It comes as little surprise that Section 1 is arguably the most talented, deepest section in WPIAL Class AAA.
The section includes top-ranked Hopewell and defending WPIAL champion Blackhawk, not to mention a pair of teams that have been playing excellent ball thus far -- Central Valley and Montour. Ambridge has had its moments, too.
Heading into this week, only one team was winless in the section, but it's a team that figures to be a major player in the race for one of the section's three playoff spots.
West Allegheny dropped its section opener to Ambridge, 13-2, last week, and was scheduled to play an extremely difficult schedule this week: Hopewell on Monday, Blackhawk Tuesday and Montour today. After losing, 7-0, to No. 1-ranked Hopewell on Monday, the Indians (7-3, 1-2) picked up a huge win Tuesday, 2-1, against Blackhawk. They are finding themselves in a battle for survival in rugged Section 1.
Coach Bryan Cornell, who is in his 10th season as head coach at West Allegheny, knows his team has a tough road ahead of it.
"[The section has been] extremely competitive and has been that way for as long as I've been coaching," Cornell said. "Every game is going to be a dogfight. At any time, any team can win. Hopewell seems like they're the top team and you have a couple of good teams after that."
West Allegheny is considered to be one of them. The Indians dropped their season opener, 2-1, to Chartiers Valley, but reeled off six wins in a row prior to the Ambridge loss. The string of victories came against a group of teams that included Class AA No. 1 Beaver Area, Moon Area and West Mifflin Area.
Like the rest of the WPIAL, West Allegheny has been forced to fight the doings of Mother Nature in the early going, but Cornell said he likes the effort his players have given.
Cornell has been most happy about the way his team has pitched. In its first eight games, West Allegheny allowed more than three runs only twice. The pitching staff is headlined by junior Alec Palmer, sophomore Tyler Amedure and sophomore Colin Claus.
"I think that we have three guys who are pretty close [in ability]," said Cornell. "It's who has the hot hand. We feel confident with each guy on the mound."
Sophomores Tyler Eritz and Josh Bahr have also contributed to the pitching success.
West Allegheny had a lot of freshmen on its varsity team last season, and it shows with the amount of sophomores playing important roles this season. Bahr starts at shortstop and Amedure is the center fielder when he's not pitching. Other sophomore starters include catcher Brandon Pouch and right fielder Michael Cummings.
Seniors Anthony Carter and Brendan Scanlon typically split the third baseman/designated hitter duties, senior Adam LaRue is the second baseman, senior Shea Beaumont is at first base and Palmer is the left fielder.
The Indians boast two strong bench players in senior third baseman/designated hitter Joey Kvederis and senior outfielder Dom Merlino.
"They have all stepped up at one time or another," Cornell said of his players.
Amedure might be West Allegheny's most consistent player and overall its most valuable player. Amedure sets the table for the offense as the leadoff hitter, while making an impact on the mound and in the field.
"The kid is a tremendous talent," Cornell said. "He's not very big, but he does it all. He can really play every position and do it well. He just does some great things."
West Allegheny, which won back-to-back WPIAL championships in 2007 and 2008, has not made the playoffs since 2009. But despite being in a talent-heavy section again this season, the Indians have a legitimate chance of advancing to the postseason this time around.
"We know we're going to be in games because of our pitching," Cornell said. "We just need to do the little things -- like put down a bunt when we need to -- and we know we have to hit the ball to win.
"More importantly, to keep us in games with the pitching in this section, we have to be able to field and make routine plays."