By Matt Popchock
The stage is set for the 2012 WPIAL Baseball Championships, but on Wednesday the queens of the diamond will get their turn as the WPIAL Softball Semifinals get underway at venues throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.
Here’s a quick glance at all eight matchups, seven of which take place Wednesday:
2:00 – Carmichaels vs. Sto-Rox at Fairhaven Park, Kennedy Township
4:00 – Vincentian Academy vs. Chartiers-Houston at Fairhaven Park, Kennedy Township
2:00 – Riverside vs. Greensburg Central Catholic at North Allegheny High School
4:00 – Deer Lakes vs. Neshannock at North Allegheny High School
2:00 – Greensburg-Salem vs. Elizabeth Forward at California University
4:00 – Belle Vernon vs. Montour at California University
6:00 Wed. – Peters Township vs. Hempfield at California University
4:00 Thu. – Canon-McMillan vs. Shaler at Fairhaven Park, Kennedy Township
Canon-McMillan has slammed the door, not allowing more than three runs in a game since Apr. 18. Sydney Smyers led Shaler and finished third in the WPIAL with 16 regular season victories. The Big Macs need to match that quality pitching and take Shaler out of its comfort zone by keeping the game low-scoring. Tara Konopka powered Peters Township with a 14-4 record and 152 strikeouts entering the playoffs. Still, Hempfield is up for the challenge, having posted shutouts in five of the Spartans’ last six. ~ Kaitlyn Kutchmann finished sixth in the WPIAL with 155 regular season K’s, and guided Montour to 14 wins in 19 appearances entering the playoffs. Don’t underestimate the moxy of Belle Vernon, which likes to live dangerously; the Leopards are 5-2 in one-run games, including two postseason wins. The pitching matchup in the other Class AAA game is equally fascinating. Jayne Oberdorf, at one point, helped Greensburg-Salem post eight shutouts in nine games. Elizabeth Forward hurler Portia McBride went 14-5 with 141 K’s in the regular season, though she’s needed some help from her offense in the playoffs. ~ Deer Lakes has one of the deadliest offenses in all of western PA, having won six games by at least ten runs, but these Lancers have their work cut out against Amanda Furst of the undefeated Neshannock Lancers, who ended the regular campaign 17-0. GCC is a surprising bunch after wins over Burrell and Seton-LaSalle, but it’s going to take a Herculean effort to prolong their under-the-radar run. Kirsten Wilson of Riverside finished second in the WPIAL with 204 strikeouts during the regular season. ~ Vincentian has been one of the most consistent programs in the WPIAL over the long haul, though the Royals might have a royal pain getting past the Bucs. Kayla Briggs led Chartiers-Houston and the district with 19 regular season wins and finished fifth overall with 160 K’s. To be fair, VA has scored double-digit runs in seven of its last ten. Expect a real pitchers’ duel in the other Class A contest too. Natayla Smarra is dialed in for undefeated Sto-Rox right now after winning all 15 of her regular season games, and she’ll be opposed by 13-1 Cameron Grimes, who has tossed ten shutouts.
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)