WPIAL Class 5A softball preseason breakdown
By: Bill Hartlep
Sunday, March 17, 2019 | 10:46 PM
West Allegheny captured the WPIAL Class 5A championship a year ago, but the Indians weren’t without challengers.
Both Connellsville and Albert Gallatin were in the WPIAL Final Four. Many others made runs throughout the season.
Here’s a look at who could be among the top teams and players in Class 5A this spring:
Preseason Top 5
Team (2018 record)
1. West Allegheny (23-2) — The defending WPIAL champions will be led by a trio of returning starters — all-state catcher Britney Wilson, all-section DP Megan Pollinger and outfielder Angela Costa, who will pitch and play infield this season. The Indians will miss five graduates, including all-state pitcher Ashley Seamon.
2. Latrobe (13-5) — The Wildcats have played in the past two WPIAL Class 6A title games, falling to Hempfield both seasons. They should again contend in a drop to Class 5A. They will be led by senior catcher Makayla Munchinski (.396) and senior pitcher and Marist recruit Kiley Myers (0.93 ERA, 142 strikeouts). Sophomore Jordan Tallman also will see innings in the circle.
3. Albert Gallatin (14-5) — Seven starters return for the Colonials, who reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals last season. The group includes three-time all-section selections Maddie Flowers (.477, 3 HR), Maddy Hershberger (.438, 4 HR) and Annalia Paoli (.456, 10 HR), a St. Francis (Pa.) commit. Hershberger, a Kent State recruit, also returns to the circle after going 9-4 with a 1.88 ERA.
4. Penn-Trafford (16-4) — Bolstered by six returning starters, the Warriors again have high expectations. Morgan Nedley (.466), Brooke Cleland (.444) and Emma Armstrong (.455) were first-team all-section last season.
5. Trinity (13-8) — Seven starters are back for the WPIAL quarterfinalist Trinity, including Bailey Bell, Marlaina Bozek and Kylie Poland, who all hit over .450 last year.
Players to watch
Megan Andree, Sr., P, Kiski Area
Emma Armstrong, Sr., 1B, Penn-Trafford
Angalee Beall, Sr., P, Franklin Regional
Bailey Bell, Sr., CF, Trinity
Marlaina Bozek, Jr., SS, Trinity
Mia Burd, Sr., P/OF, Connellsville
Brooke Cleland, So., OF, Penn-Trafford
Maddie Flowers, Sr., OF, Albert Gallatin
Hannah Gallagher, Sr., INF, Montour
Mallory Halleck, Sr., 1B, Franklin Regional
Maddy Hershberger, Jr., P/1B, Albert Gallatin
Mackenzie Lake, Jr., INF, Plum
Makayla Munchinski, Sr., C, Latrobe
Kiley Myers, Sr., P, Latrobe
Morgan Nedley, Sr., SS, Penn-Trafford
Clara Niglio, So., P, Moon
Annalia Paoli, Jr., SS, Albert Gallatin
Lindsay Penz, Sr., INF, Montour
Megan Pollinger, So., INF/P, West Allegheny
Britney Wilson, Jr., C, West Allegheny
*Penn Hills, Shaler and Latrobe dropped down from Class 6A, and South Fayette moved up from 4A to help form three Class 5A sections, two with eight teams and one with seven. Thomas Jefferson dropped down to Class 4A.
*Western Beaver moved up to Class 5A from Class A after forming a co-op with Lincoln Park.
*Moon graduated eight four-year letter winners but will rely on Niglio in the circle. She had a 1.77 ERA with 55 strikeouts last season and also hit nearly .400.
*West Allegheny coach Mindi McFate has a record of 215-91 over the past 16 seasons.
*Connellsville, a WPIAL semifinalist last season, returns Burd, a three-time all-section pitcher and Cornell recruit.
Section 1: Albert Gallatin, Armstrong, Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Kiski Area, Latrobe, Laurel Highlands, Penn-Trafford
Section 2: Gateway, Hampton, Mars, Oakland Catholic, Penn Hills, Plum, Shaler, Woodland Hills
Section 3: Chartiers Valley, Montour, Moon, South Fayette, Trinity, West Allegheny, Western Beaver
Bill Hartlep is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .