WPIAL softball playoff previews

Class-by-class breakdown of the postseason matchups

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CLASS AAAA

Top seeds: Canon-McMillan first, Latrobe second, North Allegheny third, Hempfield fourth.

The winner will be: Canon-McMillan. The defending champion Big Macs have fought through some key injuries, but are getting healthy at just the right time. They have a top-flight pitcher in Alayna Astuto, and a potent offense led by Abby McCartney and Giorgiana Zeremenko.

The scoop: Section 1 boasts title contenders Latrobe and Hempfield. Latrobe has won three of the past six championships, while Hempfield was the runner-up last season. ... North Allegheny and Shaler are teams to keep an eye on from Section 3. Shaler, though, has lost four of its past seven games. ... Peters Township should have been considered for the Tennessee state playoffs, too. Of the Indians' 16 wins, six came against teams from Tennessee in a tournament in March. ... McKeesport has been the biggest surprise in Class AAAA. The Tigers were one of just two teams in the class to go undefeated in their section (Canon-McMillan was the other). But history is against the Tigers, who haven't won a playoff game in more than 15 years.

History lesson: In the first WPIAL Class AAAA championship in 2005, Shaler scored five runs in the top of the ninth to defeat Hempfield, 7-2. It was Shaler's first WPIAL title since 1982.

CLASS AAA

Top seeds: Greensburg Salem first, Trinity second, Ambridge third, Elizabeth Forward fourth.

The winner will be: Ambridge. The Bridgers have not one, but two excellent pitchers (Hannah Smith and Kelly Haslett) who can be called upon to attack opposing lineups. Smith is also the team's top hitter.

The scoop: It would be no surprise if Greensburg Salem wins its first title. Pitcher Jayne Oberdorf has been dominant. The Golden Lions have shut out eight of their past 10 opponents and 12 overall. ... Montour is 12-6, but the Spartans are dangerous. They have won five of six and made it to the final two of the past three seasons. ... West Mifflin is in the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Elizabeth Forward, led by pitcher Portia McBride, beat West Mifflin twice in Section 3.

History lesson: The 2005 season was a joy for Ambridge. Standout pitcher Amy Joy pitched a no-hitter to give Ambridge its first WPIAL title and the Bridgers also won their first PIAA title.

CLASS AA

Top seeds: Deer Lakes first, Chartiers-Houston second, Riverside third, Seton-LaSalle fourth.

The winner will be: Chartiers-Houston. After winning the Class A championship the past two seasons and five of the past eight, the step up in class has not affected a Buccaneers team that is 16-0. The Bucs have perhaps the best pitcher in the WPIAL in Kayla Briggs.

The scoop: The WPIAL's two other undefeated teams (Deer Lakes and Riverside) both have what it takes to win the title. Deer Lakes is the defending champion. Tiffany Edwards is a solid pitcher and the Lancers boast a powerful offense led by Hannah Blinn. Riverside rarely gives up any runs. Pitcher Kirsten Wilson and the Panthers (15-0) have posted 13 shutouts and have allowed only six runs all season. ... Section 1 champion Seton-LaSalle has not lost to a Class AA team.

History lesson: Of the teams currently in Section 3, three have accounted for the past three Class AA titles -- Deer Lakes (2012), Burrell (2011) and Valley (2010).

CLASS A

Top seeds: Neshannock first, Burgettstown second, Carmichaels third, Frazier fourth.

The winner will be: Neshannock. Of all the classes, Neshannock might be the heaviest favorite to win a title. The Lancers have never won a WPIAL title but did capture the PIAA Class AA title last season. The Lancers have a dynamite pitcher in Madison Shaffer.

The scoop: Section 2 champion Carmichaels, led by pitcher Erica Burns, is talented and experienced. The Mighty Mikes were the WPIAL runner-up last season and their only two losses this season were by one run. ... Frazier, which split two meetings with Carmichaels, has made it to the quarterfinals three years in a row. ... Burgettstown, the Section 1 champion, has won six games in a row.

History lesson: Sto-Rox has won 10 WPIAL titles, tied with Baldwin for the most all time. Sto-Rox is the only team to win five titles in a row (2000-04) but hasn't won it all since 2006.

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