBois at 3 p.m. Last season, the Blue Devils ousted the Bulldogs in the first round of the state playoffs, 6-1.

Avoid another letdown

Bishop Canevin won the 2023 WPIAL baseball championship, and then promptly lost in the first round of the PIAA postseason to District 10 runner-up Saegertown.

This spring, the Crusaders repeated as District 7 champs while the Panthers were once again the runners-up in D-10.

Now Bishop Canevin (16-4) will try to avoid the same outcome Monday when it faces Saegertown (18-3) at Plum at 2 p.m.

In that first round last year, Henry Schaffer threw a no-hitter as the Panthers upset the Crusaders, 6-0.

Elsewhere in A baseball:

• WPIAL runner-up Eden Christian Academy (16-6) will battle District 5 champion Conemaugh Township (20-4) at Somerset at 4 p.m.

• WPIAL consolation game winner Avella (12-6) makes its PIAA baseball playoff debut against District 10 champion West Middlesex (10-11) at Slippery Rock University at 4 p.m.

Familiar foes

The only PIAA first-round softball or baseball game between two WPIAL teams takes place between a pair of Section 2-5A softball teams.

Latrobe (11-12), the No. 4 team out of the district, will travel to face WPIAL champion Armstrong (18-3) at 4 p.m.

Armstrong swept both section contests.

The River Hawks won 6-1 at Latrobe on April 9, and then rolled past the Wildcats at home two weeks later, 8-2.

Latrobe has lost two straight games to Thomas Jefferson in the semifinals and Penn-Trafford in the consolation game after stunning defending champion Trinity in the district first round and No. 3 West Allegheny in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Elsewhere in 5A softball:

• WPIAL runner-up Thomas Jefferson (12-8) will visit District 3 runner-up Solanco (19-5) at 4 p.m.

• WPIAL consolation winner Penn-Trafford (15-6) hits the road to take on District 6 champion Central Mountain (14-5) at 4:30 p.m.

Strong section

How good has Section 3-4A been these last two years in district softball?

A year ago, WPIAL runner-up Montour reached the PIAA title game before falling in heartbreak fashion to Blue Mountain, 3-2.

This season, the section has two teams in the upcoming PIAA 4A postseason.

WPIAL runner-up Hampton (17-5) will try to duplicate what its section foes did last season as the Talbots begin the journey Monday against District 9 champion St. Marys (17-2).

The Talbots and Flying Dutch collide at Heindl Memorial Field in DuBois at 3 p.m.

Also, Chartiers Valley (17-4) qualified with a consolation victory over Blackhawk, and will now head north to take on District 10 winner Cathedral Prep (16-6) at Penn State Behrend at 1 p.m.

Elsewhere in 4A softball:

• WPIAL champion Elizabeth Forward (20-1) hopes for another big game when it plays the third-place team from District 3, Big Spring (17-6) at Norwin at 1 p.m.

How will they react?

Six years ago, Mohawk played for a PIAA Class 2A softball title, but lost to District 3’s Upper Dauphin, 2-1.

Now for the first time in program history, the Warriors play a PIAA playoff game as a WPIAL champion.

Mohawk (19-5) will try to follow up on district gold with success in the state playoffs when it hosts District 10 runner-up Harbor Creek (18-5).

While the Warriors were beating South Park in the District 7 finals, the Huskies were falling to Sharon in the District 10 finals.

Elsewhere in 3A softball:

• WPIAL runner-up South Park (19-3) will try to bounce back as it visits District 5 champion Chestnut Ridge (19-2) at 4 p.m.

• The WPIAL consolation winner, Ligonier Valley (16-6), is on the road to face District 6 champion Forest Hills (18-2) at 4 p.m.

• After winning 14 of its first 17 games, but dropping its last two, Avonworth (14-5) will challenge undefeated District 10 champion Sharon (23-0) at Allegheny College at 3 p.m.

June success

The Neshannock softball program has been used to great success the last two years in the month of June.

The Lancers won the PIAA Class 2A championship in 2022 and reached the state softball semifinals in 2023.

Now the 2024 journey begins at home Monday when WPIAL champion Neshannock (23-0) will host District 6 runner-up West Shamokin (19-3) at 4:30 p.m.

The Lancers are the only District 7 softball team or baseball squad without a loss thus far this spring.

Elsewhere in 2A softball:

• WPIAL runner-up Bentworth (17-4) will visit the defending PIAA champion and current District 5 winner Everett (20-2) at 4:30 p.m.

• WPIAL consolation game winner Laurel (19-5) heads to the home of District 9 champion Cranberry (15-3) for a 4 p.m. contest.

The long road

A year after finishing as the PIAA Class A runner-up and three days after seeing a two-year district reign come to an end, Union is preparing to buckle up.

If the Scotties are to return to Penn State in a few weeks, they will be taking the long journey through the state.

Union (20-3) opens up against District 9 champion DuBois Central Catholic (19-2) at Heindl Memorial Field in DuBois.

Both the Scotties and Cardinals are on the east side of the bracket and would be playing teams from districts in the eastern side of the state if they get past the quarterfinals.

The winner plays the victor of the Conemaugh Valley (D-6) and Meyersdale (D-5) game in the second round.

Elsewhere in A softball:

• WPIAL champion Chartiers-Houston (18-2) opens up the state playoffs against District 5 runner-up Berlin-Brothersvalley (16-7) at Peterswood Park in Peters Township at 3 p.m. It was 14 years ago when the Buccaneers won a PIAA championship in 2010.

• WPIAL consolation winner Carmichaels (16-2) will take on District 10 champion Cambridge Springs (16-2) at Penn State Behrend at 3 p.m.

West Greene (13-9) is the No. 4 seed out of District 7 and visits District 6 champion Claysburg-Kimmel (22-1).

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