What to watch for in WPIAL sports for May 22, 2023: Baseball enters quarterfinals

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Sunday, May 21, 2023 | 8:11 PM


Welcome to quarterfinals Monday in the WPIAL baseball playoffs, when 24 games will be played to whittle each classification from eight to four teams.

For the eight teams in Class 6A, welcome to the WPIAL playoffs.

These teams have known for over a week who their opponents would be but had to wait to begin the three rounds-only postseason.

Defending champion Mt. Lebanon (10-10) had a bumpy start to the 2023 season, losing its first eight games. But the Blue Devils turned things around and won 10 of their final 12 games.

Their quarterfinals opponent had a different script to its regular season. Seneca Valley (16-4) started the season 10-0, including a 5-3 win over Mt. Lebanon in late March. In a 10-day span in late April, the Raiders lost four of six but rebounded to win their final four regular season games.

The two teams battle at North Allegheny at 4 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The other three 6A quarterfinals are:

* Top seed Pine-Richland (14-6) facing Hempfield (11-9) at Plum at 6:30 p.m. The Rams beat the Spartans, 10-1,

in the season opener. (HSSN)

* No. 2-seed North Allegheny (14-6) will battle Norwin (8-11) at Boyce-Mayview in Upper St. Clair at 7 p.m. The Tigers beat the Knights, 10-3, in the season opener. (HSSN)

* Section 2-6A champion Canon-McMillan (15-5) will play Butler (12-8) at North Allegheny at 7 p.m. in the first meeting of the year between the Big Macs and Golden Tornado. (HSSN)

Back in black

One of the great rivalries in WPIAL baseball was restored this season when Upper St. Clair (10-11) dropped from 6A to 5A and was placed in the same section with Bethel Park (15-4).

It’s the black and red against the black and orange.

After the two regular-season meetings, the USC offense was black and blue. The Black Hawks beat the Panthers twice, winning on the road at Boyce-Mayview, 3-0, then defeating them at home, 3-2.

The two-time defending PIAA 5A champions finished strong. Bethel Park won its final eight games.

The two schools located near Route 19 will head on down the highway to Peterswood Park in Peters Township to play at 3:30 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The other three 5A quarterfinals are:

* Top seed Shaler (16-4) taking on Fox Chapel (13-8) at Plum at 4 p.m. The Titans beat the Foxes, 3-1, in the season opener. (HSSN)

* No. 4 Plum (13-7) will go up against No. 5 South Fayette (16-4) at Gateway at 6:30 p.m. The Mustangs have won 10 of their last 11, and the Lions have been winners in nine of their last 10. (HSSN)

* It will be PT vs. P-T when Peters Township (14-6) plays Penn-Trafford (13-5) at West Mifflin at 2 p.m. The Indians eliminated the Warriors in the quarterfinals a year ago, 6-5. (HSSN)

Survive and advance

On paper, it was supposed to be easy. Thank goodness they don’t play on paper.

Traditional power Blackhawk finished as co-champ in Section 1-4A with Montour, and the two were awarded the top two seeds in this year’s 4A playoffs with the Spartans No. 1 and the Cougars No. 2.

Blackhawk barely survived to advance past the first round.

Thomas Jefferson took Blackhawk to the limit and beyond before the Cougars prevailed 5-4 in nine innings.

Now Blackhawk (15-2) faces an Indiana (14-7) team that cruised past Laurel Highlands, 12-4, in the postseason opener.

The Cougars and Little Indians square off at Seneca Valley at 6:30 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The other three 4A quarterfinals are:

* Top seed Montour (18-3) playing Hampton (9-9) at West Mifflin at 4:30 p.m. The Spartans beat the Talbots, 10-6, in a nonsection game a month ago. (HSSN)

* No. 4 Chartiers Valley (14-6) against Latrobe (15-6) at Gateway at 4 p.m. in a battle of section champions and two teams that lost to Thomas Jefferson in the 5A playoffs a year ago. (HSSN)

*Giant killers Hopewell (9-11) take aim at North Catholic (10-10) at Seneca Valley at 4 p.m. The Vikings try to upset the Trojans after guaranteeing a new champ will be crowned when they beat 2022 4A champion West Mifflin in the opening round.

Returning to the scene of the upsets

All of the higher seeds in the WPIAL 3A baseball playoffs advanced with opening-round wins except for two. No. 5 Greensburg Salem lost to No. 12 Mohawk, 9-3, in Shaler, right after No. 10 Shenango eliminated the 2022 3A champion South Park, 6-3.

The Warriors and Wildcats return to the upset grounds of Matulevic Field Monday to attempt to again advance at the hands of a higher seeded team.

Last season’s runner-up, Mohawk (13-7), will challenge No. 4 East Allegheny (13-5) at 2 p.m., and 2021 champion Shenango (9-8) goes up against Avonworth (16-5) at 4 p.m.

Both games are on Trib HSSN.

The other two 3A quarterfinals are:

* Top-seed and undefeated Riverside (18-0) goes up against Freeport (15-5) at Pullman Park in Butler at 7:30 p.m. The Panthers reached the semifinals a year ago, and the resurgent Yellowjackets didn’t even make the playoffs last spring.

* No. 3-seed Yough (16-5) battles Neshannock (16-4) at Highlands at 7 p.m. The Cougars are coming off back-to-back section titles for the first time, and the Lancers hope to make it back to the finals again after falling to Serra Catholic in the 2A title game last season. (HSSN)

Silver linings

In 2021, both Seton LaSalle and Riverview played in the WPIAL championship game at Wild Things Park in Washington.

The favored Rebels were stunned by Shenango in the 2A championship game, 2-1, while the wild postseason run by the underdog Raiders ended with a lost to Union, 3-0, in the Class A finals.

Fast forward two years, and Seton LaSalle (14-4) and Riverview (10-7) are set to square off in a 2A quarterfinals game at Gateway at 1:30 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The Rebels have won three straight games and 10 of their last 12. The Raiders dropped three games in a row to end the regular season before beating Charleroi, 7-2, in Round 1.

The other three 2A quarterfinals are:

* Top seed and defending champion Serra Catholic (17-2) faces Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (13-8) at Norwin at 4 p.m. These teams played at PNC Park in mid-April, with the Eagles beating the Chargers, 9-1. (HSSN)

* No. 4 Burgettstown (13-3) will battle No. 5 South Side (15-4) at Boyce-Mayview in Upper St. Clair at 1 p.m. These teams last met in 2021, with the Rams beating the Blue Devils, 12-3. (HSSN)

* No. 3 New Brighton (14-4) goes up against the wearer of the 2A glass slipper, Ligonier Valley (12-7) at Fox Chapel at 3 p.m. While the Lions enjoyed a first-round bye, the Rams earned their first WPIAL baseball playoff win with a stunner over Chartiers-Houston, 9-8, in eight innings.

Co-champs collide

California (12-7) and Carmichaels (15-3) finished as co-champions in Section 1-A, but because the Trojans beat the Mighty Mikes twice by scores of 5-4, Cal received a first-round bye as the No. 4-seed, and Carmichaels was given the No. 5 seed.

The Mighty Mikes cruised past Cornell, 11-0, in their first-round playoff game to set up the third meeting between these two southern small-school powers.

Both teams were part of the Class 2A postseason a year ago, with Carmichaels losing in the quarterfinals and California losing in the first round. Meeting No. 3 of the season is at Peterswood Park in Peters Township at 6:30 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

The other three A quarterfinals are:

* Top seed and two-time defending champion Union (12-4) will play Sewickley Academy (10-7) at Pullman Park in Butler at 2 p.m. The Scotties are 6-0 in the district playoffs since the wiped-out covid season in 2020. The Panthers are 2-2 this decade. (HSSN)

* No. 2 Eden Christian Academy (12-4) will take on Rochester (9-7) at Boyce-Mayview in Upper St. Clair at 4 p.m. The Warriors and Rams are former section foes, last meeting on the diamond in 2019 when they split their two regular season games. (HSSN)

* Section 2 and 3 second-place finishers collide when Leechburg (13-4) faces Bishop Canevin (12-3) at Highlands at 4 p.m. The Blue Devils and Crusaders were ousted in the opening round of the playoffs last spring.

Three return to final four

Three of the four semifinalists in Class 3A and 2A from the 2022 WPIAL girls lacrosse semifinals have returned to this year’s district final four.

In 3A, last spring’s semifinals were Shady Side Academy defeating Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon eliminating Pine-Richland.

On Monday, the top-seeded Rams battle the defending champion Bulldogs at North Allegheny, and last year’s runner-up Blue Devils take on Fox Chapel at Bethel Park.

In 2A a year ago, Chartiers Valley stunned top-seed Blackhawk, and Mars beat Hampton.

The 2023 2A final four feature defending champion Chartiers Valley going up against top-seed Mars at Shaler in a rematch of the title game won by the Colts, 17-6, last year. The other semifinals matchup has Blackhawk battling Quaker Valley at Martorelli Stadium in West View.

All four girls lacrosse semifinals matches are at 6 p.m.

Defending champs take on the South Hills

Last year, Shady Side Academy won the program’s second boys lacrosse 3A district crown. Now the Bulldogs must get by two South Hills teams to win back-to-back gold.

Shady Side Academy faces top seed Peters Township at North Allegheny on Monday in a 3A semifinals match. The other final four contest in 3A boys lacrosse pits rivals Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair against each other at nearby Bethel Park.

In the 2A semifinals, six-time defending champion Mars plays Hampton at Shaler. No. 2 goes up against No. 3 when South Fayette plays Penn-Trafford at Martorelli Stadium in West View.

All four boys lacrosse semifinals matches are at 7:45 p.m.

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