With four of the defending WPIAL champions earning the top seed in their respective classification, it could be much of the same with teams competing for back-to-back titles.
With the tournament starting for 13 local teams, and the finals scheduled for May 30 and 31 at Seton Hill University, here is my best guess at what might happen til then.
The offense has let Canon-McMillan down in the playoffs the past few seasons. Maybe the four-game-losing streak the Big Macs are on, which includes three games where they failed to score more than three runs, is just something the Big Macs need to get out of their system. Instead of it happening in a do-or-die situation, the losing streak happened at a time when C-M already wrapped up second place in the section.
Whatever Canon-McMillan team shows up in the first round against No. 9-seed Fox Chapel Tuesday, it will need to do one thing better: hit with runners in scoring position.
Peters Township softball coach Nicole Davis was thrilled to be returning to the playoffs after a three-year absence, one season with the Indians and another two with a rebuilding Sto-Rox program. Davis was an assistant coach at Baldwin prior to that.
One thing that stands out about the Indians is that they didn’t get swept by a single team in their section, which shows they can play with anybody. Their opponent, sixth-seeded Seneca Valley, has won its last three games.
The favorite remains two-time defending PIAA champion Hempfield, but the Spartans will have more competition in this playoff run from No. 2 seed Baldwin and third-seeded Latrobe.
Prediction: Hempfield survives to win another championship.
Trinity coach Shawn Gray has led the Hillers a long way from their 5-10 record a season ago to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.
Shortstop Marlaina Bozek is a gem as a sophomore, but the best years for Trinity are still yet to come. The Hillers are young and were allotted a difficult spot in the bracket. Gateway, their first-round opponent, has won four straight games.
If Trinity, the No. 8 seed, defeats the Gators, it will face overwhelming odds against top-seeded West Allegheny.
Prediction: West Allegheny outscored teams 213-34 this season, which will eventually result in a WPIAL championship.
Starting pitcher Bailey Parshall will get Belle Vernon to the semifinals.
Whether the Leopards can get beyond that point, which will likely mean handing top-seeded Mt. Pleasant its first loss of the season, comes down to the supporting cast. Not only have the Vikings avoided losing any games, only three of their victories have been by fewer than five runs.
Yough, who defeated Belle Vernon 2-0 in both games this season, is the No. 2 seed on the other side of the bracket.
Prediction: Mt. Pleasant will defeat Yough in the championship game.
The two local teams, Waynesburg and McGuffey, are trying to avoid the first-round losses they suffered a season ago.
The Raiders have at least a better feeling heading into this postseason appearance, winning three of their last four. Last year, Waynesburg dropped six of seven entering the playoffs. There seems to be no in between performances for the seventh-seeded Raiders, who play Freedom, the No. 10 seed. Waynesburg has losses by 13, 12 and 10 runs thus far, and have won games by 23, 13, 12 and 10 runs.
McGuffey is seeking payback against Burrell, which knocked the Highlanders out in the first round last May, 5-4. Limping into the playoffs by losing its last three games, McGuffey will need an upset to advance into the quarterfinals against Avonworth.
All roads lead to a likely matchup with talented South Park, which won nine games by 10 runs or more. The Eagles only loss of the season was a one-run thriller, 17-16, against Class 6A North Allegheny. Top-seeded South Park is led by Katlyn Pavlick, a Pitt recruit, who is hitting .644 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI. Kaitlyn Morrison is hitting .633 for the Eagles with nine home runs.
Prediction: South Park was knocked out by Deer Lakes in the semifinals in last year’s playoffs before going on to win the PIAA Class 3A Championship. There won’t be a letdown this season as the Eagles win the WPIAL.
It might be one of the deepest brackets with several top-heavy teams, but it will come down to a third meeting between section opponents Chartiers-Houston and Frazier.
Frazier, which won the program’s first WPIAL title last season, defeated the Bucs in both regular season meetings, 14-5 and 5-4 in nine innings. In those games, C-H committed five total errors in the final inning.
As for the other contenders, Seton-La Salle holds the most impressive record at 13-2. Shortstop Lexi Wagner, an Oregon recruit, leads the Rebels, but they have only beat one team – Serra Catholic – with a winning record.
Serra Catholic and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic could contend, but C-H won by a mercy rule over both in non-section games during the regular season.
It’s always tough to beat a quality team three times in a season. Frazier only has to look as far as last year for an example, when the Commodores downed C-H both times during the regular season only to lose to the Bucs in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Prediction: Chartiers-Houston gets over the hump of recent playoff heartbreaks and wins its first WPIAL title since 2012.
Following a regular-season game this season, West Greene coach Bill Simms said going undefeated isn’t the goal for his team.
The Pioneers’ schedule shows exactly that. With non-section games against second-seeded Chartiers-Houston in Class 2A and fourth-seeded Belle Vernon in Class 4A, Simms has been preparing his team for the challenges it will see over the next several weeks to repeat as PIAA champions.
Not to dismiss Monessen’s one-run win over the Pioneers in late April, but I refuse to put a narrow victory over a 45-3 scoring advantage West Greene held over the Greyhounds in the previous six meetings.
Prediction: Some have ranked the defending state champion Pioneers as low as fourth in Class A. Well, the “No. 4 team” will run away with another WPIAL title.