2014 Softball Preview: Pitch counts -- Top hurlers giving teams upper hand

North Allegheny, Canon-Mac lead Quad-A list;

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North Allegheny made it to the WPIAL Class AAAA title game last year and is the No. 1-ranked softball team this season.

But never mind the playoffs. The toughest part of the season for the Tigers might be section play.

North Allegheny plays in Section 1 and the section has two others teams ranked in the top five in Class AAAA. Seneca Valley is No. 3 and Shaler No. 5. To show the strength of the section, North Hills beat Shaler in a game Monday.

In the past 15 seasons, either North Hills, Seneca Valley, Shaler or North Allegheny has been in the WPIAL final 13 times.

Canon-McMillan, the two-time defending WPIAL champion, defeated North Allegheny in last year's WPIAL title game and also should be strong. Here is a look at some of the top teams in the WPIAL this season:

Class AAAA

North Allegheny has a talented pitcher and plenty of offense returning from last year. Sami Beining was 8-2 last year with a 2.00 ERA.

North Allegheny also welcomes back Laura Cotter in center field and Christine Scherer at shortstop after both made all-section last year. Cotter batted .458 and Scherer .414 last season. Third baseman Mary Funderlich batted .491 a year ago.

For Canon-McMillan, All-Area pitcher Alayna Astuto graduated, but the Big Macs should have a strong hitting team. Catcher Abby McCartney batted .538 last season with 27 RBIs and made the All-Area team. Third baseman Olivia Lorusso batted .444 with 33 RBIs.

Also back is Giorgiana Zeremenko, who was a standout catcher two years ago, but missed last year because of an injury.

For Shaler, sophomore pitcher Brianna Dobson was 13-6 last season and also had five home runs and 27 RBIs. Catcher A.J. Nichols batted .382 last season.

Hempfield will be led by Kasey Kolick (.387 batting average last year) and Michaela Ledonne (.350).

Class AAA

Montour, which won the WPIAL title two years ago, has a new coach in Sarah Capp, a former Montour pitcher. The Spartans were expected to be good this season, and they added some talent when Aimee Miller and Alexis Giles transferred from Sto-Rox. Sto-Rox dropped softball after the 2013 season.

Miller was a pitcher at Sto-Rox and Giles a shortstop. Miller hit better than .600 last year and had 37 RBIs.

No. 2 Trinity also has a new coach in Shawn Gray. One of the Hillers' top players is Gray's daughter, Olivia, a junior shortstop who hit .554 last year. Tiffany Clark returns at pitcher.

No. 3 Ambridge, which lost to Greensburg Salem in last year's title game, will be led by pitcher Kelly Haslett, who hit .365. Heather Mueller is a top outfielder.

Class AA

No. 1 Beaver features pitcher Casey Farkasovsky, who had 123 strikeouts last season. But Farkasovsky also is a big hitter. She had a school-record eight home runs last season, 19 RBIs and 30 runs scored.

Beaver also has third baseman Jen Kondracki, who hit .468 last season as a freshman, and outfielder Bella Valent, who hit .400 with five home runs.

Deer Lakes has played in the WPIAL championship game the past two seasons and should be strong again with the return of pitcher Tiffany Edwards. She was 19-2 last season with 133 strikeouts and a 1.60 ERA. Second baseman Katie Gozzard hit better than .500 and first baseman Siera Sarver is a good power hitter.

Eryn Caragein is one of the leaders of Keystone Oaks. She batted .431 last season and also had 22 stolen bases. Meghan Staab hit .340 with 21 stolen bases.

Class A

Neshannock was the PIAA Class AA champion two years ago before dropping to Class A last year and winning the WPIAL title. Neshannock lost in the PIAA Class A championship game last year. The Lancers should be strong again with All-Area pitcher Madison Shaffer.

Also returning are senior first baseman Alexandra Fischer, sophomore catcher Marissa Kirkwood, sophomore pitcher-outfielder Cassidy Burelli, junior infielder Marissa Dematteo and senior shortstop Madison Altmyer.

No. 2 Burgettstwon has four players who batted better than .400 last year -- catcher Caley Ritts (.407), third baseman Sami Scopel (.423), Morgan Ellek (.483) and pitcher Bry Lonick (.450). Lonick was 10-3 as a pitcher last year.

Carmichaels features junior pitcher Erica Burns, who was 18-2 with 165 strikeouts and a 1.06 ERA last season. She also batted .484. Second baseman Caroline Cree hit .478 with 18 stolen bases.

Team rankings




1. North Allegheny 18-6


2. Canon-McMillan 25-1


3. Shaler 13-6


4. Hempfield 18-7


5. Seneca Valley 11-7




1. Montour 12-7


2. Trinity 12-5


3. Ambridge 18-5


4. Greensburg Salem 22-3


5. Thomas Jefferson 3-12




1. Beaver 12-8


2. Deer Lakes 19-2


3. Keystone Oaks 10-6


4. O.L.S.H. 8-7


5. McGuffey 15-6




1. Neshannock 21-3


2. Burgettstown 17-6


3. Carmichaels 22-4


4. Shenango 15-7


5. South Side Beaver 14-5


Players to watch




Sami Beining, North Allegheny, Senior, Pitcher


Jessica Beitler, McKeesport, Senior, Pitcher


Laura Cotter, North Allegheny, Junior, Outfielder


Brianna Dobson, Shaler, Sophomore, Pitcher


Kasey Kolick, Hempfield, Senior, Outfielder


Olivia Lorusso, Canon-McMillan, Senior, Third Baseman


Abby McCartney, Canon-McMillan, Junior, Outfielder


Jess Neill, Seneca Valley, Junior, Outfielder


A.J. Nichols, Shaler, Junior, Catcher


Jordan Seneca, Plum, Senior, Shortstop


Maddy Wensel, Norwin, Junior, Catcher


Giorgiana Zeremenko, Canon-McMillan, Senior, Catcher




Malory Gerst, Montour, Senior, Catcher


Olivia Gray, Trinity, Junior, Shortstop


Kelly Haslett, Ambridge, Junior, Pitcher


Ashley Iagnemma, South Fayette, Junior, Pitcher


Jessica Koshinski, Central Valley, Junior, Pitcher


Karly Mellinger, Greensburg Salem, Senior, Outfielder


Aimee Miller, Montour, Senior, Pitcher


Heather Mueller, Ambridge, Junior, Outfielder


Claire Oberdorf, Greensburg Salem, Junior, Shortstop




Carolyn Appleby, Greensburg C.C., Junior, catcher


Eryn Caragein, Keystone Oaks, Senior, Outfielder


Taylor DiPerna, O.L.S.H., Junior, Third Baseman


Tiffany Edwards, Deer Lakes, Junior, Pitcher


Casey Farakasovsky, Beaver, Sophomore, Pitcher


Jen Kondracki, Beaver, Sophomore, Third Baseman


Natalie Pritts, Riverside, Senior, First Baseman


Siera Sarver, Deer Lakes, Senior, First Baseman


Cassie Weiss, McGuffey, Senior, Pitcher


Lauren Zola, Seton-LaSalle, Junior, Pitcher




Bailey Bennington, West Greene, Sophomore, Pitcher


Kim Burdett, Shenango, Senior, First Baseman


Erica Burns, Carmichaels, Junior, Pitcher


Caroline Cree, Carmichaels, Junior, Second Baseman


Morgan Ellek, Burgettstown, Sophomore, Designated Player


Alexandra Fischer, Neshannock, Senior, First Baseman


Monica Joseph, Frazier, Junior, Outfielder


Bry Lonick, Burgettstown, Senior, Pitcher


Connor McGaffic, South Side Beaver, Sophomore, Shortstop/Pitcher


Lindsey Rowe, Leechburg, Senior, Second Baseman


Madison Shaffer, Neshannock, Junior, Pitcher


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