With just 8 teams in playoff field, Class 6A softball tournament to feature familiar matchups

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019 | 2:08 PM


The WPIAL Class 6A softball bracket will be noticeably more compact when the pairings are released Thursday.

With the WPIAL going from three sections to two this season, the league took just eight teams to the postseason in its largest classification.

There were 13 qualifiers last season and 12 made it in 2017, the first year for 6A.

Hempfield, the four-time defending WPIAL champion, will have a tougher path to the finals this time.

“We won’t change our approach,” longtime Hempfield coach Bob Kalp said. “It’s like all teams got a bye into the quarterfinals. But I don’t particularly care for (the format). You will play a team from your section too soon.”

The field is set with the top four teams from each section advancing. Playoff teams are: Bethel Park (11-3), Canon-McMillan (12-4), Baldwin (11-3) and Upper St. Clair (12-5) in Section 1; and North Allegheny (13-5), Norwin (11-6), Hempfield (12-6), and Seneca Valley (12-5) in Section 2.

Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan are tied for first, but Baldwin is a half-game back with a chance to share the title with a win Wednesday against Brashear.

“I definitely think it will be a challenge since all eight teams are very good and deserve to be in the playoffs,” Baldwin coach Gina Fuchs said. “Honestly, it doesn’t affect our approach at all. We just take one game at a time and look to control the things we can control. I’m sure the coaches who have been coaching a long time have an opinion, but since this is only my second year coaching in high school, so I don’t really know if I like it or dislike it yet.”

Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller said the tournament still is one-and-done, no matter the number of teams.

“I’m not wild about only having 16 total teams in 6A,” Moeller said. “It’s too few and takes away some of the prestige. There are some great teams in other classifications as well, but specifically 5A where we lost some really quality competition by the reclassification.

“The main challenge I see more so for the committee is how seeding shakes out and if we’ll see section teams playing each other in the first round. I like seeing new teams early in the playoffs, but obviously there are pros and cons to that as well.”

In Section 2, North Allegheny, Norwin and Hempfield are tri-champions, with Hempfield capturing its fifth straight section.

Kalp is expecting a lull in his team’s schedule before the playoffs start.

“I would expect 6A will not play for a number of days so the classes with more teams complete their initial rounds,” Kalp said. “That means scrambling to get some teams to scrimmage. I liked all of it better when there were three or four classes.”

Moeller said the 6A field is wide open, which could quell any dismay about the smaller tournament.

“There is a lot of parity in 6A right now so seeding should be interesting,” she said. “Any team can beat any team on any given day. That in itself should make it pretty exciting.”

The top three teams in 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A and A will advance to the PIAA playoffs. The top four in 2A make the state tournament.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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