Considering the amount of success Chartiers-Houston has enjoyed in recent years while consistently fielding one of the top small-school softball teams in the area, it’s hard to believe the Buccaneers have waited a dozen years since winning their last WPIAL title.

The school’s championship pedigree is rivaled by only a select few, with Chartiers-Houston’s eight WPIAL titles tying Hempfield for the third-most all time behind Baldwin and Sto-Rox (10 each). Longtime coach Tricia Alderson is responsible for seven of the eight WPIAL championship banners hanging at the school, having first led the Bucs to back-to-back titles as a record-setting pitcher in 1987-88 before returning to her alma mater as head coach in 2004. Chartiers-Houston then reached eight WPIAL finals in a 12-year span from 2005-16, winning three consecutive titles from 2005-07 and two more in a row from 2011-12.

“I was part of starting that tradition as a player, and it’s been nice to continue it as a coach,” Alderson said. “The program obviously means a whole lot to me, and I want to see the program continue to do well and succeed. I think overall, we have been a pretty consistent team. Even in years where maybe we didn’t have the most talent, we’re still very competitive and making the playoffs and trying to qualify for states. So we’re really proud of all of that.”

Still, even though the Bucs often made it look easy, getting to the WPIAL championship game is hard enough — and winning it is even harder. Chartiers-Houston’s last WPIAL finals appearance came in 2016, with the Bucs falling one win short last year in a 13-5 WPIAL Class 1A semifinal loss against two-time defending champion Union.

And don’t worry, they don’t need a reminder.

“It’s been a little while,” Alderson said. “We have consistently made the semis and consistently qualified for states. At least we have had those opportunities. … It’s going to be tough no matter what happens, which is why we want to try to play some good teams heading into the playoffs. Hopefully that will help us with our seed and hopefully that will help us with the games coming up.”

This year’s Class 1A playoff field looks more loaded than ever, with Union bringing back most of its nucleus of key players in its bid for a three-peat, and the always-dangerous Frazier posting an unbeaten mark in Section 3 while outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 138-6. Then, of course, there’s returning Class 1A runner-up Carmichaels, which split the Section 2 title with Chartiers-Houston after a pair of unforgettable battles — including one that lasted 15 innings and took more than two weeks to complete.

That being said, if any Bucs team is capable of bringing an end to their 12-year title drought, it’s this one.

Junior catcher Ella Richey is coming off a 14-homer season for Chartiers-Houston, and she’s currently batting .540 with six home runs, 22 RBIs and 29 runs scored in 2024. (Kelli Alderson)

It all starts with the battery of junior pitcher Meadow Ferri and junior catcher Ella Richey, two of the top players in Class 1A. Ferri is striking out batters at an alarming rate while providing a major boost to her own cause at the plate, and Richey ranks among the WPIAL leaders with six home runs after swatting a WPIAL-leading 14 homers last year.

Ferri made headlines when she pitched a complete-game shutout while recording all 21 outs via strikeout in a 6-0 win against Jefferson-Morgan on April 15 — a feat even her coach, formerly known as “The Queen of No-Hitters,” never pulled off in her playing days.

Turns out, that was only a sneak peek of what Ferri had in store for the marathon showdown with Carmichaels that began the following day. With the score tied, 5-5, after 13 innings, the game was suspended due to darkness, with the teams playing a separate matchup on April 19 won by Chartiers-Houston on the road, 6-5, before finally resuming the initial matchup on May 2.

And although the Mighty Mikes eventually prevailed, 7-5, in 15 innings, it was a game the players, coaches and fans on both sides will always remember — especially Ferri.

In 15 innings of work against one of the most potent lineups in Class 1A, Ferri struck out a whopping 30 batters while allowing three earned runs on five hits and six walks. As amazing as her performance was, though, Ferri wasn’t even halfway to the national record of 61 Ks, set by the great Alicia Hollowell of Fairfield, Calif., in a 30-inning game in 2001. A four-time All-American at the University of Arizona, Hollowell is also credited by the National Federation of State High School Associations as the career leader in punchouts with 2,328 from 1998-2001.

And even though the Bucs lost, getting a shout-out from the record-holder via social media was a pretty cool consolation prize for Ferri.

“I never thought I could do that,” Ferri said. “I never actually thought I would go into a game that far, especially in high school. It’s crazy to think about it. … Seeing what the actual record is, I can’t even imagine that. That’s just crazy.

“They’re a good team. Just that game overall — everything about that game was memorable.”

Through Tuesday’s games, Ferri owns a record of 13-2 with a 1.24 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 168 strikeouts and 27 walks in 84⅔ innings. At the dish, she leads the team with a .553 batting average and 26 RBIs to go with three home runs after batting .514 with six home runs, 44 RBIs and 28 runs scored as a sophomore.

“She was a good hitter last year, but her hitting has improved as well,” Alderson said. “She is definitely a two-way player, not just a pitcher.”

As for Richey, the sweet-swinging leadoff hitter is picking up right where she left off last year, batting .540 with a team-leading six home runs, 22 RBIs and a team-high 29 runs scored. Richey hit .576 with 14 homers, 33 RBIs and 49 runs scored as a sophomore.

“I wasn’t ever really a home run hitter [growing up],” Richey said. “I don’t strive to do that. I bat leadoff, so my job is to get on base. … [Ferri and I] definitely are competitive in practice and stuff, and we definitely want to beat each other. But both of us want to do whatever is best for the team to get the win.”

Ferri and Richey are the catalysts for the team, but they certainly aren’t doing it alone. Sophomore Lauren Rush earned all-section honors as a freshman when she led the team with a .595 batting average to go with 10 home runs, 38 RBIs and 43 runs scored, and she is hitting .341 with four homers, 13 RBIs and 21 runs so far this season. Sophomore Seanna Riggle and freshman Zaylee Fonner are also providing timely hitting in the middle of the lineup, and the bottom of the order is consistently finding ways to get on base and turn the lineup over — setting up Ferri, Richey and Rush for a handful of run-scoring opportunities.

“We have a little more balance throughout our lineup than we did last year,” Alderson said. “We have a little more depth and have been able to hit the ball a little bit better in some other spots in the lineup, which has helped.”

Following back-to-back shutouts against Ligonier Valley (7-0 on Monday) and Serra Catholic (8-0 on Wednesday), Chartiers-Houston (15-2, 11-1) is surging into the postseason with plenty of steam. Alderson is hopeful that her team has done enough to earn a top-three seed, which would place the Bucs on the opposite side of the bracket as Union, which is all but assured to receive the No. 1 seed when WPIAL playoff pairings are released on Thursday.

Not that Alderson is looking to shy away from tough competition, of course — after all, she knows better than anybody that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. But if Chartiers-Houston does run into the Scotties again in this year’s tournament, Alderson would like to see it happen for the grand prize at PennWest California’s Lilley Field instead of the semifinals.

“We would obviously like to get back to the finals,” Alderson said. “It’s always a goal. But there are a lot of really good teams, and we’re one of them. We’re hoping to see what we can do.”

Chartiers-Houston pitcher Meadow Ferri (14) received plenty of high-fives from her teammates while striking out 30 batters in a 15-inning game against Carmichaels. (Kelli Alderson)

Neshannock back in hot pursuit of perfection

In case anybody forgot, Neshannock is still in the midst of one of the most historic stretches of dominance ever recorded by any WPIAL team in any WPIAL sport.

The Lancers became only the sixth WPIAL softball team to complete an undefeated season while winning WPIAL and PIAA titles in 2022, then became only the second team to win back-to-back WPIAL championships without losing a game in 2023. After setting a WPIAL record with a streak of 48 consecutive victories, their bid for back-to-back perfect seasons then came to a heart-wrenching end in last year’s state semifinals, falling to eventual PIAA Class 2A champion Everett of District 5 in a rare battle of unbeatens.

The anguish of that defeat evidently lit a fire under Neshannock going into the 2024 season, with the Lancers (18-0, 12-0) looking more unstoppable than ever before despite graduating several key players last spring. So far, they have collected victories against stalwarts such as Armstrong, Mohawk, Laurel (twice) and District 10’s Harbor Creek — all while allowing a grand total of just five runs.

With senior Abigale Measel emerging as a lights-out closer behind ace pitcher Addy Frye, plus major offensive threats like Jaidon Nogay, Gabby Perod and Gabby Quinn, Neshannock has posted 14 shutouts on the year while dispatching its foes by a combined score of 192-5. The Lancers are 66-1 dating back to the start of the 2022 season, and they are attempting to complete an undefeated regular season for the third year in a row — but coach Jackie Lash isn’t letting them take the easy road to get there.

On Thursday, Neshannock will travel to Avonworth to take on the two-time defending WPIAL Class 3A champion Antelopes at 7 p.m. The Lancers, who defeated Avonworth last season, 9-2, will then wrap up their regular season against Class 6A contender North Allegheny at home on Friday at 5 p.m.

Neshannock’s Gabby Quinn is a Kent State recruit who is batting .392 with four home runs, 24 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 2024. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Star-studded Scotties looking stronger than ever

As the prohibitive favorite to win its third consecutive WPIAL Class 1A title, Union was already stockpiled with talent going into the season. Then, as they say, the rich got richer.

With ace pitcher Mia Preuhs back in the fold alongside key contributors like Olivia Williams, Mallory Gorgacz, Addie Nogay, Tori May, Olivia Benedict and Bella Cameron, Scotties coach Doug Fisher knew he had an abundance of impact players at his disposal. All of the above have been every bit as good as advertised, but it turns out, Union’s most productive player of all has been his daughter, freshman sensation Irelyn Fisher.

Through the team’s first 19 games, Fisher is batting .457 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 5 home runs and a team-leading 38 RBIs, and the Scotties (18-1, 12-0) are reaping the rewards. Union recently wrapped up another Section 1 title, with its only loss this season coming against two-time defending WPIAL Class 2A champion Neshannock on April 14. Since the defeat, the Scotties have rattled off 13 wins in a row by a combined score of 168-14.

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