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

By:
Wednesday, May 8, 2024 | 7:22 PM


The 2024 WPIAL softball playoff field is set with 76 teams, including all six defending champions ready to begin playing for gold.

The postseason begins next week and concludes with six title games May 29-30 at Lilley Field at Cal (Pa.).

The brackets will be announced at 2 p.m. Thursday on Trib HSSN, but before then, Chris Harlan and Don Rebel share a little diamond bracketology.

Class 6A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Hempfield — bye

No. 4 Pine-Richland vs. No. 5 Norwin

No. 2 Seneca Valley — bye

No. 3 North Allegheny vs. No. 6 Canon-McMillan

Rebel says: No offense to the other four Class 6A playoff teams, but this race to the gold appears to be a battle of recent champions. Regular season co-champions Hempfield and Seneca Valley will get the first two seeds and the quarterfinal bye that goes with it, so they would only need to win one playoff game to set up a rematch for the district crown. Seneca Valley junior Lexie Hames no-hit Hempfield in the first meeting between the teams, then without Hames in the circle, the Spartans routed the Raiders in their second regular season clash. The two quarterfinals should be good ones, but the expected third game of the year between Hempfield and Seneca Valley would be the buzz of WPIAL championship week.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Hempfield – bye

No. 4 Pine-Richland vs. No. 5 Norwin

No. 2 Seneca Valley – bye

No. 3 North Allegheny vs. No. 6 Canon-McMillan

Harlan says: Seneca Valley seemed to be the clear-cut favorite about a week ago, before a 12-1 loss to Hempfield in five innings. It’s worth noting that star pitcher and Clemson recruit Lexie Hames didn’t start that day while dealing with shoulder soreness. She was in the circle April 12 when Seneca Valley topped Hempfield, 3-2. The rest of the bracket falls in order of the standings, since there’s only one section in WPIAL Class 6A.

Class 5A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 North Hills vs. No. 16 Bethel Park

No. 8 Penn-Trafford vs. No. 9 Plum

No. 4 Trinity vs. No. 13 Western Beaver

No. 5 Connellsville vs. No. 12 Latrobe

No. 2 Armstrong vs. No. 15 Fox Chapel

No. 7 South Fayette vs. No. 10 Thomas Jefferson

No. 3 West Allegheny vs. No. 14 Franklin Regional

No. 6 Shaler vs. No. 11 Mars

Rebel says: Wow, let the debate begin as to who should be the top seed and filter on down all the way to the No. 6 seed. Nobody jumps out, but I gave the edge to North Hills because of the split against a strong second-place team in Shaler. Nonsection wins over playoff-bound Bethel Park, Hampton and Deer Lakes help as well. As usual, Class 5A is deep and strong. There are plenty of legitimate favorites and there are some third- and fourth-place teams that could make a deep run in the postseason.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Armstrong vs. No. 16 Fox Chapel

No. 8 South Fayette vs. No. 9 Thomas Jefferson

No. 4 Penn-Trafford vs. No. 13 Mars

No. 5 Shaler vs. No. 12 Franklin Regional

No. 2 West Allegheny vs. No. 15 Bethel Park

No. 7 Connellsville vs. No. 10 Latrobe

No. 3 North Hills vs. No. 14 Western Beaver

No. 6 Trinity vs. No. 11 Plum

Harlan says: Outright section winners Armstrong, North Hills and West Allegheny can make a case for the top seed. They should be seeded 1-2-3 in some order. Armstrong gets the edge here. The River Hawks’ two losses were to section foe Penn-Trafford and 2A favorite Neshannock. Defending WPIAL champion Trinity and Connellsville shared the Section 4 title but are seeded here behind a couple of second-place teams from other sections, Penn-Trafford and Shaler. That’s partly because P-T defeated Connellsville, 13-3, in a nonsection game Monday.

Class 4A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Elizabeth Forward — bye

No. 8 Uniontown vs. No. 9 West Mifflin

No. 4 Chartiers Valley vs. No. 13 Highlands

No. 5 Belle Vernon vs. No. 12 McKeesport

No. 2 Hampton — bye

No. 7 Knoch vs. No. 10 Blackhawk

No. 3 Indiana — bye

No. 6 Montour vs. No. 11 Greensburg Salem

Rebel says: Another strong season by Elizabeth Forward earns the Warriors the top spot followed by the two other section winners, Hampton and Indiana. Montour finished in third place in its section; however, it has some quality wins on its resume, so we place the 2023 PIAA runners-up as the No. 6 seed, ahead of second-place finishers Knoch and Uniontown. No. 4 seed Chartiers Valley would receive a first-round bye in this bracket in most years, but three-win Highlands swept Woodland Hills late to earn a playoff berth.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Elizabeth Forward – bye

No. 8 Uniontown vs. No. 9 West Mifflin

No. 4 Chartiers Valley vs. No. 13 Highlands

No. 5 Montour vs. No. 12 McKeesport

No. 2 Hampton – bye

No. 7 Knoch vs. No. 10 Greensburg Salem

No. 3 Indiana – bye

No. 6 Belle Vernon vs. No. 11 Blackhawk

Harlan says: One-loss Elizabeth Forward (17-1) is the obvious favorite. The Warriors’ only loss was to Hempfield, 2-1, in late April. The other section winners, Hampton and Indiana, draw the remaining byes here, but Chartiers Valley might be considered for the third seed over Indiana. The Colts have some quality wins. No. 5 Montour and No. 6 Belle Vernon met in the WPIAL finals last year.

Class 3A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Avonworth vs. No. 16 Keystone Oaks

No. 8 Ellwood City vs. No. 9 Yough

No. 4 Mohawk vs. No. 13 Mt. Pleasant

No. 5 Southmoreland vs. No. 12 Deer Lakes

No. 2 South Park vs. No. 15 Hopewell

No. 7 Central Valley vs. No. 10 Freeport

No. 3 Ligonier Valley vs. No. 14 Waynesburg

No. 6 Burrell vs. No. 11 McGuffey

Rebel says: It’s not clear cut, but two-time defending champion Avonworth gets the nod as the top seed in a class with several strong section champions. The Antelopes swept a very good Burrell team and recently knocked off 5A North Hills. It may not look like it at first glance, but there should be a lot of love for Section 3, where softball powers Yough and Mt. Pleasant finished third and fourth behind Ligonier Valley and Southmoreland.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Avonworth vs. No. 16 Keystone Oaks

No. 8 McGuffey vs. No. 9 Yough

No. 4 Southmoreland vs. No. 13 Deer Lakes

No. 5 Mohawk vs. No. 12 Freeport

No. 2 South Park vs. No. 15 Hopewell

No. 7 Burrell vs. No. 10 Ellwood City

No. 3 Ligonier Valley vs. No. 14 Waynesburg

No. 6 Central Valley vs. No. 11 Mt. Pleasant

Harlan says: South Park at 15-1 overall has the best record in WPIAL 3A. But defending champion Avonworth likely played the tougher schedule overall, so the Antelopes get the No. 1 seed. What to do with Ligonier Valley (12-5) and Southmoreland (14-2)? The teams tied atop Section 3, but Ligonier Valley likely draws the higher seed after winning both head-to-head matchups.

Class 2A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Neshannock — bye

No. 8 Apollo-Ridge vs. No. 9 Beth-Center

No. 4 Serra Catholic vs. No. 13 Burgettstown

No. 5 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart vs. No. 12 Steel Valley

No. 2 Laurel — bye

No. 7 Charleroi vs. No. 10 Riverside

No. 3 Bentworth — bye

No. 6 Shenango vs. No. 11 Greensburg Central Catholic

Rebel says: Neshannock is a softball machine and the favorite to win a third straight district championship. Section 1 in the north earns the No. 1 (Neshannock), No. 2 (Laurel) and No. 6 (Shenango) seeds in a 13-team tournament. One of the top freshmen in the WPIAL this season is Sydney Gonglik of Bentworth, a driving force in the circle and at the plate for the No. 3 Bearcats. A possible quarterfinal matchup could be Serra Catholic against OLSH, who were a combined 23-7 this season.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Neshannock – bye

No. 8 Charleroi vs. No. 9 Greensburg Central Catholic

No. 4 Laurel vs. No. 13 Steel Valley

No. 5 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart vs. No. 12 Riverside

No. 2 Bentworth – bye

No. 7 Shenango vs. No. 10 Beth-Center

No. 3 Serra Catholic – bye

No. 6 Apollo-Ridge vs. No. 11 Burgettstown

Harlan says: Section 1 winner Neshannock (18-0) is the defending WPIAL champion. In contrast, Bentworth went 6-9 a year ago, but hard-throwing freshman pitcher Sydney Gonglik has the Bearcats (14-2) looking like playoff contenders. Section 1 runner-up Laurel lost to Neshannock in the WPIAL finals last year and could garner consideration for a first-round bye. Here I rewarded the third section champion, Serra Catholic.

Class A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Union — bye

No. 8 Monessen vs. No. 9 Jefferson-Morgan

No. 4 Frazier — bye

No. 5 South Side vs. No. 12 Leechburg

No. 2 Carmichaels — bye

No. 7 Jeannette vs. No. 10 Carlynton

No. 3 Chartiers-Houston — bye

No. 6 West Greene vs. No. 11 Northgate

Rebel says: Like Avonworth in 3A and Neshannock in 2A, Union is the favorite to three-peat as WPIAL champs. However, this tournament is deep thanks to some of the top pitchers in the district, including Mia Preuhs of Union, Bailey Barnyak of Carmichaels, Meadow Ferri of Chartiers-Houston, Grace Stein of Jeannette and Payton Gilbert of West Greene. Section 2 co-champs Carmichaels and Chartiers-Houston draw the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds with a possible third matchup coming in the semifinals.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Union – bye

No. 8 Monessen vs. No. 9 Carlynton

No. 4 Chartiers-Houston – bye

No. 5 Jeannette vs. No. 12 Jefferson Morgan

No. 2 Frazier – bye

No. 7 West Greene vs. No. 10 Northgate

No. 3 Carmichaels – bye

No. 6 South Side vs. No. 11 Leechburg

Harlan says: Another defending WPIAL champion draws a No. 1 seed. Section 1 champion Union (17-1) has lost this season only to Neshannock. That means the Scotties are all but a lock for the top spot. Section 3 champion Frazier (12-0) is one of only two undefeated teams in the WPIAL. Carmichaels (14-2) and Chartiers-Houston (14-2) tied atop Section 2. The softball committee’s decisions are easier here since the top four seeds all draw first-round byes.

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.

More High School Sports

Latrobe QB/DB John Wetzel verbally commits to Marshall for football
WPIAL girls golf adds 8 new teams for next school year
With 1st-year coach, Mt. Pleasant American Legion baseball looks to build on solid foundation
Seniors help ‘make a name’ for Chartiers Valley softball
After trip to WPIAL final, Chartiers Valley girls lacrosse vows to maintain winning performance