WPIAL bracketology: Don Rebel, Chris Harlan forecast 2024 baseball playoff pairings

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Thursday, May 9, 2024 | 7:37 PM


The 2024 WPIAL baseball playoff field is set with 77 teams, including all six defending champions: Mt. Lebanon, Shaler, Hopewell, Riverside, Seton LaSalle and Bishop Canevin.

The postseason begins next week and concludes with six title games May 28-29 at Wild Things Park in Washington.

The brackets will be announced Friday at noon on Trib HSSN, but before then, Don Rebel and Chris Harlan share a little diamond bracketology.

Class 6A

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Mt. Lebanon vs. No. 8 Butler

No. 4 Hempfield vs. No. 5 Seneca Valley

No. 2 Pine-Richland vs. No. 7 Central Catholic

No. 3 North Allegheny vs. No. 6 Norwin

Harlan says: Mt. Lebanon is the defending WPIAL champion and still has lefty David Shields, who pitched a no-hitter in last year’s finals. Pine-Richland might argue argue that its section was stronger than Mt. Lebanon’s, but the Rams do have a loss to Norwin on their record. Mt. Lebanon beat Seneca Valley, 1-0, in March. The rest of the bracket falls in order to avoid first-round rematches of section opponents.

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Mt. Lebanon vs. No. 8 Butler

No. 4 Hempfield vs. No. 5 Seneca Valley

No. 2 Pine-Richland vs. No. 7 Central Catholic

No. 3 North Allegheny vs. No. 6 Norwin

Rebel says: Two-time defending champion Mt. Lebanon finishes strong again and has earned the No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils won it all from the pole position in 2022 and won last year as the No. 5 seed. With North Allegheny No. 3 and Hempfield No. 4, barring upsets, the semifinals would be rematches between the top two teams in each section. As per usual, watch out for Seneca Valley as a possible playoff darkhorse.

Class 5A

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 West Allegheny – bye

No. 8 Franklin Regional vs. No. 9 South Fayette

No. 4 Shaler – bye

No. 5 Plum vs. No. 12 Trinity

No. 2 North Hills – bye

No. 7 Penn-Trafford vs. No. 10 Moon

No. 3 Bethel Park – bye

No. 6 Fox Chapel vs. No. 11 Connellsville

Harlan says: Good luck to the WPIAL baseball committee when they put this bracket together. It wouldn’t be surprising for any team in the top eight to reach the finals. It’s tough enough that West Allegheny and North Hills finished as Section 3 co-champions, but there’s also a four-way tie atop Section 1. I rewarded North Hills and West A for winning a section that has produced four of the past five WPIAL 5A champions. Section 2 champion Bethel Park gets the three seed, and defending WPIAL champion Shaler is fourth after playing a tough schedule. Among the teams tied in Section 1, I arranged them based on their best nonsection wins. Plum has wins over North Allegheny and Hempfield. Fox Chapel defeated Pine-Richland. Penn-Trafford beat Butler.

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 West Allegheny — bye

No. 8 Shaler vs. No. 9 South Fayette

No. 4 Penn-Trafford — bye

No. 5 Plum vs. No. 12 Trinity

No. 2 North Hills — bye

No. 7 Fox Chapel vs. No. 10 Moon

No. 3 Bethel Park — bye

No. 6 Franklin Regional vs. No. 11 Connellsville

Rebel says: Nearly half of the Class 5A playoff field is a section champion, so this is an extremely difficult bracket to seed. I lean toward Section 3 because of the depth of the section with a good Mars team missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker. The last time four teams tied for a WPIAL baseball section title, as Penn-Trafford, Fox Chapel, Plum and Franklin Regional did this year, was 2004 (Latrobe, Penn-Trafford, Indiana and Norwin tied for first in Section 1-3A). Section winners aside, a very deep tournament where it will be quite the accomplishment for whichever team is hoisting gold in the end.

Class 4A

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 West Mifflin vs. No. 16 Ringgold

No. 8 Central Valley vs. No. 9 Indiana

No. 4 Montour vs. No. 13 Elizabeth Forward

No. 5 North Catholic vs. No. 12 Blackhawk

No. 2 Belle Vernon vs. No. 15 Knoch

No. 7 Chartiers Valley vs. No. 10 Kiski Area

No. 3 Thomas Jefferson vs. No. 14 Uniontown

No. 6 Latrobe vs. No. 11 Hopewell

Harlan says: West Mifflin (16-2) and Thomas Jefferson (17-2) split their two head-to-head matchups, shared the Section 3 title and played solid baseball all spring. But they get split up here as the first and third seeds because Thomas Jefferson also lost to Belle Vernon, 13-5, in a nonsection game in late April. Montour would be in the discussion for the top seed if the Spartans hadn’t lost three of their last four games. If the committee considers baseball pedigree, the top four seeds in my bracket have combined to win only two WPIAL titles: West Mifflin (2022) and Montour (1972). A Latrobe vs. Hopewell first-round pairing is a rematch of last year’s final.

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Belle Vernon vs. No. 16 Knoch

No. 8 Central Valley vs. No. 9 Indiana

No. 4 Montour vs. No. 13 Kiski Area

No. 5 North Catholic vs. No. 12 Blackhawk

No. 2 Thomas Jefferson vs. No. 15 Ringgold

No. 7 Chartiers Valley vs. No. 10 Hopewell

No. 3 West Mifflin vs. No. 14 Uniontown

No. 6 Latrobe vs. No. 11 Elizabeth Forward

Rebel says: This is another classification without a slam dunk top seed. Belle Vernon gets the nod with two impressive wins to surpass Latrobe at the end of Section 2 play, plus a nonsection victory over Thomas Jefferson helps. I’m keeping TJ and West Mifflin on the same side of the bracket at No. 2 and No. 3, so a rubber game of their season series would be in the semifinals. Chartiers Valley with a couple of eye-opening nonsection wins gets the nod at No. 7 ahead of second-place finishers Central Valley and Indiana.

Class 3A

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Riverside vs. No. 16 Keystone Oaks

No. 8 Waynesburg vs. No. 9 Shady Side Academy

No. 4 Avonworth vs. No. 13 Greensburg Salem

No. 5 Valley vs. No. 12 Shenango

No. 2 Mohawk vs. No. 15 McGuffey

No. 7 Neshannock vs. No. 10 Burrell

No. 3 South Allegheny vs. No. 14 East Allegheny

No. 6 Mt. Pleasant vs. No. 11 South Park

Harlan says: The No. 1 seed needs no debate. Riverside is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion. The next five teams could be arranged in a number of different ways. That group includes Section 1 runner-up Mohawk, Section 2 champion South Allegheny and runner-up Avonworth, Section 3 champion Valley and Section 4 champion Mt. Pleasant. I give the edge here to Mohawk, which finished behind Riverside in the section, but had a late-April nonsection win over South Allegheny. I also give Avonworth some credit for playing a good nonsection schedule that saw losses to North Hills, Bethel Park and West Mifflin but also a 17-5 win over Mohawk.

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Riverside vs. No. 16 Keystone Oaks

No. 8 Waynesburg vs. No. 9 Shady Side Academy

No. 4 Mt. Pleasant vs. No. 13 East Allegheny

No. 5 South Allegheny vs. No. 12 Burrell

No. 2 Mohawk vs. No. 15 McGuffey

No. 7 Avonworth vs. No. 10 Shenango

No. 3 Valley vs. No. 14 Greensburg Salem

No. 6 Neshannock vs. No. 11 South Park

Rebel says: The top two finishers in Section 1 get the nod for the top two seeds with defending champion Riverside first and Mohawk second. I have a lot of love for that section with Neshannock sixth and Shenango 10th. Valley and Mt. Pleasant won their sections and finished strong. I give the advantage to Valley at No. 3, thanks to wins over Greensburg Salem and Serra Catholic. Section winner South Allegheny checks in at No. 5, as that program enjoyed one of its best seasons ever. Keep an eye on 2023 runner-up Neshannock.

Class 2A

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Serra Catholic – bye

No. 8 Laurel vs. No. 9 Charleroi

No. 4 Burgettstown vs. No. 13 Jeannette

No. 5 Greensburg Central Catholic vs. No. 12 Beth-Center

No. 2 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart – bye

No. 7 Chartiers-Houston vs. No. 10 Freedom

No. 3 Seton LaSalle – bye

No. 6 Riverview vs. No. 11 Washington

Harlan says: Serra Catholic went 12-0 in Section 3 and outscored opponents 147-20, so the Eagles look like the favorite for the top seed. They are 15-1 overall and their only stumble was a one-run loss to Valley. OLSH (16-4) moved into position for a top seed by sweeping Section 2 foe Seton LaSalle, 8-2 and 12-4, earlier this week. The wins gave OLSH the section title, but Seton seems likely to still draw a first-round bye over Section 1 champion Burgettstown. The teams playing first-round games could have some long bus rides ahead.

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Serra Catholic — bye

No. 8 Chartiers-Houston vs. No. 9 Freedom

No. 4 Burgettstown vs. No. 13 Jeannette

No. 5 Greensburg Central Catholic vs. No. 12 Beth-Center

No. 2 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart — bye

No. 7 Laurel vs. No. 10 Charleroi

No. 3 Seton LaSalle — bye

No. 6 Riverview vs. No. 11 Washington

Rebel says: Serra Catholic is once again the favorite, with a strong finish lifting Our Lady of the Sacred Heart to the No. 2 seed. Seton LaSalle was in the conversation for a top seed before falling twice to OLSH this week, so the Rebels fall to No. 3. Burgettstown did not have a win outside of its section, so the Blue Devils get the No. 4 seed as a section winners. Laurel avoids the 8-9 game due to a tough section and some competitive losses to good teams out of section.

Class A

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Eden Christian – bye

No. 8 West Greene vs. No. 9 Leechburg

No. 4 Bishop Canevin – bye

No. 5 Carmichaels vs. No. 12 Springdale

No. 2 Union – bye

No. 7 Avella vs. No. 10 Carlynton

No. 3 Fort Cherry – bye

No. 6 Western Beaver vs. No. 11 Sewickley Academy

Harlan says: The WPIAL committee can’t go wrong with Eden Christian or Union as the No. 1 seed. I give Eden the edge here after sweeping both section games from defending WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin last month. The Section 1 standings make this bracket complicated. Fort Cherry was the outright section champion, but Carmichaels, West Greene and Avella tied for second at 8-4. Avella had a 3-0 win over Western Beaver in late March, but by seeding them this way, none of the top four teams could face a section opponent after their bye.

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Union — bye

No. 8 Carlynton vs. No. 9 Western Beaver

No. 4 Bishop Canevin — bye

No. 5 Carmichaels vs. No. 12 Springdale

No. 2 Eden Christian Academy — bye

No. 7 West Greene vs. No. 10 Leechburg

No. 3 Fort Cherry — bye

No. 6 Avella vs. No. 11 Sewickley Academy

Rebel says: Both Union and Eden Christian did not lose to a Class A team all season, but the edge for the top seed goes to the 2021 and 2022 district champs thanks to a nonsection win over Shenango. Thanks to an Avella win over Western Beaver, the three tied teams from Section 1 (Carmichaels, Avella and West Greene) end up in front of section runners-up Carlynton and Western Beaver. Carmichaels gets the edge in the three-way tie due to convincing wins over Avella while the other four head-to-head games were one- or two-run results.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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