WPIAL baseball playoff outlook


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Class AAAA

Top seeds: Hempfield is first, Baldwin second, North Allegheny third and Pine-Richland fourth.

Winner will be: North Allegheny. There is no overwhelming team in Class AAAA this year. History says go with North Allegheny, at least to get to the championship. The Tigers have been in 14 title games since 1987 and they usually do it in back-to-back years. Four different times they made it to a title game in back-to-back years and once in three consecutive years (2003-05). North Allegheny won the title a year ago. Mitch Machi is an excellent No. 1 pitcher. The Tigers' Nos. 2 and 3 pitchers could be the key.

The scoop: Hempfield has never been to a WPIAL title game, but the Spartans have won 11 games in a row, including a 3-2 victory against North Allegheny. ... Baldwin has scored double figures in 7 of 14 games. ... Pine-Richland is a team to watch. The Rams' tough non-section schedule helped test the Rams. ... Central Catholic has won seven in a row, including victories against Baldwin and Plum. ... North Hills, in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, won its final two Section 1 games against North Allegheny and Butler, the two top teams in the section.

History lesson: This is the 10th season of Class AAAA baseball. North Allegheny won the first title in 2005. A team from the northern suburbs -- North Allegheny, Seneca Valley or Pine-Richland -- has won six of the nine Class AAAA championships.

 

Class AAA

Top seeds: Blackhawk is first, Chartiers Valley second, Hampton third and West Mifflin fourth.

Winner will be: Blackhawk. The Cougars are the team to beat for one reason -- Brendan McKay. He has not allowed a run this season and his 58-inning scoreless streak dating to the 2013 season is the fourth longest in the history of U.S. high school baseball. A big question is: Will the Cougars use McKay in the opening round? If they don't and Blackhawk wins, McKay could pitch the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship. That is horrible news for the rest of Class AAA.

The scoop: Chartiers Valley has lost to only one Class AAA team (Elizabeth Forward) and the Colts have one of the better all-around players in Josh Lapiana, who is 6-1 with 65 strikeouts as a pitcher and also is batting .486. ... Laurel Highlands was undefeated in section play and has allowed 1 or fewer runs in 11 games. ... West Mifflin features pitcher A.J. Olasz, a University of Cincinnati recruit. ... Hampton could be a sleeper. The Talbots own a 6-1 victory against North Allegheny.

History lesson: This is the 10-year anniversary of Pine-Richland winning its first WPIAL title. In 2004, the Rams had a senior catcher named Neil Walker who batted .786 (11 for 14) in the postseason. Walker was 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs in an 8-1 victory against North Allegheny in the title game.

 

Class AA

Top seeds: Neshannock is first, Quaker Valley second, Steel Valley third and South Side Beaver fourth.

Winner will be: Quaker Valley. After taking an undefeated record into the title game a year ago and losing, the Quakers are good enough to take the final step to the top of the ladder. Quaker Valley has won 12 in a row and has allowed only 17 runs in those games.

The scoop: Neshannock was undefeated until losing to Beaver in the regular-season finale. Neshannock scored at least eight runs in nine of its 18 games. ... Watch for South Side Beaver, which tied Quaker Valley for the Section 1 title. ... Steel Valley is certainly good enough to win it all. The Ironmen's only losses are to Class AAA Thomas Jefferson and Class AAAA Moon. Steel Valley has scored in double figures in 9 of 16 games. ... Apollo-Ridge is in the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

History lesson: This is the 35-year anniversary of the first Class AA championship. That year, Freeport defeated Chartiers-Houston, 5-3, in the title game as Dino Aimino pitched a five-hitter and also hit a double. Freeport won the title with a 17-0 record and is one of only five teams since 1979 to win a WPIAL title with an undefeated record.

 

Class A

Top seeds: California is first, Western Beaver second, Vincentian third and Bishop Canevin fourth.

Winner will be: California. How do you go against the only undefeated team in the entire WPIAL? The Trojans (17-0) have outscored opponents, 176-32.

The scoop: Defending champ Western Beaver is good enough to make a title run. The Golden Beavers' only loss was to South Side Beaver in the season opener. ... Vincentian features one of Class A's best all-around players in Jay Cortese, who has a .412 batting average with four home runs, 21 RBIs and is 4-0 as a pitcher with a 1.94 ERA. Freshman Christian Fedko is hitting .556. ... Serra, which tied Bishop Canevin for the Section 2 title, is led by freshman pitchers Cole McComb and Neil Hartnett.

History lesson: Ten years ago, Neshannock beat Carmichaels, 15-0, in a title game that is the only championship stopped after four innings because of the 15-run rule. Afterward, Carmichaels coach Dave Bates had a memorable comment. "I was beat up one time in 10th grade," Bates said. "He was a real big fat kid. It was close to this."


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