By Matt Popchock
Those of you who read this blog probably know that Mr. High School Sports has promised exclusive coverage of select baseball and softball games in the area recently. However, he has not delivered, because it has rained. Again. And again. And again…
Teams throughout the WPIAL have had a tough time muddling through the dreary weather this season. Making matters even tougher might be the fact that the WPIAL has only decided to extend the regular season by one extra day. That’s just one more day to shoe-horn all those washed out section games into one’s remaining schedule, many of them with playoff implications.
Three teams make the playoffs in each baseball and softball section, and while at least 41 WPIAL Softball Playoff berths have yet to be awarded, at least 47 WPIAL Baseball Playoff spots are also vacant. Sufficed to say, this means a lot of exciting and intense competition will be crammed into this week and next.
Here are a few of the games to look for this week–as always–weather permitting:
Sto-Rox (7-0, 10-0) @ Vincentian Academy (2-1, 2-3) – The Royals have a long way to go before they can think about catching up to the Vikings, but if they prevail in this rematch (which has been delayed multiple times), they’ll get a leg up on the other challengers in Class A Section 3. No team to this point has played Sto-Rox tougher than they. The star of the Vikings’ 5-3 win Apr. 18 was Talia Smarra, who struck out 11 without a walk. She has fanned 48 on the year and her 8-0 record is tied for third in the WPIAL. We could have a real pitchers’ duel on our hands, as Vincentian’s Danielle Melvin allowed just two hits in that loss and struck out five. For the Royals’ sake, it better be, because Sto-Rox has scored in double figures in six of their last seven.
South Fayette (5-3, 5-4) @ Seton-LaSalle (5-2, 6-2) – Carlynton and Freedom are duking it out for the Class AA Section 1 crown, and while that’s going on, the final playoff spot is up for grabs, starting with this contest at Moore Park in Brookline. The Rebels can get a firm grip on it if they put another hurting on the Lions like they did in Saturday’s 12-1 drubbing. David Faust has been a big key to LaSalle’s success thus far with his team-leading .520 batting average, and Mike DelSardo has contributed power of his own with a .480 average and three home runs. Following a number of rain outs, South Fayette belted out 37 runs in three victories, but is trying to snap out of back-to-back losses.
Seneca Valley (5-2, 8-2) @ Pine-Richland (6-2, 9-3) – The reigning WPIAL champs will enter this week tied with Butler for the top spot in Class AAAA Section 1, while the visiting Raiders will try not only to keep their section title hopes alive, but also to keep Shaler at bay for the last playoff spot in the section. Seneca Valley’s pitching will have its hands full with this offense, featuring Ryan Hanahan, whose .571 average is third in Quad-A. The Raiders have swung the bats well during their four-game win streak, pounding out 51 runs, and need to keep them hot after getting frustrated by the Rams 4-1 on Apr. 11.
Yough (5-0, 8-0) @ Greensburg-Salem (6-1, 6-3) – Forget for a moment about beating the visiting Cougars. The Golden Lions need to figure out how to score against their Class AAA Section 4 rivals, something that no team in Class AAA has done all season, and that none has done since Mount Lebanon plated one run in a season-opening win by Yough. If the playoff-bound Lions can’t avoid another goose egg, their section lead will go up in smoke. They’ll have two chances to defend it, as Yough led Salem 3-0 in the third inning of a suspended game that will be resumed and finished before the regularly scheduled one. Nicole Sleith has picked up six of Yough’s wins and is second in the WPIAL with exactly 100 K’s. Jayne Oberdorf leads the Lions with a 4-2 mark and 63 strikeouts.
Upper St. Clair (6-2, 8-4) @ Peters Township (8-0, 12-1) – The Indians are steamrolling toward the Class AAAA Section 4 title, but the Panthers, who have already shown they can keep up with their talented offense, can shake up that race with a win under the lights of Peterswood Park. Peters already owns an 8-6 win over USC from Apr. 25, but it can’t sleep on these Panthers, who boast three hitters batting over .450 entering Monday, led by Mike Browne’s team-leading .500 average. Browne has hit three homers and leads USC with 17 RBI. A major catalyst of the Indians’ nine-game winning streak has been Justin Bianco, who sits second in Quad-A with a .607 batting average and leads an equally well-rounded lineup with 13 RBI.
For continuing coverage of WPIAL baseball and softball, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports later this week!