What to watch for in WPIAL sports on June 7, 2023: 21 baseball, softball teams venture into state quarterfinals

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | 9:34 PM


The WPIAL sent a total of 37 baseball and softball teams to the PIAA postseason.

The District 7 baseball teams were a combined 9-10 in the first round while the softball squads were a sparkling 12-6 in state openers.

Now it’s time for quarterfinals Thursday in the PIAA diamond playoffs.

Baseball

Round 1 of the state playoffs was kind to WPIAL teams in Class 6A, 5A and 4A, where they were a combined 6-2, and very unkind to district teams in 3A, 2A and A, which were a combined 2-8, including the wipeout of all district teams in Class A.

The only game matching District 7 teams against each other in the second round is in Class 5A.

WPIAL champion Shaler (20-4) will battle Penn-Trafford (16-6) at 2 p.m. at Gateway.

These two teams did not face each other this spring, but they do have five common opponents: Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Bethel Park, Butler and Plum.

The Titans were a combined 4-2 against those five teams while the Warriors were 4-4.

The last time these schools met on the baseball field was five years ago, when Penn-Trafford beat Shaler in a 2018 nonsection game, 4-3.

The last time they squared off in a postseason game was 18 years ago when the Warriors edged the Titans, 2-1, in the WPIAL 4A quarterfinals.

Road most traveled

In winning back-to-back PIAA Class 5A championships without winning WPIAL gold, Bethel Park knows all about lengthy road trips across the commonwealth.

In 2021, they traveled to Red Lion, Big Spring and PNG Field in Altoona before beating Red Land at Penn State.

In 2022, the Black Hawks took the college tour as they had to win games at Lock Haven, Washington & Jefferson and Mount Aloysius on their way to PSU, where they defeated Selinsgrove.

Now this season, after a four-hour drive to Mechanicsburg in the first round, Bethel Park (18-5) will only have to travel 3 hours, 49 minutes to Big Spring in Newville to face District 12 champion Monsignor Bonner (11-3) at noon.

6A duo heads east

WPIAL 6A finalists Mt. Lebanon and North Allegheny were both first-round winners. Now they head east for the quarterfinals.

District 7 champion Mt. Lebanon (14-10) squares off against District 1 runner-up Spring-Ford (22-3) at 2:30 p.m. at Big Spring following the Bethel Park-Monsignor Bonner game.

The Rams are 1-2 lifetime against WPIAL teams in the state playoffs. Spring-Ford beat Hempfield in the quarterfinals two years ago before losing to North Allegheny in the semifinals in 2021.

WPIAL runner-up North Allegheny (17-7) will take on District 3 champion Cedar Cliff (19-6) at 2 p.m. at Mount Aloysius.

The Colts last played in the PIAA playoffs in 2019 when they reached the 6A semifinals.

Get a piece of the Rock

Two WPIAL baseball teams will play their second-round games at Jack Critchfield Park at Slippery Rock University on Thursday.

WPIAL 4A champion Hopewell (13-11) will try to continue its Cinderella postseason run when the Vikings go up against District 10 champion Cathedral Prep (22-1) at 2:30 p.m.

The Vikings won a PIAA championship 37 years ago in 1987 while the Ramblers are 4-3 in PIAA quarterfinals, having lost their most recent second-round game to Montour two years ago.

At noon Thursday at SRU, WPIAL 3A champion Riverside looks to stay perfect with a 23rd straight win when it plays District 10 champion Fairview (18-2).

Six years ago, the Panthers beat the Tigers, 7-0, in the first round of the 2017 PIAA playoffs.

Not-so-Little Indians

Like Hopewell, Indiana (16-10) has raised eyebrows with its playoff success, including a PIAA opening-round victory over District 3 champion East Pennsboro.

Now the Little Indians go up against another district champion, as they play D-6 winner Bellefonte (17-5) in a 4A second-round game at 4:30 p.m. at Mount Aloysius.

Blue Devils power

A pair of Blue Devils collide when Burgettstown (16-4) battles District 10 champion Sharpsville (15-7) at 2:30 p.m. at Westminster College in Class 2A.

Burgettstown is the only WPIAL team left in 2A and A after Seton LaSalle, Serra Catholic, Bishop Canevin, California and Union all lost in the first round.

Softball

There are two second-round state softball playoff games pitting WPIAL teams against each other.

In Class 5A, district champion Trinity (20-2) will battle the team it beat in the WPIAL semifinals, Shaler (20-1).

In that game two weeks ago, the Hillers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning before the Titans rallied to tie the game and force extra innings. Addison Agnew’s sacrifice fly in the ninth inning proved to be the difference for Trinity.

The game will be played at 4:30 p.m. at Gateway.

The other battle of district teams is also a WPIAL semifinals rematch.

WPIAL champion Belle Vernon (19-4) plays the team it squashed in the district final four, Elizabeth Forward (19-1).

The Leopards played home run derby in handing the Warriors their only loss as Lexi Daniels, Ava Zubovic and Maren Metikosh all homered to account for nine of runs in the 10-1 win.

This 4A second-round clash takes place at 4:30 p.m. at Hempfield.

Champs in the house

Three WPIAL champions who are also recent state champions hit the diamond Thursday hoping to take the next step toward more gold.

WPIAL 6A champion and 2016, 2017 and 2018 PIAA champion Hempfield (19-3) will take on Downingtown East (22-3) from District 1 at 4 p.m. at Cumberland Valley.

This is the Cougars’ second PIAA playoff game after beating Central Dauphin in their first game Monday. Before breaking off to form Downingtown East and Downingtown West around the turn of the century, old Downingtown HS was 1-2 in state quarterfinals games, reaching the PIAA semifinals in 1977.

Defending PIAA 3A champion Avonworth (22-1) will go up against District 6 champion Juniata at 4 p.m. at St. Francis University in Loretto.

This is the first year the Indians have qualified for the state softball playoffs while the Antelopes are participating in their eighth state postseason and fifth straight. The ‘Lopes are 8-7 overall after winning all four PIAA playoff games in 2022.

Finally, undefeated Neshannock (21-0) tries to build on its district-record 47 straight wins when it takes on District 10 champion Sharpsville (19-3)

The Lancers are 4-0 lifetime in PIAA quarterfinals and 1-0 in the state playoffs against District 10 teams, having knocked off Fairview in a 2012 quarterfinal, 4-3.

The Blue Devils are 0-2 against WPIAL teams, losing first-round games to Vincentian Academy in 2010 and Seton LaSalle in 2017.

The Class 2A second-round game will be played at 2 p.m. at Westminster.

Strong arms

Armstrong (20-2) has been a participant in the PIAA softball playoffs twice before, in 2021 and 2022.

Both times, the River Hawks flew to the finals.

Now the WPIAL runners-up will try to make it 3-0 in PIAA 5A quarterfinals when they battle West Chester-Rustin (17-8) at 4 p.m. at Messiah University.

In both previous second-round games, the River Hawks scored double-digit runs, beating Exeter Township and Central Mountain by a combined score of 28-9.

Chopping Wood

Montour (16-4) was able to wash away the bitter marathon loss to Belle Vernon in the WPIAL 4A finals with an opening-round victory over District 6 champion Bellefonte.

Now the Spartans face District 12 consolation winner Archbishop Wood (13-8) at 1 p.m. at Messiah University.

The Vikings played in their first PIAA quarterfinal last spring and lost to Tunkhannock, 10-0.

The Spartans’ rich tradition has seen them go 5-5 in state second-round games, including a 4-1 victory over Greensburg Salem in their most recent state quarterfinal in 2012.

Near opening-round sweep

While Class 3A and Class 2A WPIAL teams were a combined 2-5 in the state softball first round, Class A teams from District 7 went 3-1 with only Frazier failing to advance.

It will be District 7 vs. District 6 in three Class A second-round contests.

WPIAL champion Union (18-3) will battle District 6 runner-up West Branch (20-4) at 1 p.m. at Heindl Field in DuBois.

The Scotties are 0-2 in state quarterfinals, losing to Monessen in 2018 and Saegertown last season, 1-0 in eight innings.

WPIAL runner-up Carmichaels (19-1) go up against District 6 consolation winner Glendale (20-4) at 4 p.m. at Somerset.

The Mighty Mikes are 2-3 in state quarterfinals games, losing to Southern Huntingdon in their most recent second-round PIAA contest 10 years ago. The Vikings are 2-3 against WPIAL teams in the state playoffs.

WPIAL consolation winner Chartiers-Houston (15-6) will challenge District 6 champion Clayburg-Kimmel (21-3) at 2 p.m. at Hempfield.

This will be the second time these schools have met in a PIAA postseason game. The Buccaneers beat the Bulldogs in a 2010 semifinal, 1-0.

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