ShareThis Page
Previewing the WPIAL softball season |

Previewing the WPIAL softball season

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, March 23, 2014 11:27 p.m
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem shortstop Claire Oberdorf attempts to turn a double play over St. Mary's base runner Taylor Bellina in the sixth inning of their PIAA Class AAA opening-round softball playoff game Monday, June 3, 2013, at Hampton High School in Hampton. Greensburg Salem defeated St. Mary's, 2-0.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Seton-La Salle sophomore pitcher Lauren Zola.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Carmichaels pitcher Erica Burns delivers against Jeannette on Monday, May 20, 2013, at Baldwin. Burns pitched a one-hitter in the WPIAL quarterfinal.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Riverside pitcher Kirsten Wilson celebrates with head coach Pam McCarty after defeating Chartiers-Houston, 4-0, in a WPIAL Class AA semifinal Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at Fairhaven Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan coach Michele Moeller hugs pitcher Alayna Astuto after the Big Macs defeated Neshaminy in the PIAA Class AAAA softball championship game Friday, June 14, 2013, at Penn State University.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Deer Lakes' head coach Craig Taliani celebrates with Maria Taliani, his daughter, after she hit a home run against Leechburg on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Leechburg Community Park.

Class AAAA

Preseason top five

Team 2013 record

1. Canon-McMillan25-1

2. North Allegheny18-6

3. Shaler13-6

4. Hempfield18-7

5. Latrobe15-5

Section favorites

1. Hempfield: Despite losing a four-year starting pitcher (Hope Pehrson) and the entire starting infield, Hempfield again will field a talented lineup. OF Kasey Kolick hit .385 with 24 RBIs last year, and Alaina Montgomery and Michaela LeDonne were named all-section as Hempfield reached the PIAA playoffs. Freshman Morgan Ryan will step into the pitching circle. Former Latrobe standout pitcher Alexa Bryson is the new coach at her alma mater and she returns seven starters, including all-state first baseman/pitcher Shelby Noel (.460, 27 RBIs), for the defending section champion Wildcats. Penn-Trafford will be led by first-year coach Monica Cox, who played and coached at Hempfield and last season led Mt. Pleasant to the playoffs. The Warriors also return Jess Zavolta, who hit .477. Connellsville returns nine starters from a 6-6 team.

2. McKeesport: The Tigers went 12-0 to claim the Section 2 title last year as pitcher Jess Beitler (16 wins, 123 strikeouts) earned all-state honors. The senior returns to the circle this year and will be aided by the offense of sophomore shortstop Vanessa Falce and senior catcher Courtney Patterson, who were all-section players a year ago. Plum returns eight starters, including all-state shortstop Jordan Seneca (.564), a St. Francis recruit, and all-state infielder Melissa LeClair (.426). Woodland Hills returns senior all-section shortstop Kelsey Geyer, who hit .489 last year. Penn Hills, which finished 2-10 last season, features a freshmen trio of talent: Lydia DeFazio, Riplee Burkhart and Kiana Drahusz. Andy Popojas is the new coach at Gateway, which returns sophomore pitcher Madison Lewis, who missed most of last season with a hand injury.

3. North Allegheny: Led by senior all-section pitcher Sami Beining (11 wins, 76 strikeouts) and infielder Christine Scherer, North Allegheny will look to defend its Section 3 title and make another trip to the WPIAL final and PIAA playoffs. All-state catcher Bonnie Pierson will be missed. Seneca Valley returns its entire starting lineup, including all-section infielder Alexa Sisko (.414) and outfielder Jess Neill (.538). Shaler returns seven starters, including pitcher Brianna Dobson (12 wins, 64 strikeouts), who had an impressive all-section freshman season.

4. Canon-McMillan: Plenty of talent returns for the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Big Macs. Junior Abby McCartney (.515, 5 HR) and senior Olivia Lorusso (.390, 7 HR) both are Robert Morris recruits and were named all-state last year. Sophomore Linda Rush was an all-section infielder. Senior catcher Giorgiana Zeremenko, a Pitt recruit, also returns after missing most of last season with an injury. She did hit .545 in the playoffs. Peters Township has six starters back, including pitcher Kellyn Perich, an all-section player last year, who is part of a standout junior class. Five starters are back for Upper St. Clair, including two-time all-section selection Karsen Rooney. Baldwin returns eight starters from an 8-6 team, including all-section sophomore outfielder Mallory O’Brien and standout catcher Kayla Eberst, who hit .417 with 18 RBIs. Chartiers Valley returns eight starters, including catcher/shortstop Libby Chidlow (.392).

Players to watch

Olivia Lorusso

Sr., 3B, Canon-McMillan

An all-state selection and RMU recruit, she hit .390 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs last year.

Kaelin Jackson

Sr., C, Franklin Regional

University of Maryland, Baltimore County recruit hit .460 and was all-section.

Abby McCartney

Jr., OF, Canon-McMillan

An RMU recruit, she hit .515 with five home runs, eight doubles, six triples and 31 RBIs in an all-state campaign.

Shelby Noel

Sr., P/1B, Latrobe

The senior hit .460 with 27 RBIs, four home runs and seven doubles and was picked second team all-state.

Giorgiana Zeremenko

Sr., C, Canon-McMillan

Pitt recruit hit .545 with three doubles and seven RBIs in the postseason for the state champions.

Class AAA

Preseason top five

Team2013 record

1. Greensburg Salem22-3

2. Ambridge18-5

3. West Mifflin17-6

4. Montour12-7

5. Trinity12-5

Section favorites

1. Ambridge: Junior pitcher Kelly Haslett returns to lead Ambridge after posting 12 wins and 64 strikeouts in an all-section campaign. The Bridgers were WPIAL runners-up and reached the state semifinals. Blackhawk returns nine starters and should challenge for the section title. Basketball player Bridgette Shaffer and Courtney Vannoy will play key roles, and catcher Megan Davis and infielder Heather Barrett were all-section selections last year. Central Valley will start four freshmen but all-section pitcher Jessica Koshinski returns after striking out 82 last year. Ellwood City returns six starters, including all-section shortstop Susie Blyth.

2. Montour: Senior catcher Malory Gerst (.411) returns to lead Montour, which has to replace all-section graduates Stacey Capp and Alyssa McMurtrie. Reigning section champion Trinity returns several big hitters, including Madison Hornak (.564), Pitt recruit Olivia Gray (.554) and all-section catcher Delaney Elling (.533). West Allegheny has seven starters back, including all-section third-baseman Emily Garvin.

3. West Mifflin: After falling one win shy of a PIAA tournament berth, the Titans return six starters, including pitcher Paige Flore, who was 12-5 last year with 90 strikeouts. Crystal Cook, Shannon Davis, Lauren Ackerman and Chelsea Hess all hit over .300. Southmoreland again will be led by pitcher Anna Marie Gatti, a Syracuse recruit who struck out 66 batters last year. Elizabeth Forward has five starters back, including Jen Keefer and Caitlyn Arico, who were all-section last year. Sophomore infielder Rachael Bowers was an all-section selection for 2-10 Thomas Jefferson. Yough will miss all-section infielder Karlie Tomich, who is out with an ankle injury.

4. Greensburg Salem: Defending WPIAL champion Greensburg Salem again boasts a wealth of talent, including Marist recruit Claire Oberdorf (.463), a junior shortstop, as well as senior Karly Mellinger (.513), who was an all-section outfielder last season. They will miss the battery of graduates Jayne Oberdorf (591 career strikeouts) and catcher Taylor Mehan. Mt. Pleasant and first-year coach Lauren Shaheen returns four starters, including senior infielder Paige Hertzog.

5. Mars: Defending section champion Mars welcomes back all-section infielder Erin Hershman but has to replace senior pitcher Taylor Rotz. Hampton has six returning starters, including senior infielder Breanna Lent (.410), an all-section player last year.

Players to watch

Paige Flore

Sr., P, West Mifflin

All-section honoree went 12-5 last season with 90 strikeouts for the Titans.

Anna Marie Gatti

Sr., P, Southmoreland

Syracuse recruit had five wins and 66 strikeouts and was part of a successful rotation for the Scotties.

Olivia Gray

Jr., SS, Trinity

Pitt recruit hit .554 with 11 doubles, two home runs and 23 RBIs as a sophomore. She hit six home runs as a freshman.

Karly Mellinger

Sr., OF, Greensburg Salem

Talented all-around athlete hit .513 with 16 RBIs and 41 hits for WPIAL and PIAA champions.

Claire Oberdorf

Jr., SS, Greensburg Salem

Marist recruit hit .463 with eight home runs, 23 RBIs and nine doubles last season.

Class AA

Preseason top five

Team 2013 record

1. Deer Lakes19-2

2. Riverside22-1

3. Chartiers-Houston19-2

4. Seton-La Salle12-2

5. Beaver12-8

Section favorites

1. Seton-La Salle: The three-time defending section champion Rebels are 40-6 in the past three seasons and again have a talented roster that can contend. The group includes senior Taylor Mercurio (.560) and junior pitcher Lauren Zola, who hit .413 and went 12-2 with 150 strikeouts. Keystone Oaks returns all-section centerfielder Eryn Caragein (.447), a Shippensburg recruit, and shortstop Meghan Staab (.390), as well as talented freshman pitcher Lauren McMillan. OLSH returns seven letter winners, but three freshmen will crack the starting lineup. Senior pitcher Emily Duerr (.585) and junior shortstop Taylor DiPerna (.523) were all-section last season. All-section junior pitcher Jordan Melko is back for Carlynton.

2. Chartiers-Houston: This will be a different team than the one that went 12-0 in the section and qualified for the PIAA tournament last year. Gone is star pitcher and leading hitter Kayla Briggs, but back are five starters, including all-section players Haley Sutton (.377), Megan Kraushaar (.456) and Kassie Kesneck (.311), who will handle the pitching. They will miss pitcher Toni Spossey, who moved to North Carolina. Pitcher Cassie Weiss is back for McGuffey, as is junior catcher Sammie Weiss, an all-section performer last year. Bentworth returns seven starters, including sophomore Aubree Yates (.418), who was all-section last season.

3. Deer Lakes: The 2012 WPIAL champion Lancers are 51-9 the past three seasons and again should contend for a title game berth. They return junior pitcher Tiffany Edwards (19-2, 133 strikeouts) and senior first baseman Sierra Sarver (.421), who both were all-section last year. Burrell returns catcher Jaila Manga and will turn to junior Krista York to pitch. Freeport hit 22 home runs last season and will continue to swing for the fences with the return of junior Karlie Hill (.426, 6 HR, 23 RBIs) and senior Alexis Roenigk (20 runs, 4 HR). But pitching will be a question mark with the loss of Alyssa Meta.

4. Greensburg Central Catholic: A trio of junior all-section players: catcher Carolyn Appleby (.410), outfielder Sierra Mathos (.354) and pitcher Nikki Adisey (9 wins, 69 strikeouts) return for the Centurions, who went 9-1 and won the section last year before falling to Beaver in the quarterfinals. Senior infielder Alexis Gaughen returns for Brentwood after an all-section campaign. Steel Valley returns sophomore pitcher Madie Cotter (12 wins, 132 strikeouts), who was an all-section selection.

5. Riverside: As a WPIAL and PIAA runner-up last year, perennial power Riverside again made its presence known in the postseason but the Panthers have some big shoes to fill in the pitching circle, as Kristen Wilson (22-1, 0.28 ERA, 271 strikeouts) graduated. Senior Brooke Barker will step in and get most of the innings. Riverside also returns all-section first baseman Natalie Pritts (.447). Beaver, led by all-section sophomore Casey Farkasovsky (.611), will challenge for the section title. Senior Bella Valent and sophomore Jen Kondracki also were all-section selections for the Bobcats.

Players to watch

Tiffany Edwards

Jr., P, Deer Lakes

She went 19-2 with a 1.60 ERA and 133 strikeouts and also hit .400 with 21 RBIs.

Megan Kraushaar

Jr., SS, Chartiers-Houston

The Bucs infielder hit .456 with three home runs and scored 14 runs.

Natalie Pritts

Sr., 1B, Riverside

All-section last year, Pritts hit .447 with 15 RBIs for the WPIAL champion Panthers.

Haley Sutton

Sr., 2B, Chartiers-Houston

A three-year letter winner and all-section selection, she hit .377 last year with three home runs and 25 RBIs.

Lauren Zola

Jr., P, Seton-La Salle

She had 12 wins and 150 strikeouts last season for the section champion Rebels.

Class A

Preseason top five

Team2013 record

1. Neshannock21-3

2. Carmichaels22-4

3. Burgettstown17-6

4. South Side Beaver14-5

5. Frazier18-4

Section favorites

1. Burgettstown: Defending section champion Burgettstown returns six starters after qualifying for the PIAA tournament last year. The group includes all-section sophomore DP Morgan Elleck (413), all-section junior catcher Caley Ritts (411) and all-section senior pitcher Bry Lonick (12-3). Bishop Canevin returns four starters, which includes sophomore infielder Lexi Pilch, who hit .473 in an all-section campaign. Senior all-section first baseman Mackenzie Pryor and junior all-section outfielder Katie Maloney are among eight starters back for Sewickley Academy. Perennial contender Sto-Rox dissolved its program.

2. Carmichaels:Led by junior pitcher Erica Burns, who went 22-4 with 202 strikeouts last season, seven-time defending section champ Carmichales is the Section 2 frontrunner and a contender for a WPIAL title. Burns (.449) and junior infielder Caroline Cree (.443) lead the offensive attack. Frazier shared the section title last year and returns junior all-section outfielder Monica Joseph, but must replace grads Alexis Livingstone and Andrea Lash. West Greene is led by sophomore pitcher Bailey Bennington (.607). Serra Catholic returns seven starters, led by all-section senior DP Amy McNeill (.415) and junior infielder Allie Taylor (.349). The Eagles also will benefit from transfers Witney Larko from Penn Hills and Lauren Sturnick from Greensburg Central Catholic.

3. Leechburg: Rising junior shortstop Miranda Reesman is one to watch for reigning section co-champ Leechburg, which will be playing for a 28th straight WPIAL playoff appearance. The Blue Devils will need to replace graduate Kenzie Young , who struck out 136 batters and had a 1.67 ERA, but also sported a .500 average. First-year coach Zac Karas inherits six returning starters for defending section champion Jeannette. The group includes junior first baseman Monica Carl, who was all-section, and senior pitcher Nicole Hall. Eight starters return for Riverview, including junior Hannah Larkin, who holds the school’s single-season batting average record (.652).

4. Neshannock: Three all-state players return for the defending WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up Lancers. The group includes junior infielder Marissa DeMatteo, senior infielder Allie Fischer and junior pitcher Madison Shaffer. Class AA WPIAL champion Riverside was the only WPIAL team to beat Neshannock last season. South Side Beaver will be led by sophomore slugger Connor McGaffic (.603, 14 HR, 54 RBIs). Shenango returns all-state senior infielder Kim Burdett (.531). A large sophomore class provides promise for Aliquippa, which was winless last year.

Players to watch

Bailey Bennington

So., P, West Greene

In addition to hitting .607 with seven doubles and three home runs, Bennington also won nine games and had 183 strikeouts.

Kim Burdett

Sr., INF, Shenango

An all-state first-team selection last year, she hit .531 with 43 RBIs, four home runs and 12 doubles.

Erica Burns

Jr., P, Carmichaels

Burns went 22-4 with 202 strikeouts and a 1.52 ERA, while also hitting .449 last season.

Connor McGaffic

So., INF, South Side Beaver

In her first high school season, the Pitt recruit hit .603 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Madison Shaffer

Jr., P, Neshannock

The first-team all-state selection went 21-3 with 199 strikeouts and a 0.49 ERA. She also hit .470 with 32 RBIs.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review fashion writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.