After splitting four matchups against high-caliber competition at the KSA Classic in Orlando, Fla., to start the year, followed by a 5-2 defeat to open section play against Deer Lakes on April 10, something strange started to happen.

Some observers seemed to forget that Avonworth is still the two-time defending WPIAL champion — and still the team to beat in Class 3A until proven otherwise.

“I like when people forget about us,” Antelopes coach Jenna Muncie said with a laugh.

Well, those who were sleeping on Avonworth after its rocky start should be wide awake now — especially after the Antelopes blanked Freeport on Wednesday, 7-0, to clinch yet another section title with their fifth shutout in their past eight games.

Of course, it’s important to remember that Avonworth (10-3, 8-1) wasn’t quite operating at full strength during its first five games, as ace pitcher Alivia Lantzy got hit in the head by a pitch during a season-opening 6-4 loss against Elizabeth Forward on March 23. Lantzy began to feel uneasy after attempting to pitch the following day, and Muncie removed her from the game. She wouldn’t return until a 17-0 win against Valley on April 19, when Lantzy belted a home run in her first trip to the plate while firing a three-inning no-hitter.

“That’s the Liv Lantzy we know and love,” Muncie said. “Then she had 16 strikeouts [Wednesday night] against Freeport. She’s back in form.”

Avonworth’s Alivia Lantzy pitched the Antelopes to their second consecutive WPIAL Class 3A title as a junior in 2023, and she is back at the top of her game after an early-season injury. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Junior Sydney Savatt performed admirably in Lantzy’s absence, posting a 4-1 record in five appearances, but there’s no denying that Avonworth is a different team with Lantzy in the circle — and at the plate. On the year, Lantzy is 6-2 with a 1.93 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 66 strikeouts to just nine walks in 40 innings pitched, and she is also batting .429 with a pair of home runs and 10 RBIs. As a junior, the UNC-Pembroke recruit finished 21-2 with a 1.21 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 134 innings of work while slashing .485/.586/.897 with six home runs, 32 RBIs and 34 runs scored.

“I definitely want to also be known for my hitting, not just pitching. It’s something I’ve worked at my whole softball career,” Lantzy said. “I tried to help as best as I could in other ways [during my recovery]. But it’s good to be back.”

Lantzy is the centerpiece, but she is only one member of a loaded senior class filled with proven winners and impact players all across the board. Catcher Rylee Gray is the biggest slugger of the bunch, slashing .516/.644/.968 — good for a 1.612 OPS — with four home runs and 15 RBIs through the first 13 games this season. Gray, who belted 12 home runs in 2023, picked up her 100th career hit in the section-clinching win against Freeport on Wednesday, and she is a .403 career hitter with 23 career home runs while also providing tremendous defense behind the plate.

“I always work in the offseason, not only on my hitting, but also my defense,” Gray said. “I probably have thrown out six or seven runners this year, and I’ve dived for so many balls to save runs for our team, and I take a lot of pride in that.”

Rounding out the Antelopes’ decorated senior class alongside Gray and Lantzy are Olivia Barie, Cassie Heinauer, Leah Kuban and Layne Shinsky. Kuban is a returning all-section performer in right field, while Barie is a reliable utility player capable of playing both second base and left field, and Shinsky is an outfielder batting .485 with 14 RBIs. Plus, Heinauer just made her return from an ACL injury this week, giving the Antelopes a fully healthy lineup for the first time all season.

Avonworth’s Leah Kuban (11) celebrates with her teammates as they receive their medals after a 5-1 win against Southmoreland in the WPIAL Class 3A championship on Thursday, June 1, 2023, at PennWest California’s Lilley Field. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Along with the stable of standout seniors, Savatt is enjoying a big junior year while hitting .442 with two home runs and 12 RBIs, and fellow juniors Emma Obersteiner and Jayla Jones are each hitting above .400 as well.

“I think the awesome thing to see when [Lantzy] wasn’t there, was that [Savatt] came out and gave us some quality innings and quality wins,” Muncie said. “We had to prove to ourselves that we could do something, and then once our pieces to the puzzle came back together, we felt complete. We feel ready to compete now. They feel good that they were able to win the section.

“Truth be told, for my seniors, they don’t know what it’s like to not win the section. For them, that’s incredibly impressive. Something that not a lot of people can say.”

All in all, this is a stacked lineup from top to bottom capable of hitting for both contact and power. With a star pitcher like Lantzy reaching the top of her game and a surplus of talent and big-game experience, Avonworth is going to be a tough out for any team in Class 3A — in the WPIAL and beyond.

And while a WPIAL championship three-peat would surely be sweet, the ultimate cherry on top for this star-studded senior class would be a chance to play for another state title after capturing the first and only PIAA championship in program history in 2022.

“I think once you have that vision for yourself, it never goes away,” Muncie said. “When it was cut short last year [in the PIAA quarterfinals], it definitely stung a little bit. Watching the way they have bounced back this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we take another long drive, I hope, to Penn State. We’ll see.

“We have six seniors who have done so much for our program and really are going to leave a stamp on the school that is truly unheard of and hasn’t been seen in our softball community before.”

Avonworth’s Sydney Savatt (4) and Alivia Lantzy celebrate after making an out during the WPIAL Class 3A championship on Thursday, June 1, 2023, at PennWest California’s Lilley Field. Avonworth won, 5-1, for its second consecutive title. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Ligonier Valley’s Piper piling up the K’s

If any team is going to knock Avonworth off its perch in Class 3A, it’s going to take a herculean pitching effort to do so — and if anyone is up to the task, it might just be Ligonier Valley’s Cheyenne Piper.

In 14 starts so far this year, Piper has yet to allow more than two runs in an outing, having posted six shutouts for the Rams (11-3, 8-2) while surrendering one run or fewer in 10 of 14 starts and giving up only 12 runs overall. Piper recently recorded the 400th strikeout of her career in a 7-0 win against Derry last Thursday.

Although Ligonier Valley has lost two of its past three games — both by a score of 2-1 — the Rams have already clinched at least a share of the Class 3A Section 3 title, thanks to a pair of hotly contested one-run victories against Southmoreland earlier this season. Next, Piper and Ligonier Valley will face Class 4A front-runner Elizabeth Forward in a marquee non-section matchup on Friday, followed by a pair of tough matchups against Latrobe and Indiana next week.

Ligonier Valley’s Cheyenne Piper has allowed one run or fewer in 10 of her first 14 starts in 2024 while firing six shutouts. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Carmichaels evens the score

Good luck finding another game that took longer to complete than this one.

More than two weeks after the first matchup between Class 1A Section 2 rivals Carmichaels and Chartiers-Houston was suspended due to darkness after 13 innings with the score tied, 5-5, on April 16, the Mighty Mikes (12-2, 9-1) and Buccaneers (13-2, 11-1) finally settled the score at Carmichaels on Thursday evening. In the end, the Mighty Mikes emerged victorious with a 7-5 triumph in 15 innings, splitting the season series and putting themselves in position for a share of the section crown in the process.

With Katie Waggett on second base for Carmichaels to begin the top of the 15th, Bailey Barnyak drew a walk, followed by an intentional walk to Carys McConnell to load the bases. Ali Jacobs then hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly to right field to score Waggett, and an RBI single by Megan Voithofer brought home Barnyak, who closed out the game with a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom of the 15th to polish off a pivotal victory for the Mighty Mikes.

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at