WPIAL Class 6A baseball championship preview: Hempfield vs. North Allegheny

Monday, May 31, 2021 | 12:21 PM

1-North Allegheny (19-3) vs. 3-Hempfield (15-7)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Wild Things Park, Washington

Road to the finals

Hempfield — The Spartans will make their WPIAL finals debut after handling No. 2 Norwin in the semifinals. Seton Hill commit Christian Zilli had three hits, including a pair of two-run doubles, and four RBIs and Jake Kramer was strong on the mound as the Spartans beat the highly touted Knights for the second time in three tries this season. Hempfield had been to the semifinals four times since 2012 and finally broke through. The Spartans beat Central Catholic, 6-4, in the quarterfinals.

North Allegheny The Tigers took apart Upper St. Clair and Butler in the playoffs. Joe Manesiotis went 4 for 4 with four RBIs, and Danny Gallon had three hits and scored three times in the win over Butler. Winning pitcher Brady Palmer allowed three hits, walked one and struck out nine in the six-inning shutout. North Allegheny beat Hempfield, 12-5, earlier this season.

Secret to their success

Hempfield Phil Fox is the staff ace with a 2.75 ERA, and the Spartans can play defense, like when Fox, a Gardner-Webb commit, had spectators talking about his highlight catch against Norwin that saw him crash face-first into the fence. They’re most dangerous at the plate, though. Jayson Jacob leads the team with a .400 average, Brandon Couglin hits .375 with 24 hits and 21 RBIs, Fox .339 with 21 runs and Zilli had 20 RBIs and 17 runs.

North Allegheny The Tigers have one of the more explosive offenses in the WPIAL, with a .337 team batting average. Duke recruit Cole Young has a .431 average with six home runs, 27 runs and 19 RBIs, and Barnett, a West Virginia commit, is hitting .390 with seven homers, 24 runs and 29 RBIs. Ace pitcher Kyle Demi is 7-0 with a 0.81 ERA and 60 Ks. Two of North Allegheny’s three losses, however, are to teams from Westmoreland County (Norwin and Penn-Trafford).

Championship factoids

Hempfield After a five-year WPIAL championship run by the Spartans’ softball team ended this spring, the baseball team is playing in its first district title game. Hempfield has lost four straight to North Allegheny. The Spartans’ last win over the Tigers was a 9-4 victory in 2017.

North Allegheny The Tigers have won seven WPIAL baseball championships. The first four crowns, in 1990, ’91, ’96 and 2003, were won in Class AAA; the 2005, ’09 and ’13 titles were captured in Class AAAA title games. This would be their first 6A championship after losing to Pine-Richland in 2017 and Canon-McMillan in the 2018 finals.

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

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