Here’s a look at the WPIAL softball playoffs, which begin Monday and conclude May 29-30 at PennWest University, California’s Lilley Field.

Seneca Valley’s Lexie Hames pitches against Hempfield on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at Seneca Valley High School. Hames pitched a no-hitter and surpassed 500 career strikeouts in a 2-0 win over the defending WPIAL Class 6A champions. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Hempfield

No. 1 seed: Hempfield

Best quarterfinal game: Pine-Richland vs. Norwin

Player to watch: Lexie Hames, Seneca Valley. A Clemson recruit and the 2023 PUP Player of the Year — not to mention the winner of Best Pitcher and Most Feared Slugger for the 2023 PUP softball awards — Hames’ presence alone makes the Raiders a threat to defeat any team in the state. After dealing with soreness in her shoulder/neck for about a month, Hames seems to finally be nearing a return to full strength heading into the playoffs.

Sleeper: Pine-Richland. Most would be shocked to see anything other than a Hempfield-Seneca Valley rematch in the finals this year, but if any team is going to crash the party at Lilley Field, it could be the Rams. They closed the season on a high note with wins in five of their last seven games, and Pine-Richland’s only two losses during that stretch came against defending champion Hempfield, with the Rams nearly pulling off a stunning upset in a narrow 10-9 defeat on Friday.

The lowdown: For the second year in a row, Hempfield and Seneca Valley split a pair of regular-season meetings while vanquishing every other opponent in their paths, making for a difficult decision when handing out the top seed for the postseason. Like the Raiders last year, the Spartans received this year’s No. 1 seed thanks to their defending champ status after beating Seneca Valley, 2-1, in a dramatic extra-inning triumph in last year’s title game. Hempfield features a collection of top-notch talent few teams in the state can match, including star pitcher Riley Miller, a Kent State recruit. Outfielders Peyton Heisler (Penn) and Maggie Howard (Georgetown) are also Division I recruits, and Howard’s younger sister, sophomore third baseman Lauren Howard, might be the most well-rounded player in all of Class 6A. Elsewhere, Ella Berkebile, Allie Cervola and Emily Griffith are reliable options at the plate and in the field, and Julia Varhola has established herself as an elite closer. … For the No. 2 Raiders, their hopes of making a third consecutive championship appearance rest on the rocket-powered right arm of Hames, who went 14-0 with an 0.41 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 88 innings to go with a .420 batting average, eight home runs and 25 RBIs during the regular season. Hames pitched a no-hitter with 18 strikeouts in Seneca Valley’s 2-0 win over Hempfield on April 10. … No. 3 North Allegheny and No. 4 Pine-Richland both have solid teams, but they will both be heavy underdogs against the Spartans and Raiders if they manage to reach the semifinals. Jocelyn Langer is an all-section outfielder leading the way for the Rams, while Anne Melle is also a returning all-section pitcher-infielder for the Tigers.

Championship picks: Seneca Valley (Steve Rotstein), Seneca Valley (Brad Everett)

Trinity’s Hanna Suhoski is a powerful slugger capable of going yard every time she steps up to bat. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Trinity

No. 1 seed: Armstrong

Best first-round game: Shaler vs. Franklin Regional

Player to watch: Maddie Cavenaugh, South Fayette. A rare five-tool player who emerged as one of the WPIAL’s brightest stars as a junior, Cavenaugh is a power-hitting outfielder with the ability to spray line drives into the gap and the speed to cause havoc on the basepaths.

Sleeper: Trinity. The Hillers lost a boatload of talent from last year’s team that won the first WPIAL title in program history, but they do still have arguably their top all-around player in junior shortstop Hanna Suhoski (.435 average, 6 home runs) — plus pitcher-first baseman Finley Hohn (.416), center fielder Ally Krenzelak (.415, 2 homers), catcher Alexa Zawacki (.404, 4 homers) and third baseman Remmie Seitz (.380, 6 homers). They might only be a No. 6 seed, but don’t be surprised if Trinity finds a way to go back-to-back.

The lowdown: Armstrong has reached three consecutive championship games, with a WPIAL title in 2022 sandwiched between losses to North Hills in 2021 and Trinity in 2023. The top-seeded River Hawks lost a handful of key players to graduation last spring, but they still have more than enough firepower to make it four trips in a row to the WPIAL final, and maybe even bring home a second title. Senior shortstop Emma Paul is one of the top all-around players in the area, and senior first baseman Jessie Pugh possesses game-changing power. Senior pitcher Madison Baker should receive plenty of run support in her quest to take Armstrong back to the promised land. … Speaking of North Hills, the Indians defied all expectations to earn a No. 2 seed for the postseason without the services of all-section pitcher Alexa Edmunds. Sophomore Abby Sutton has provided a much-needed boost in the circle, while sophomore Lily Adamski, junior Addy Wrigley and senior Savannah Bodnar are all enjoying big years at the plate. … Aubrey Police and Ava Henke form a terrific tandem for No. 3 West Allegheny, which also features the twin battery of senior pitcher Elly Vicari-Baker and senior catcher Addy Vicari-Baker. … No. 5 Shaler appeared to be the team to beat early in the season, but a season-ending injury to sophomore sensation Bria Bosiljevac has severely dampened the Titans’ title hopes. … Watch out for Penn-Trafford. The No. 4 Warriors have won six of their last seven games going into the playoffs, including quality wins against Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Latrobe and North Allegheny.

Championship picks: West Allegheny (Steve Rotstein), Penn-Trafford (Brad Everett)

Chartiers Valley’s Lily Duffill tallied a pair of three-homer games on her way to mashing 11 home runs and 33 RBIs during the regular season. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Belle Vernon

No. 1 seed: Elizabeth Forward

Best first-round game: Montour vs. McKeesport

Player to watch: Lily Duffill, Chartiers Valley. After her stellar debut season for the Colts last spring, Duffill has taken things to a whole new level in 2024, batting .491 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs during the regular season — including a pair of three-homer games.

Sleeper: Montour. Few teams in the area experienced a more depleting roster turnover than the Spartans, who reached last year’s WPIAL and PIAA championship games with the terrific trio of Mia Arndt, Kaitlyn Molitoris and Avrie Polo leading the way. It has been much more of an up-and-down season for Montour this year, but the Spartans still have a talented lineup capable of erupting at any moment.

The lowdown: After several years of near-misses, is this the year Elizabeth Forward claims its first WPIAL title since 2019? The top-seeded Warriors certainly appear to be the front-runner in Class 4A, but that was the case last year, too, when they carried an undefeated record into the WPIAL semifinals before a stunning loss against eventual champion Belle Vernon. Still, with two-way standout Shelby Telegdy leading the charge, plus a pair of ascending young stars in Hannah Evans and Julia Resnik and proven veterans like Alivia Grimm, Julia Johnson and Carlee Soukup, this could be Elizabeth Forward’s best team yet under longtime coach Harry Rutherford. … One team that might be able to keep pace with Elizabeth Forward’s high-powered offense is No. 4 Chartiers Valley. Alongside Duffill, senior Marta Gualazzi (.439 average, 3 homers, 19 RBIs) and juniors Delaney O’Connor (.527 average, 3 homers, 19 RBIs) and Taylor Walsh (.500 average, 3 homers, 21 RBIs) are also having big years for the Colts. … Pitt recruit Mackenzie Reese and Albany recruit Charlotte Lomb helped Hampton secure its first section title since 2019 along with the No. 2 seed for the WPIAL tournament. The Talbots have never won a WPIAL title. … No. 5 Montour isn’t the same talent-rich team as last season, but the Spartans still have their fair share of big hitters, including Delaney Barto, Shania Cope, Jana Hess, Hailey Staub and Danielle Terpack. … Defending champ Belle Vernon made a surprise run to last year’s title as a No. 4 seed. Can the No. 6 Leopards pull off an even bigger stunner this year after losing ace pitcher Talia Ross and standout shortstop Ava Zubovic to season-ending injuries? Never bet against Belle Vernon with veteran coach Tom Rodriguez pulling the strings.

Championship picks: Elizabeth Forward (Steve Rotstein), Chartiers Valley (Brad Everett)

From left, Southmoreland’s Brooke McBeth, Maddie Brown and Amarah McCutcheon high-five during a 7-0 win against Waynesburg on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, at Peterswood Park in Peters Township. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Avonworth

No. 1 seed: Avonworth

Best first-round game: Burrell vs. Ellwood City

Player to watch: Alivia Lantzy, Avonworth. The centerpiece of the Antelopes’ star-studded senior class, Lantzy excels as both a hitter and pitcher for the two-time defending WPIAL champs, and her return from an early-season concussion helped spark a 10-game winning streak for Avonworth going into the postseason.

Sleeper: Southmoreland. The Scotties aren’t your traditional sleeper, with most of their core still intact after last year’s trip to the WPIAL title game, including star shortstop Amarah McCutcheon (.404 average, 7 doubles, 7 homers, 1.607 OPS) and standout pitcher Maddie Brown (14-2, 1.14 ERA). Still, they had to settle for a No. 5 seed after splitting a section title with Ligonier Valley but losing the tiebreaker, placing them on the same side of the bracket as Avonworth. If any team is capable of taking out the defending champs, though, it’s Southmoreland.

The lowdown: Top-seeded Avonworth engineered a swift turnaround after an uncharacteristic 2-3 start to the season, winning 10 games in a row to enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the district. Along with Lantzy, senior catcher Rylee Gray and junior shortstop Sydney Savatt give the Antelopes three of the premier players in Class 3A, and it’s hard to find a weakness throughout the rest of Avonworth’s lineup. Preventing the Antelopes from completing a WPIAL championship three-peat will be a tall order for the rest of the field. … Avonworth might face its toughest matchup in the semifinal round, with No. 4 Mohawk and No. 5 Southmoreland both posing legitimate threats to the Antelopes’ throne. Sophomore Addison Moskal, junior Alivia Hare and senior Aricka Young are each all-section players for the Warriors, while the Scotties are spearheaded by McCutcheon and Brown. … Senior pitcher Cheyenne Piper punctuated her dominant regular season for No. 2 Ligonier Valley with a 12-strikeout no-hitter in Thursday’s 3-0 win against Indiana, the No. 3 seed in Class 4A. … Sophomore Sydney Sekely has been stellar in the circle for No. 3 South Park, and sophomore Kaitlyn Polk and junior Kylie Mettrick are providing plenty of run support at the plate for the Eagles, who hope to claim their first WPIAL title since 2003.

Championship picks: Avonworth (Steve Rotstein), Avonworth (Brad Everett)

Bentworth’s Sydney Gonglik is one of the most heralded two-way players to come out of Western Pennsylvania in recent memory. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Neshannock

No. 1 seed: Neshannock

Best first-round game: Shenango vs. Burgettstown

Player to watch: Sydney Gonglik, Bentworth. Already one of the most feared hitters and one of the most overpowering pitchers in the WPIAL, the freshman phenom owns a record of 15-1 and 0.81 ERA to go with 226 strikeouts and just four walks. At the plate, Gonglik is batting .733 with 8 doubles, 5 triples, 8 home runs, 21 RBIs and 43 runs scored.

Sleeper: Laurel. OK, so the Spartans are a No. 3 seed and traditionally one of Class 2A’s strongest teams year in and year out, but truth be told, it feels like every team not named Neshannock is a sleeper. Nobody is more familiar with the Lancers than Laurel, with the arch rivals having squared off nine times over the past two seasons. The Spartans also gave Neshannock two of its closest games this season (3-0 on April 16 and 5-1 on April 19). Perhaps the 10th time will be a charm?

The lowdown: Once again, top-seeded Neshannock is the overwhelming favorite to win its third consecutive WPIAL title, but the Lancers do have a handful of new faces on this year’s team along with some key pieces missing. Gone are mainstays like Neleh Nogay (Fordham), Aaralyn Nogay (Bowling Green) and Hunter Newman (Morgan State), but the youngest Nogay sister, Jaidon, is keeping the family tradition alive and well at the top of Neshannock’s lineup. Plus, Division I recruits Addy Frye (Providence) and Gabby Quinn (Kent State) are still bringing the lumber in the heart of the order along with seniors Abigale Measel and Gabby Perod. Frye is also one of the top pitchers in the area, and Measel has emerged as a lights-out closer out of the bullpen. The Lancers are 18-0 with 14 shutouts on the year. … Could a worthy challenger be on the rise in Bentworth? The No. 2 Bearcats have never won a WPIAL title and just wrapped up their first section title since 2011, but they have dominated every WPIAL opponent on their schedule so far this season. Gonglik deserves the bulk of the credit, but Bentworth has a handful of players making a big impact, including Sofia Gaussa, Kyleigh Glaze, Nora Lindley and Zoie McDonald. … It’s hard to see any team outside the top three contending for a title, but No. 3 Laurel would surely love another crack at Neshannock. The Spartans, who won three consecutive WPIAL titles from 2018-21, own a combined record of 0-9 against the Lancers over the past three seasons while going 51-4 against all other opponents during that span.

Championship picks: Neshannock (Steve Rotstein), Neshannock (Brad Everett)

Union celebrates a 10-8 victory against Carmichaels in the WPIAL Class 1A championship on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, at PennWest California’s Lilley Field. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


Defending champion: Union

No. 1 seed: Union

Best first-round game: South Side vs. Monessen

Player to watch: Meadow Ferri, Chartiers-Houston. Already established as one of the top two-way players in Class 1A going into the season, Ferri has produced some mind-boggling numbers for the Buccaneers as a junior, including a 21-strikeout gem against Jefferson-Morgan and a 30-strikeout performance in a 15-inning thriller against Carmichaels.

Sleeper: Jeannette. The Jayhawks aren’t exactly known as a softball powerhouse, but they appear to be on the rise with sophomore pitcher Grace Stein ascending into the upper echelon of WPIAL hurlers. In 79 innings pitched, Stein has struck out 181 batters with only three walks, boasting an ERA of 0.53 and WHIP of 0.41 to go with a .500 batting average and team-high 15 RBIs.

The lowdown: Like Neshannock and Avonworth, Union received the No. 1 seed in its quest for a championship three-peat, and the Scotties have no shortage of game-changers up and down the lineup. Sophomore Olivia Williams already carries a reputation as one of the most feared hitters in Class 1A, and freshman Irelyn Fisher is putting together a remarkable debut season with a .457 batting average and 38 RBIs. And with junior pitcher Mia Preuhs at the top of her game, Union is a popular pick to make a return trip to the PIAA championship game after coming up just short in last year’s state final. … No. 2 Carmichaels is determined to make it back to the title game for a potential rematch against the Scotties, who won a back-and-forth 10-8 slugfest in last year’s epic championship contest. Sophomores Carys McConnell and Bailey Barnyak give the Mighty Mikes one of the district’s most dynamic duos. … With Ferri in the circle and Ella Richey and Lauren Rush mashing at the plate, No. 3 Chartiers-Houston appears poised to make a run at its ninth WPIAL title and first since 2012. A potential rubber match against Carmichaels would make for a marquee matchup in the WPIAL semifinals. … Frazier eked out a pair of close wins against Jeannette to remain unbeaten and clinch the Section 3 crown, but the Commodores only received the No. 4 seed for the playoffs after playing only one non-section game — a 3-1 win against Uniontown on Wednesday. Still, don’t be surprised if Frazier finds a way to pull off an upset against Union in the semifinal round.

Championship picks: Union (Steve Rotstein), Union (Brad Everett)

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