What to watch for in WPIAL sports on June 13, 2022: Breaking down the road to the state finals for 12 baseball, softball teams

Saturday, June 11, 2022 | 11:42 PM

Get ready for Semifinals Monday in the PIAA softball and baseball postseasons.

The WPIAL has seven softball and five baseball teams one win from playing for a state championship later this week at Penn State.

So how do those numbers compare to District 7 teams reaching the final four since the expansion to six classifications in 2017?

This year is a notch down for softball. In three of the previous four seasons, the WPIAL had eight softball teams reach the PIAA semifinals.

The lone exception was in 2019 when only six district teams reached the third round.

District baseball has not been as consistent with some ups and downs.

In 2017, there were only four WPIAL teams in the final four. That doubled in 2018 with eight teams, and then dropped back to four in 2019. Last season, District 7 had seven baseball teams in the state semis.

With four head-to-head matchups Monday, the WPIAL is guaranteed to have a team playing in the state title game in 4A and 2A baseball, along with 5A and 2A softball.

Sensational softball seven

The only classification the WPIAL has been eliminated from in the PIAA softball playoff is Class A. Here are the five games involving the seven district teams.

Class 6A

Seneca Valley (15-6) vs. Pennsbury (24-2), 2:30 p.m. at Chambersburg

The winner plays either Spring-Ford or North Penn at 4 p.m. Friday at Penn State.

After dropping to 5-6 in late May, Seneca Valley has won 10 straight games. Along the way, the Raiders won a third WPIAL softball title with a victory over rival North Allegheny. In the PIAA playoffs, they powered past Central Dauphin, 8-2, behind the likes of Maddie and Bella Gross and Mia Ryan. Ryan produced the only RBI in the 1-0 quarterfinals victory over Quakertown. Freshman pitcher Lexie Hames has 20 strikeouts in the two wins. Pennsbury lost to North Penn in the District 1 championship game that ended a 15-game winning streak. The Falcons rolled past Manheim Township, 10-2, in the first round before eliminating North Allegheny in the quarterfinals by the same score.

Class 5A

Armstrong (22-4) vs. Penn-Trafford (20-3), 2 p.m. at Mars

The winner plays either Oxford or Pittston Area at 4 p.m. Thursday at Penn State.

This is a rematch of the WPIAL 5A softball championship game that was an instant classic. Armstrong scored three runs in the first inning and led 5-1 after two innings. But Penn-Trafford steadied the ship and scored three runs in the third to pull to within a run. Junior Alexa Forsythe tied the game with an RBI single in the sixth inning that set the stage for a dramatic finish. Junior Jenna Clontz homered in the bottom of the seventh to give the River Hawks their first WPIAL crown. Both teams have recent state final four experiences. Last year in the PIAA semifinals, Armstrong knocked off North Hills, 7-4, to advance to the title game. The River Hawks fell to Lampeter-Strasburg, 10-7. Penn-Trafford beat Donegal in the 2019 PIAA semifinals, leading to a state title after they knocked off Lampeter-Strasburg, 5-3.

Class 4A

Beaver (21-0) vs. Clearfield (20-3), 2 p.m. at St. Francis (Loretto)

The winner plays either Tunkhannock or Villa Joseph Marie at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Penn State.

Two-time WPIAL and defending PIAA 4A champion Beaver looks to continue its winning ways, having won all 21 games this season, The Bobcats are riding a 42-game winning streak into the state semifinals. You start to run out of superlatives to describe the play of senior Payton List. The Virginia Tech recruit had 11 strikeouts and added two hits in the Bobcats’ 3-2 first-round win over Fleetwood. In the quarterfinals, she threw a one-hitter and struck out 20 in a 3-0 victory over Burrell. List scored all three Beaver runs. District 9 champion Clearfield avenged one of its losses in the D-9 finals with a win over St. Mary’s. The Bison edged Franklin in the first round, 4-3, before senior Emma Hipps blanked Hamburg in the quarterfinals, 4-0.

Class 3A

Bald Eagle (18-4) vs. Avonworth (19-5), 4:30 p.m. at St. Francis (Loretto)

The winner plays either Palmerton or Lewisburg at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Penn State.

Avonworth has been as steady as they come, producing on offense, defense and pitching every game. There was no district championship hangover for the Antelopes in the first round as sophomore Leah Kuban smacked a two-run homer in a win over Westmont-Hilltop, 6-3. In the quarterfinals, two more sophomores stepped up. Rylee Gray had two hits with a home run and Layne Shinsky drove home three runs as the 13 runs in two games have been enough for yet another 10th grader, pitcher Alivia Lantzy, who struck out eight in the second-round win over Karns City, 7-4. District 6 champion Bald Eagle has wins over two WPIAL teams on the Path to Penn State — Southmoreland, 4-1, and Deer Lakes, 3-0. Sierra Albright was the winning pitcher for the Eagles, who last played in a state semifinals game in 2019 and beat Clearfield. Bald Eagle won state crowns in 2005 and 2009.

Class 2A

Laurel (19-4) vs. Neshannock (24-0), 2 p.m. at Westminster College

Watch this game on Trib HSSN on Monday.

The winner plays either Conwell-Egan or Claysburg-Kimmel at 11 a.m. Friday at Penn State.

These Lawrence County rivals just can’t get enough of each other as they prepare to meet for a fourth time this season. Neshannock has won all three games — 6-1 on April 13, 8-5 on May 4 and 1-0 in eight innings in the WPIAL semifinals. In that game, Lancers freshman Addy Frye allowed three hits, struck out 13 and hit the game-winning RBI double. Frye has back-to-back shutout wins in the state playoffs after the Lancers beat OLSH, 6-0, in the first round and cruised past District 9 champion Johnsonburg, 14-0, in the quarterfinals to remain undefeated. Laurel outslugged District 10 champion Reynolds in the state opener, 17-7, behind a huge game for junior Abbie Miles, who homered twice and drove in seven runs. Sophomore Autumn Boyd was dominant in a 3-0 quarterfinals victory over Burrell. She had 15 strikeouts and two hits, along with junior teammates Georgia Jellyman and Grace Zeppelin, who added a home run. Despite winning three straight WPIAL softball titles from 2018-2021, the Spartans did not get past the state quarterfinals until this season. The last PIAA final four appearance for Neshannock was eight years ago when it lost to Claysburg-Kimmel in the 2014 Class A semifinals, 5-4.

Fab five baseball

The WPIAL was wiped out in Class 3A and A in the first round and exited the 6A tournament with an extra-inning loss by Upper St. Clair in the quarterfinals. Here are the three games involving the five remaining district teams:

Class 5A

Bethel Park (19-3) vs. Donegal (18-8), 4:30 p.m. at Mt. Aloysius College (Cresson)

The winner plays either Archbishop Wood or Selinsgrove at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Penn State.

Just as they did a year ago, Bethel Park has regrouped after a tough district playoff loss to make a run for a second straight state championship. After losing to West Allegheny, 3-0, in the WPIAL semifinals, the Black Hawks won their consolation game and two state playoff contests by a combined score of 17-3. In the first round, senior Cody Geddes had two hits, two RBIs and scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the seventh inning of a 4-3 win over District 6 champion Central Mountain. Geddes was also the winning pitcher in relief. No relief was needed in the quarterfinals as BP starter junior Evan Holewinski was outstanding in pitching a four-hit shutout over WPIAL champion West Allegheny, 7-0. Freshman Ray Petras was a perfect 4 for 4 at the plate while juniors Ray Altmeyer and John Chalus each had two hits for the Black Hawks. Bethel Park is a perfect 5-0 all-time in PIAA semifinals, including last year’s 1-0 win over Central Mountain. Donegal finished fourth in the District 3 playoffs this season, losing to Ephrata in the district semifinals before falling to Susquehannock in the consolation game. The Indians have bounced back in the state playoffs with a win over Southern Lehigh, 11-7, in the opening round, followed by a revenge victory over Ephrata in the quarterfinals, 5-4. Donegal is 0-2 in state semifinals games all-time, last losing to Knoch in the 2015 AAA semifinals, 8-2.

Class 4A

West Mifflin (20-3) vs. Montour (19-6), 3:30 p.m. at North Allegheny

The winner plays either Monsignor Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast or Holy Ghost Prep at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Penn State.

This is the rematch that a lot of district baseball fans are happy to see after their first battle of attrition tied for the longest title game this century. West Mifflin edged Montour, 5-4, in 12 innings to win the program’s first baseball championship. Titans senior Derek Kleinhans delivered an RBI single for an early lead. Spartans junior Cole Fleck tripled home two as Montour grabbed a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. West Mifflin tied the game in the sixth inning on three hit batters and two walks. Then it became a game of who would blink first as both teams had players cramping up on the hot turf. West Mifflin senior Jake Walker tripled to spark a two-run 12th inning before the Titans held on for the epic win, 5-4. The Montour offense has been on fire in two state playoff wins. Juniors Tony Markulin and Brock Janeda went yard in the opening round win over District 6 champion Bellefonte, 13-9. Then senior Mason Sike and sophomore Jake Robinson combined to drive in seven runs as the Spartans dropped District 3 champion East Pennsboro in the quarterfinals, 12-3. West Mifflin suffered no district championship hangover in the first round with a tidy win over Somerset, 6-1. Winning pitcher sophomore Zane Griffaton allowed one run on four hits and helped his cause at the plate with a two-run bomb. In the quarterfinals, the Titans enjoyed a literal walk off win with a bases-loaded walk by sophomore Corey Kuszaj for a thrilling 4-3 victory over Laurel Highlands. The Titans trailed 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh but rallied thanks to an RBI single by senior Ryan Lang. Montour’s only other PIAA semifinals experience came last spring when it lost to New Castle, 3-1. This is only the second time West Mifflin has played in the state baseball playoffs and its first two wins came last week.

Class 2A

Neshannock (19-7) vs. Burgettstown (16-5) at 7 p.m. at North Allegheny

Watch or listen to this game on Trib HSSN on Monday.

The winner plays either Everett or Delone Catholic at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Penn State.

One program has carved its niche as one of the best in the WPIAL as it battles for a third state baseball championship. The other is bucking all the trends of a not-so-rich past as it continues to build its own history with each passing win. Welcome to Neshannock vs. Burgettstown. Neither team won its regular season section title this year, yet they are in the PIAA final four. Neshannock finished a game behind Shenango and Riverside in Section 1-2A while Burgettstown ended up in second place under Seton LaSalle in the Section 4-2A standings. The two ended up on the same side of the WPIAL 2A playoff bracket and after winning two games, met in the district semifinals. Like the Montour vs. West Mifflin game, this was one of the best postseason games of the year. Finally, after 12 innings in Shaler, the Lancers beat the Blue Devils, 5-3. Junior Luke Glies had two hits and two RBIs for the Lancers while freshman teammate Jake Rynd drove in two runs. Sophomore Brodie Kuzior had four hits for the Blue Devils. After losing to Serra Catholic in the WPIAL finals, Neshannock defeated District 10 champion West Middlesex in the first round, 4-3. Sophomore Giovanni Valentine had a two-run single to highlight a four-run sixth inning for the Lancers. In the quarterfinals against section foe Riverside, Neshannock trailed by three runs early and rallied to beat the Panthers in 11 innings, 5-4. The winning run was produced by a pair of freshman, as Dom Cubellis tripled and scored on a Jake Rynd single. Burgettstown earned a spot in the PIAA playoffs for the first time this season and are enjoying the Path to Penn State ride. The Blue Devils beat District 9 champion Johnsonburg in the first round, 6-5, thanks to Kuzior’s grand slam in the third inning and RBI single in the fifth. In the quarterfinals against Redbank Valley, Burgettstown fell behind 3-0 early but scored four runs in the third and two more in the fourth to win, 6-4. Junior Andrew Bredel had two hits and four RBIs while senior Nathan Klodowski added three hits and two runs scored. He also was the winning pitcher. Neshannock is 3-0 all-time in PIAA semifinals games with wins in 1991, 2004 and in 2015 over Quaker Valley.

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