The WPIAL baseball championships return to Wild Things Park on Tuesday and Wednesday for two full days of action featuring several intriguing matchups, but not all championship games are created equal.

While several underdogs have crashed the party to shake up the brackets in the lower classifications, the “Grandaddy of ’em all” for the Class 6A title is the high school baseball equivalent of a heavyweight prize fight. With two fierce rivals colliding with blue-chip prospects all over the field and no shortage of historical implications at play, championship games like this simply don’t come around too often.

Needless to say, when No. 3 North Allegheny clashes with No. 1 Mt. Lebanon on Wednesday at 7 p.m., fans can expect an absolutely electric atmosphere for the must-see rematch between two of the area’s premier programs.

“It’s a really big deal to get into the championship game,” said Blue Devils coach Patt McCloskey. “I know that we’re going to get the best from the best team in the WPIAL. They’re good at every single aspect of the game. They’re exceptionally well-coached. … It’s been good to have some time to do the best we can to prepare, because North Allegheny presents so much to prepare for.”

Last year’s championship game won’t be soon forgotten by anyone who was lucky enough to witness it, as then-sophomore David Shields turned in one of the greatest pitching performances in WPIAL history for Mt. Lebanon in a 4-0 win against the Tigers. A Miami recruit who has re-classified to graduate this spring in order to enter the 2024 MLB Draft, Shields fired a no-hitter with nine strikeouts on only 71 pitches against one of the area’s most formidable lineups to lift the Blue Devils to their second consecutive WPIAL crown and sixth all time.

Mt. Lebanon pitcher David Shields is a projected early-round MLB Draft pick who is hoping to lead the Blue Devils to their third consecutive WPIAL Class 6A title after pitching a no-hitter in last year’s WPIAL final. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

After battling a case of mononucleosis for the first month of the season, the stellar southpaw has resumed his rightful place as the top pitcher in the WPIAL, holding a record of 5-0 with a minuscule 0.32 ERA and 0.43 WHIP to go with 52 strikeouts and only three walks in 28 innings pitched. Also excelling as Mt. Lebanon’s starting center fielder when he’s not on the mound, Shields is slashing .418/.535/.705 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, a home run, 18 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

“To David’s credit, he was ready to throw,” McCloskey said. “I’m so impressed that he was able to come back even earlier than we anticipated to be able to go deep into games. … I think that’s what makes David so good. The moment is the moment. He’s not thinking about anything else. And he certainly has risen to the occasion.”

With Shields set to graduate after the season, the Blue Devils’ future appears to be in good hands with 6-5 freshman Graham Keen ready to step into the spotlight. A pitcher-first baseman with light-tower power, Keen is batting .355 with 5 doubles, 6 home runs, 24 RBIs and 15 runs scored. The top-ranked freshman in the state, Keen is also 6-0 with a 1.43 ERA, 47 strikeouts and 19 walks in 37⅔ innings — and his finest outing to date came out of the bullpen in an 11-5 comeback win against Seneca Valley in the WPIAL semifinals on Tuesday.

“[Keen] has kind of been an unsung hero all year,” McCloskey said. “He didn’t get the start [against Seneca], but he’s like, ‘Fine, I’ll come on in relief. I’ll help out the team any way possible.’ He comes on in relief and throws 5⅔ scoreless innings as a ninth grader. I think that’s a pretty remarkable thing.

“He laid everything on the line for us, and I’m very grateful for his maturity.”

North Allegheny’s David Posey and Pine-Richland’s Sam Heckert chat on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at North Allegheny High School. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Although Mt. Lebanon is the top seed with two of the premier players in all of Western Pennsylvania, it might not be a stretch to call North Allegheny the deeper team from top to bottom.

Leading the way for the Tigers is senior David Posey, a pitcher-first baseman and Navy recruit with a record of 5-0 and 2.94 ERA to go with 42 strikeouts in 31⅓ innings of work. Posey also ranks second on the team with 15 RBIs while providing a veteran presence for the younger players in the clubhouse to look up to.

Along with Posey, fellow seniors Matthew Parreaguirre (.385 batting average, 4 doubles, 12 RBIs, 16 runs scored) and Owen Schall (.400, 5 doubles, 20 RBIs) have been two of the team’s most consistent and reliable hitters. But North Allegheny coach Andrew Heck has been especially impressed with the emergence of junior Miles Pealer, who is now hitting .448 while swinging arguably the hottest bat on the team.

Still, the true strength of the Tigers’ ballclub lies in their seemingly endless platoon of Division I pitchers, with Posey joined on the staff by West Virginia recruit Nico Varlotta and Penn State recruit Charlie Mau. Senior J.D. Costanzo is another WVU recruit who began the season as the team’s de facto ace, but Costanzo hasn’t pitched since sustaining an injury in a 5-4 win against Norwin on March 28, and he just underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Friday.

“Posey has been our guy,” Heck said. “He’ll probably be the one who gets the nod [to start].”

North Allegheny’s Owen Schall is batting .400 with five doubles and 20 RBIs this season for the Tigers. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Varlotta is 1-0 with a 2.10 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 13⅓ innings of work, and he helped pitch North Allegheny into the finals with six solid innings in a 5-4 extra-innings win against No. 2 Pine-Richland in the WPIAL semifinals. Junior left-hander Jackson Walsh also sports a 3.30 ERA, giving Heck a stable of arms at his disposal that most coaches can only dream of.

“It’s not an individual effort. That’s the big thing for us,” Heck said. “We have to do it from top to bottom on our team. That’s kind of how we’ve done it all year long.”

In the end, this one is going to come down to the Tigers’ bats and their ability to generate early offense against Shields without letting him get into rhythm. If they can work long at-bats and put a couple runs on the board, the pressure will be on the Blue Devils to respond. But if Shields starts cruising with a few scoreless innings, look out — because once he gets into the zone, there’s usually no stopping him.

“We’re used to playing in those big atmosphere-type games,” Heck said. “We’re battle-tested on that side of things. But without a doubt, I think this will be one of the bigger settings our kids have ever experienced. I guarantee it will be a packed house.”

For Mt. Lebanon, this is about more than just capturing the seventh title in program history and inching closer to North Allegheny’s record of eight WPIAL crowns. With a win, the Blue Devils would become the first team ever to secure a championship three-peat in the largest classification — not including Allegheny’s six consecutive titles from 1917-22 in the days of only one class.

And for the star pitcher with an undeniable penchant for shining under the bright lights, you can bet Shields is ready to put on an encore of last year’s scintillating championship performance.

“Every season provides its own unique narrative that you never see coming,” McCloskey said. “In 2022, we played Upper St. Clair for the first time ever in the playoffs, and it’s in front of a sold-out crowd [in the WPIAL championship]. Who saw that coming? Then we play North Allegheny last year after basically being written off, against the team that has the most WPIAL championships. This year, we get a rematch with almost the exact same two teams as last year.

“You never know where the story is going to go. That’s why you enjoy each season.”

Penn-Trafford’s Brayden Stone is batting .404 with 7 doubles, 2 triples, a home run, 12 RBIs and 18 runs scored for the Warriors. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 5A

No. 4 Bethel Park (15-6-1) vs. No. 7 Penn-Trafford (19-3) — 7 p.m. Tuesday

For the third time in four years, Bethel Park is on the brink of snapping its 37-year WPIAL championship drought, and the Black Hawks are eager to bring home the gold after settling for silver in 2021 and 2023. Standing in their way are the Penn-Trafford Warriors, back in the title game for the first time since losing to Pine-Richland in the 2019 Class 6A final.

Of course, Bethel Park has still had plenty to celebrate in recent years, with the Black Hawks becoming only the fourth local team to win back-to-back PIAA titles in 2021-22. Penn-Trafford, on the other hand, has never won a WPIAL or PIAA championship. Brayden Stone leads the Warriors with a .404 batting average, while Chuck Fontana is hitting .391 with seven doubles and 17 RBIs. Juniors Ryan Walsh and Ryan Petras are two of the top performers for Bethel Park, and both are future Division I recruits.

To reach the finals, the Black Hawks took down No. 11 Trinity in the quarterfinals, 11-1, followed by a 7-6 semifinal thriller against No. 1 West Allegheny. After finishing in a four-way tie for the Section 1 title, Penn-Trafford knocked off Moon, Fox Chapel and Franklin Regional in succession by a combined score of 20-5 to earn a berth in the championship game.

North Catholic coach Andy Przybylek and catcher Blake Primrose (27) helped steer the Trojans to the WPIAL title game after back-to-back upsets in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 4A

No. 6 North Catholic (16-4) vs. No. 9 Indiana (13-9) — 4 p.m. Wednesday

One of two championship showdowns between section rivals this week, Section 4 champion North Catholic will look to dispel the notion that it’s tough to beat a good team three times in a row — while Indiana hopes the third time’s a charm after a pair of narrow one-run losses against the Trojans earlier this season. North Catholic won on the road, 2-1, on April 22, followed by a 3-2 home win the next day.

For the Trojans, senior catcher Blake Primrose is a Saint Joseph’s recruit who provides plenty of pop in the middle of the lineup along with a steady presence behind the plate. As for the Little Indians, senior pitcher-third baseman Ben Ryan is a powerful slugger capable of changing any game with one swing of the bat. A Quinnipiac recruit, Ryan is batting .434 with 7 doubles, 6 home runs and 24 RBIs, while Primrose is hitting .475 with 7 doubles, 8 homers and 27 RBIs. Ryan also has 26 strikeouts in only 13⅓ innings pitched with an 0.52 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

Both teams have been on a tear in the postseason, with North Catholic posting back-to-back shutouts against No. 11 Elizabeth Forward and No. 3 West Mifflin before a 12-4 semifinal win against No. 2 Thomas Jefferson. Indiana has been equally impressive, defeating No. 8 Central Valley, 4-1, in the first round before notching back-to-back shutouts against No. 16 Blackhawk and No. 4 Montour to reach the finals.

Riverside’s John Bowser (26) celebrates after Zack Hare (27) scored in the sixth inning of a 4-1 win against Keystone Oaks in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at North Allegheny. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 3A

No. 1 Riverside (16-1) vs. No. 7 Avonworth (15-8) — 4 p.m. Tuesday

The most prohibitive favorite of all the teams playing for a championship this week, Riverside is attempting to secure its second consecutive title and seventh all time under legendary coach Dan Oliastro. With 712 career victories in 56 years at the helm, Oliastro is the winningest and longest-tenured coach in WPIAL history — and this team is as good as any he has had before.

Oliastro, 80, was named PUP Coach of the Year after the Panthers became the first team to win WPIAL and PIAA titles with a perfect record in 2023, and with eight starters returning from last year’s championship game — including Duke recruit Christian Lucarelli — many penciled Riverside into the WPIAL finals before the season even began. Holding a record of 41-1 over the past two seasons, the Panthers won their first 11 games in 2024, stretching their winning streak to 36 games in a row before a 5-2 loss at Neshannock on April 30 that stands as their only blemish over the past two years. Riverside is allowing only 1.2 runs per game, tops in the WPIAL, while giving up one run or less in 12 of 17 contests.

Although Avonworth will be a massive underdog in its attempt to claim its first WPIAL title since 1992, the Antelopes are playing their best baseball at the right time, winning five games in a row after stumbling into a bit of a rough patch in midseason. Avonworth defeated a trio of double-digit seeds to get to the finals — No. 10 Greensburg Salem, No. 15 East Allegheny and No. 14 Burrell.

Seton LaSalle’s Mike Todd is batting .500 with 3 doubles, 16 RBIs and 26 runs scored for the defending WPIAL Class 2A champions. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 2A

No. 1 Serra Catholic (17-1) vs. No. 3 Seton LaSalle (16-3) — 1 p.m. Wednesday

Two familiar foes will renew their rivalry on the big stage once again when Seton LaSalle seeks to defend its WPIAL title against Serra Catholic in a rematch of last year’s Class 2A final, won by the Rebels in an 8-1 blowout. Seton LaSalle also defeated the Eagles in the 2019 title game.

For Serra, this is a chance to add yet another milestone to the rich tradition cultivated by longtime coach Brian Dzurenda in a quarter-century at his alma mater. The Eagles became the eighth team in WPIAL history to capture a WPIAL title with an unbeaten record in 2022, then fell just short of winning back-to-back titles last year. But like clockwork, Serra has churned out another fantastic season to reach its third consecutive WPIAL final.

With 193 runs scored and 30 runs allowed in 18 games, the Eagles boast the No. 1 scoring offense (10.7 runs per game) and No. 2 scoring defense (1.6 runs allowed per game) in the WPIAL. The Rebels aren’t far behind, with 193 runs scored (10.1 runs per game) and 50 runs allowed (2.6 runs allowed per game) in 19 games. They will be short-handed in their quest to repeat as WPIAL champions, though, as their top player, senior shortstop Gio LoNero, was ejected during last week’s WPIAL semifinal victory for an alleged verbal altercation with a teammate and suspended for three games.

Bishop Canevin’s Tyler Maddix is batting .512 with 4 doubles, 6 triples, a home run and 24 RBIs for the defending WPIAL Class 1A champions. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Union Progress).

Class 1A

No. 2 Eden Christian (16-4) vs. No. 4 Bishop Canevin (14-4) — 1 p.m. Tuesday

Despite bringing back much of its nucleus from last year’s title-winning team, including the dynamic duo of Tyler Maddix and Kole Olszewski — not to mention the addition of freshman pitcher Jackson Maddix — defending champion Bishop Canevin may be viewed as an underdog in the eyes of many in its bid for back-to-back WPIAL crowns.

That’s because Eden Christian swept the regular-season series against the Crusaders while repeating as Section 3 champion, and neither game was particularly close. The Warriors won the first meeting at home, 9-1, on April 9, followed by an 11-1 road win the following day. Dating back to last season, Eden Christian has now won three consecutive matchups between the section rivals by a combined score of 29-2.

The Warriors used a 5-1 quarterfinal win against No. 7 West Greene and an 11-2 victory against No. 6 Avella to reach the finals, while Bishop Canevin routed No. 5 Western Beaver in the quarterfinals, 10-0, before a 7-1 semifinal win against No. 8 Carmichaels. A win would give Eden Christian its first WPIAL title in program history, while the Crusaders are seeking their fourth WPIAL crown.

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