WPIAL Class 6A softball preseason breakdown

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Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 9:56 PM


Can anyone dethrone Hempfield softball?

Many have tried over the past four seasons, but the Spartans have hung on to the top spot in the WPIAL’s highest classification.

They have won four straight WPIAL titles and three consecutive PIAA championships.

Led by veteran coach Bob Kalp (401-97-1), the Spartans again begin the season with a bulls-eye on their back.

Here’s a preseason breakdown of WPIAL Class 6A softball:

Class 6A

Preseason Top 5

Team (2018 record)

1. Hempfield (24-3) — Graduation took a toll on the successful Spartans lineup, but 16 players, including five starters, are back. The group includes senior outfielder Laura Fox (.439), and junior DP Ashley Orischak, who were both all-section and all-state selections.

2. Seneca Valley (12-6) — Eight starters are back for coach George Trew and the Raiders, including four all-section players: catcher Karli Hacker (.500), pitcher Claire Zimmerman (.362), outfielder Julia Ehrman (.397) and DP Kearson Wagner (.412).

3. Norwin (12-8) — Led by senior catcher Sara Russell, an IUP recruit, and all-section outfielder Alex Bretzel and all-section shortstop Hailee Culbertson, Norwin reached the WPIAL semifinals a year ago. Dealing with the travel in a new section could be a challenge.

4. Baldwin (13-6) — Baldwin reached the PIAA quarterfinals last season behind pitcher Addie Tagg and several talented seniors who compiled a 52-21 record the past four seasons. Tagg is entering her fourth year as the starter in the circle. Four other starters also return to the lineup, including all-section third baseman Salena Jaquay.

5. Canon-McMillan (10-7) — After reaching the WPIAL quarterfinals, the Big Macs did graduate a few key pieces. But they do return a talented sophomore class that got plenty of experience, namely Olivia Ulam (.435), Elika Mowery (.368) and Grace Higgins (.361).

Players to watch

Kristen Chomos, Sr., Inf., North Allegheny

Hailee Culbertson, SR., Inf., Norwin

Laura Fox, Sr., OF, Hempfield

Karli Hacker, Sr., C, Seneca Valley

Emma Hoffner, So., C, Hempfield

Kaitlyn Horrell, Sr., OF, Pine-Richland

Ashley Orischak, Jr., DP, Hempfield

Rachel Martingdale, Sr., INF, North Allegheny

Brooke Serbin, Sr., OF, North Allegheny

Grace Swigart, Jr., OF, Upper St. Clair

Addie Tagg, Sr., P, Baldwin

Lindsey Thomas, Sr., OF, Peters Township

Kearson Wagner, Jr., DP, Seneca Valley

Claire Zimmerman, Sr., P, Seneca Valley

Notable

*Latrobe, Penn Hills and Shaler moved down to Class 5A via realignment this season.

*Section 1 remained mostly the same, with the addition of Allderdice being the only change.

*Shaler, in 2014, was the last team not from Hempfield to win a WPIAL title in the largest classification. Canon-McMillan won back to back in 2012-13.

*Mt. Lebanon (8-9) returns six starters and looks to compete in Section 1 behind Emily Amato and Madeline Ritenour, who were second-team all-section.

Alignment

Section 1: Allderdice, Baldwin, Bethel Park, Brashear, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair

Section 2: Butler, Fox Chapel, Hempfield, North Allegheny, North Hills, Norwin, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley

Bill Hartlep is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Bill by email at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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