WPIAL baseball playoff bracket breakdown

Friday, May 13, 2022 | 8:16 PM

Favorite: Mt. Lebanon could win its first WPIAL baseball title since 2006. The Blue Devils started this season 1-4 before finding their stride in section play behind OF Tanner Donati (.435, 20 RBIs, 12 extra-base hits). They’ve won 10 of their past 12 games, including a 2-1 victory over North Allegheny. Seniors Derrick Shields and Jack Smith combined are 7-1 with 89 Ks in 61 innings. Shields is an IUP recruit and Smith is headed to Harvard.

Contenders: North Allegheny is the defending WPIAL champion, state runner-up and has a senior SS projected to be an MLB first-round pick. Cole Young has done his part with a .463 average, 14 XBHs and 15 RBIs. Senior RHP Connor Smith, a Cal (Pa.) recruit, is 3-0 with a 0.56 ERA. … Pine-Richland finished 4-6 in nonsection play but tied North Allegheny atop Section 1. The Rams got there in dramatic fashion by going 7-2 in games decided by two runs or less … Norwin has a senior-heavy lineup led by SS Jake Kendro (Tennessee) and C Ty Stecko (Mount St. Mary’s). The Knights won the WPIAL title in 2016 as a No. 14 seed.Central Catholic RHP Nick Robertson is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 68 Ks in 41 innings.

Don’t overlook: Butler finished fourth in Section 1, but the team hit 12 home runs.

Prediction: Mt. Lebanon over North Allegheny

Class 5A

Favorite: Perennial power Peters Township has lost once this season, a stunning 7-6 setback to 1-14 Albert Gallatin. But the Indians have dominated the rest of the schedule. Offensively, Sam Miller leads the way with a .446 batting average, 29 hits, seven doubles, five home runs and 31 RBIs. He’s also 4-0 on the mound. Nick Sampson is hitting .459, Drew Ripepi is batting .431 with 24 runs scored and 25 hits, and Jack Kail has scored 21 runs and has 27 hits including seven doubles. Tucker Farris is 5-0 with an ERA of 0.82 and Luke Markowski is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA.

Contenders: Bethel Park, which lost to Peters Township twice, and West Allegheny are seeded No. 2 and No. 3. Mars is another team capable of upsetting the apple cart. Jake Johnson is hitting .418 with 20 runs scored and 23 hits and Trey Wagner is hitting .455. Thomas McLaren is 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA and Matt Mroz is 5-0 with a 2.30 ERA.

Don’t overlook: Latrobe lost consecutive section games to Penn-Trafford late in the season, but that was after wrapping up the section. Don’t sleep on the Wildcats.

Prediction: Peters Township over West Allegheny

Class 4A

Favorite: Could Montour’s 50-year wait end this season? The Spartans, who lost in last year’s finals, haven’t won a WPIAL title since 1972. They have a strong pitching staff with seniors Dylan Mathiesen and Mason Sike. Mathiesen, a Cal (Pa.) recruit, has struck out 74 batters in 46 innings. Sike, a St. Bonaventure recruit, has 44 Ks in 30 innings. Combined, they’re 7-1. Sike also has 25 RBIs. Montour owned a 15-game winning streak before ending its schedule with four straight losses.

Contenders: West Mifflin has never won a WPIAL title, but like Montour, the Titans have a solid pitching staff, led by junior Pierson Buck (5-0, 1.83 ERA) and senior Ryan Lang (3-1, 1.60 ERA). Three hitters in the Titans’ lineup are batting above .400. … Laurel Highlands, which finished second to West Mifflin in Section 3, reached the semifinals a year ago. Senior Carson D’Amico is batting .433 with 16 RBIs. … North Catholic seeks its second title in five years after winning Class 2A in 2018. Sophomore Tommy Koroly leads the Trojans with 15 RBIs. … Beaver pitcher Jack Ray is 6-1 with a 1.12 ERA and 53 Ks in 37 2/3 innings.

Don’t overlook: Blackhawk lost six games by two runs or less, including both matchups with Montour.

Prediction: Montour over West Mifflin

Class 3A

Favorite: Hopewell, the returning Class 3A champion, is back on top and looking for another title. The Vikings are loaded with talent led by junior Lucas Arrington, who is batting .446 with 35 hits, 28 RBIs, seven doubles and three home runs. He’s also 5-0 on the hill with a 3.03 ERA. Chris Mullins is hitting .356 with 21 hits, including eight doubles and 23 RBIs, and Anthony LaSala scored a team-high 32 runs and batted .364. He also was 4-2 with an ERA of 0.36.

Contenders: South Park, which lost 6-5 to Hopewell in the 2021 finals, looks to average the loss. Drew Lafferty batted .458, with 27 hits and 35 RBIs. He had seven doubles and three home runs. He was 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA and struck out 57. Austin Lafferty batted .535 with 32 hits, including 17 doubles and 24 RBIs. Brandon Clifford was 6-0 with an ERA of 1.53. Avonworth is led by Jon Bodnar, who hit .500 with 17 RBIs. Mason Horwat was 3-0 on the hill with an 0.93 ERA.

Don’t overlook: No. 4 Mohawk along with section champions Yough and East Allegheny are capable of making a run.

Prediction: Hopewell over South Park

Class 2A

Favorite: Serra Catholic is typically one of the highest-scoring teams in the WPIAL. That was true again this spring, led by sophomore Zach Black, who batted .543 with 30 runs and 26 RBIs. The Eagles averaged more than 12 runs per game and had six players with at least 15 RBIs. Junior Joe DeMoss drove in a team-best 32 runs. Serra seeks its fourth WPIAL title and first since 2016.

Contenders: Seton LaSalle also averages better than 12 runs per game. The Rebels have five batters with an average above .475 and three with two dozen RBIs: Brian Reed (28), Brian Vogel (27) and Gio LoNero (24). Their only loss was to Upper St. Clair, 1-0. The 2019 WPIAL champions were runners-up last year. … Shenango is the defending WPIAL champion and looks like a contender again with a nine-game winning streak. Senior Tyler Kamerer, a Chipola College commit, is batting .611 with 28 RBIs and 19 XBHs. The Wildcats’ top three pitchers are 11-3 with 123 Ks in 87 innings combined. … Carmichaels won the Section 1 title but faced a limited out-of-section schedule … Riverside tied Shenango atop the Section 2 standings, yet lost to the Wildcats, 2-1 and 2-1, on May 9-10.

Don’t overlook: Neshannock and Laurel tied for third in Section 2, but they’re still capable of making a run.

Prediction: Shenango over Serra Catholic

Class A

Favorite: Eden Christian is the only undefeated team left in Class A and it has unfinished business. Union defeated the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL semifinals last year and then the Warriors lost to Halifax, 3-2, in the PIAA finals. Senior Jared Bees leads the way at the plate with a .455 batting average, 14 stolen bases and 20 hits including four triples. He is 7-0 on the hill with a 0.53 ERA. Pitcher Caleb Emswiler is 4-0 with an 0.95 ERA. Eli Szenyeri is hitting .447 with six doubles and Brian Feldman hit .404 with 19 hits and 21 RBIs.

Contenders: Union is seeded No. 2 and is led by Tyler Staub and Mark Stanley. The Scotties defeated Riverview in the 2021 finals. Rochester is the No. 3 seed and West Greene is seeded No. 4. Its five losses were all to playoff teams.

Don’t overlook: Bishop Canevin has strong pitching and solid hitting and Greensburg Central Catholic, which defeated West Greene, has a strong hitting attack at the top of the order.

Prediction: Eden Christian Academy over Union.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

More Baseball

What to watch for in WPIAL sports on March 22, 2023: Recent WPIAL champs meet on diamond
High school roundup for March 20, 2023: River Valley ousts OLSH in PIAA Class 3A semifinals
Penn-Trafford baseball has new coach, same expectations
Ace lefty Ryan Apaliski leads young pitching staff for Hampton baseball
Fox Chapel baseball hopes offseason adjustments lead to section success