As the WPIAL playoffs begin with first-round action on Monday and Tuesday and continues Wednesday and Thursday with the district quarterfinals, the spotlight always shines brightest on the athlete preparing to let fly from the circle. Every pitcher is an important cog to their team’s postseason success, but these five are big keys for various reasons.
Maddie Uschock, Hempfield, senior
Uschock sat back and watched as former standout pitcher Morgan Ryan, currently at Notre Dame, helped the Spartans to three straight WPIAL championships and back-to-back PIAA crowns. But Uschock and the Spartans’ first test toward more gold was passed with flying colors as Hempfield won another section title, finished 17-3 overall and is once again the top seed in the WPIAL Class 6A postseason. Uschock has allowed just over one earned run a game for the season.
Ashley Seamon, West Allegheny, senior
Unlike a lot of pitchers preparing for the postseason, Seamon has been there and done that when it comes to being in the circle on a championship run. Seamon had her up and downs in last year’s WPIAL playoffs. She allowed nine runs in a semifinal game against Montour, but her West Allegheny teammates scored 10. She then yielded only two runs combined in a quarterfinal win over Plum and the title victory over Moon. This year, Seamon is 17-1 with 48 strikeouts and a 2.43 ERA and led her team to a No. 1 seeding in the Class 5A tournament.
Bailey Parshall, Belle Vernon, senior
This time of year brings a range of emotions to Parshall and her Belle Vernon teammates. Two years ago they found out they were disqualified from the postseason because of the use of an ineligible player. Then last year, the Leopards won it all in WPIAL Class 4A behind the Penn State recruit’s pitching. Thus far in 2018, Parshall is 15-3 with a 0.38 ERA and 230 strikeouts (903 for her career). She also is hitting .480 with three home runs and has been walked a career-high 18 times.
Maddie Krugh, Ellwood City, sophomore
They say the sky’s the limit. Skyla Greco helped lead Ellwood City to back-to-back WPIAL softball championships before graduating last year. Upon Greco’s graduation, the circle at Lincoln High became the domain of Krugh, a sophomore who is 8-5 with a pair of shutouts. She gets her first taste of playoff pitching on Tuesday in the dreaded No. 8 vs. No. 9 game in the Class 3A brackets as the Wolverines’ hopes of a three-peat begin against South Allegheny, with top-seeded South Park waiting in the wings.
Dana Vatakis, Monessen, senior
A once down-trodden program believes the golden dream of becoming a champion after coming so close a year ago. Vatakis has helped turn the program around, leading the Greyhounds to the finals a year ago where they lost to rival West Greene. The two teams split in the regular season this spring and were co-champs in Section 2-A. In the circle, the Robert Morris recruit is 13-3 this year with a 1.07 ERA and 197 strikeouts. She also has a .554 batting average with three home runs, 15 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs.
Don Rebel is a TribLive High School Sports Network broadcaster and staff writer. Reach him at [email protected].