What to watch for in WPIAL sports on June 12, 2023: Battles of unbeatens for Neshannock softball headlines state semifinals

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Sunday, June 11, 2023 | 3:40 PM


Halfway through the 2023 PIAA diamond playoffs, only two champions from last spring are alive heading into Semifinals Monday: DuBois Central Catholic baseball and Neshannock softball.

Neshannock (22-0) will be involved in the marquee matchup Monday, a battle of undefeated teams, when the WPIAL champion Lancers square off with District 5 champion Everett (24-0).

The Lancers, behind Addy Frye, have allowed only one run in two state playoff victories over Penns Valley and Sharpsville.

The Warriors have given up 14 runs in their two PIAA postseason wins over Laurel and Cranberry; however, Everett scored 27 runs in those two triumphs.

The game takes place at Heindl Field in DuBois at 2 p.m. and can be seen on Trib HSSN.

Softball

Many thought we would see Armstrong (21-2) and Shaler (21-1) collide in the WPIAL 5A championship game after the district brackets were unveiled and the River Hawks were the top seed and the Titans were No. 2.

Armstrong reached the finals, but Shaler was upended in the district semifinals by eventual 5A champion Trinity.

These two teams have taken different paths to their semifinal showdown at Gateway at 2 p.m.

The Titans have won two tight games over district champions Central Mountain (2-1) and Trinity (5-1).

The River Hawks are on a mission for a third straight trip to Penn State and the PIAA 5A title game as they have dominated their way through the first two rounds, crushing Mechanicsburg and West Chester Rustin by a combined score of 29-7.

Despite back-to-back state silvers, Armstrong is still in search of its first PIAA softball crown.

Shaler has two state titles, winning gold in 2004 and again in 2006.

Two more headed to Monroeville

Right after the Armstrong-Shaler showdown in Class 5A Monday at Gateway, two more district teams hit the turf at 4 p.m., hoping to earn a berth to the state championship game.

Two of the best pitchers in the WPIAL square off when Elizabeth Forward (20-1) battles Montour (17-4).

The Warriors’ Shelby Telegdy has not only done it with her arm, allowing five runs total in state playoff wins over district champion Cathedral Prep and Belle Vernon, she also is doing it with her bat. She had two hits, including a home run and three RBIs, in the quarterfinal victory over the Leopards.

The Spartans’ Kaitlyn Molitoris has been lights out in the state playoffs. She has allowed one earned run and has struck out 23 in back-to-back wins over Bellefonte and Archbishop Wood.

These teams last met on the softball field when Elizabeth Forward beat Montour in a nonsection contest, 12-7, in April of 2018.

Sparty looking for 33

Hempfield has won a WPIAL-leading four PIAA softball championships, but the last state gold rush for the Spartans was five years ago when they won the 2018 title.

This is the 17th season Hempfield has participated in the PIAA softball playoffs, building up an impressive record of 32-12.

The Spartans are under .500 in state semifinals games with a record of 4-5. They beat Connellsville (1999), Chambersburg (2016 and 2017) and Nazareth (2018) and lost to State College (1986), Connellsville (1998), Montour (2001), Cumberland Valley (2015) and Central Dauphin (2019).

Hempfield will face District 3 champion Cumberland Valley in a rematch of the 2015 semifinals won by the Eagles, 1-0.

Cumberland Valley is 2-0 in PIAA semifinals, beating Hempfield in 2015 and Stroudsburg in 1976.

The Spartans and Eagles collide at St. Francis University in Loretto at 4 p.m.

First timers

The Union (19-3) softball team will be playing in its first PIAA semifinal Monday when it takes on District 6 champion Claysburg-Kimmel (22-3) at Norwin at 2 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

Prior to 2018, the Scotties had never participated in the state softball playoffs before. Now this is the fifth straight season they are a part of the June fun.

The Bulldogs win the overall experience factor. This is the 14th season they have reached the state softball playoffs, sixth semifinals game and their second straight final four appearance.

Claysburg-Kimmel is 1-4 in PIAA semifinals, including a loss to Conwell-Egan in the 2022 2A semis, 7-2.

Their lone final four win came nine years ago when they edged Neshannock in the 2014 semifinals, 5-4 in eight innings.

Union and Claysburg-Kimmel did meet once before in the PIAA postseason. The Bulldogs beat the Scotties in the 2019 first round, 11-7.

Baseball

Mt. Lebanon and Hopewell are proving this spring that April means nothing.

The two teams, both with high expectations, got off to horrible starts in 2023.

The defending 6A district champion Blue Devils started the season 0-4 in their section and 0-8 overall.

Since then, though, Mt. Lebanon has been on fire, winning 15 of its last 17 games, including a second straight WPIAL title.

Hopewell moved up from 3A after winning a WPIAL championship two years ago and falling in the finals last spring.

The Vikings won only four of their first 13 games and suffered a rough seven-game losing streak.

They bounded back, and even though they were the No. 14 seed in the 4A district bracket, they ended up winning WPIAL gold as well.

Mt. Lebanon (15-10) will play District 3 champion Cedar Cliff (20-6) at Mount Aloysius College at 4:30 p.m. Monday in a 6A semifinal on Trib HSSN.

The Blue Devils are 1-2 in state semifinals, beating Plum in 1998 while losing to North Allegheny in 1993 and Moon in 2001. The Colts are 0-1 in the final four, having lost to Lampeter-Strasburg in the 2019 5A semifinals.

Hopewell (14-11) takes on District 6 champion Bellefonte (18-5) at First Commonwealth Bank Field in Homer City at 4:30 p.m. in 4A.

The Vikings have played in 23 PIAA postseason games but have only participated in one semifinals contest. They beat Clearfield, 10-8, in 1986. The Raiders are 1-2 in the final four. Bellefonte beat Hamburg in the 2016 semifinals, but lost to a pair of WPIAL teams in their other third-round appearances, 3-2 to Bethel Park in 1987 and 3-1 to Chartiers Valley in 2009.

Perfect shadow

Punxsutawney is known worldwide for being the home of Phil, a groundhog with powers to predict an early spring or six more weeks of winter based on if he sees his shadow on Feb. 2.

Monday, the Chucks want to cast a shadow on Riverside’s perfect baseball season.

The WPIAL champion Panthers have won all 23 of their games this season while the District 9 champion Chucks have won 20 of their 22 contests this spring.

All time, Punxy is 8-9 against WPIAL teams in the PIAA playoffs and 1-2 in all state semifinals, including a loss last year to Martinsburg Central, 6-5.

The Panthers are 4-2 in final four games, with wins in 2005 over North Catholic, 2006 over Philipsburg-Osceola, 2011 over Martinsburg Central and 2012 over North Star.

Their most recent semifinals game was a loss to Bishop McCort in 2016.

Riverside will meet Punxsutawney at Slippery Rock University at 4 p.m. on Trib HSSN.

More Baseball

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Hempfield grad, Pitt pitcher Phil Fox drafted by White Sox in 7th round
Mt. Lebanon’s David Shields picked by Royals in 2nd round of MLB Draft