2008 WPIAL Baseball & Softball Forecast
West Allegheny's Ricky Devereaux, left, and Zak Sinclair celebrate their WPIAL Class AAA title last season.
Alexa Bryson of Latrobe.
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• Baseball Class AAAA
The seeds: Seneca Valley is first, Plum second, Canon-McMillan third and Central Catholic fourth.
The winner will be: Seneca Valley. It's hard to go against the defending PIAA champion because the Raiders have two excellent pitchers in Cory Mazzoni (North Carolina State recruit) and Kyle Helisek (Villanova). But they also can strike up the offense, scoring 10 or more runs in eight of 19 games.
The skinny: This classification has a handful of teams capable of winning the title. Plum, led by Oregon recruit Scott McGough (SS/P), and Central Catholic tied for the Section 4 title and could make a lot of noise. Central Catholic is trying to win football, basketball and baseball titles in the same school year. Canon-McMillan won a tough Section 3 and scored 53 runs in its past five games. Hempfield is a sleeper, going unranked until the final week of the season. The Spartans beat out a good Franklin Regional team for the Section 2 title. And don't forget about defending WPIAL champion Peters Township. The Indians were 3-5 in their section at one point, but are peaking, winning seven of their past eight. In those wins, Peters Township has outscored opponents, 72-12.
• Baseball Class AAA
The seeds: West Allegheny is first, Hampton second, Moon third and West Mifflin fourth.
The winner will be: West Allegheny. The Indians are defending champions and are battle-tested from playing in a tough section. They have shut out five of their past seven opponents and have one of the WPIAL's best players in Zak Sinclair, a North Carolina State recruit. A number of other West Allegheny players were starters on the team last year.
The skinny: Hampton looked good for a while, but was 3-3 down the stretch. Laurel Highlands and Greensburg Salem tied for the Section 2 championship and are better than people think. West Mifflin is talented, but watch out for Moon, which finished second to West Allegheny in Section 3. Moon owns victories against West Allegheny and Seneca Valley.
• Baseball Class AA
The seeds: Seton-LaSalle is first, Burrell second, Beaver third and Neshannock fourth.
The winner will be: Seton-LaSalle. The Rebels have an excellent pitching staff, led by Derek Law, and have a chance to make history. Seton-LaSalle, which lost to North Catholic in the title game last year, is undefeated (17-0) and, since the WPIAL went to more than one classification in 1979, only three teams have won WPIAL titles with a perfect record.
The skinny: This classification has the most depth in terms of good teams capable of making waves in the playoffs. Burrell is 15-1, and its only loss was in the season opener to Franklin Regional. Watch for Beaver because the Bobcats have one of Class AA's best players in pitcher Manny Cutlip, who also is a top hitter. Greensburg Central Catholic, Neshannock, Riverside and Center are capable of making a run. Brownsville, Charleroi and Washington all tied for the Section 2 championship, and one of them might open some eyes.
• Baseball Class A
The seeds: Springdale is first, Serra second, Carmichaels third and Chartiers-Houston fourth.
The winner will be: Serra. The Eagles, like Central Catholic, are trying for the triple crown. Serra won Class A football and basketball titles. No school has won the three titles in the same school year. The big question: Can a pitcher limit Serra's offense? The Eagles have scored 10 runs or more in 14 of their 20 games.
The skinny: No. 1 seed Springdale is the only team to defeat Serra, as Mike Devine threw a no-hitter against the Eagles. But Springdale also lost to Serra. Springdale is battle-tested, defeating California last year for the WPIAL Class A title. Carmichaels always seems to be capable of making a playoff run. Carmichaels pitcher Joby Lapkowicz is having a good season. Watch out for Rochester, which won highly competitive Section 3.
• Softball Class AAAA
The seeds: Latrobe is first, Seneca Valley second, Shaler third and Mt. Lebanon fourth.
The winner will be: Latrobe. Although the Wildcats lost two of their final four games, they still are the team to beat, mainly because of pitcher Alexa Bryson. Considered by many as the top pitcher in the WPIAL, Bryson is 14-2 and has 222 strikeouts. But Latrobe sometimes has trouble scoring runs.
The skinny: Seneca Valley, North Hills, North Allegheny and Shaler all tied for the Section 3 championship, and any one of the four could make waves in the postseason. Seneca Valley doesn't have an overpowering pitcher, but a strong offense could take the Raiders far. Shaler was 3-3 at one point, but has won 11 of its past 12. Mt. Lebanon's Geena Badolato is a left-handed pitcher, which could throw off some opponents. She is 14-3.
• Softball Class AAA
The seeds: Ellwood City is first, Waynesburg second, Keystone Oaks third and Knoch fourth.
The winner will be: Ellwood City. Pitcher Katelyn Yoho makes the Wolverines a strong favorite. She is 16-1 and has allowed 12 runs all season. The Wolverines' only loss was in the regular-season finale to New Castle.
The skinny: The Class AAA field doesn't seem to have an overly strong team after Ellwood City. Belle Vernon is the defending WPIAL champion, but has a 12-7 record. Waynesburg is the No. 2 seed, despite losing its final two regular-season games. Montour could be a sleeper. Keystone Oaks uses two pitchers (Kristin Kaminski and Alex Spain) and could make a run.
• Softball Class AA
The seeds: Riverside is first, South Allegheny second, Sto-Rox third and Washington fourth.
The winner will be: Washington. The Little Prexies are the fourth seed, but seem to be peaking, winning 12 games in a row. Pitcher Ashley Sadler has allowed only five runs during the winning streak.
The skinny: Kari Falk could carry Riverside to the title. She is 15-1 with 144 strikeouts and is batting better than .400. South Allegheny uses a two-pitcher system with April Yeager and Laine D'Angelo, and the Gladiators have shown some offensive punch at times this season.
• Softball Class A
The seeds: Vincentian is first, Neshannock second, Leechburg third and Serra fourth.
The winner will be: Chartiers-Houston. Just a hunch here. The Bucs have one of the WPIAL's best all-around players in shortstop Jaci Timko. Pitcher Kiersten Conwell will be a key.
The skinny: Vincentian will be tough to beat because of pitcher Trish Melvin, who is 15-2. Vincentian has allowed only three runs in its past 13 games. Serra, Mount Alvernia and Leechburg tied for the Section 4 title and are worth watching.
Correction/Clarification: (Published May 15, 2008) The Springdale High School baseball team defeated California to win the WPIAL Class A championship in 2007. This story as originally published May 11, 2008 gave the wrong winner.
First Published May 11, 2008 12:00 am