It’s the best time of the year. Teams are getting hot at the perfect time, the best players are shining in the biggest moments, and the WPIAL Playoff Brackets have officially been released. This year, more than ever before, we are going to provide you with a significant amount of playoff information. During the upcoming days, you will see our in-depth breakdowns, games to watch, and other unique takes on everything that could possibly happen on the road to Consol.
For now, we are going to go conference by conference describing our opinions after a quick glance at the bracket. The breakdowns below are just our first impressions, but will be described in a heavier fashion later on.
Let’s get down to business, starting with 1A.
- Vincentian has been at the top of our list all season long, and rightfully so they are the top WPIAL seed. UCONN commit, Kyler Fedko, has been an absolute monster at the dish hitting at a ridiculous pace that makes him the most dominant force 1A has to offer.
- Vincentian was handed a 9-8 loss earlier in the year to section rival, Union, who is one of our major teams to watch in this field of 12. However, Union will have a tough track to make it to the potential rematch. First, they would most likely have to get through the likes of Monessen, and then G.C.C., which are two squads that are very tough to beat.
- Sleeper pick for this group is 100% Jeanette. The defending 1A WPIAL Champs put together an impressive 10 game win streak earlier in the year, and are easily capable of repeating for the gold. They are on a two game skid right now, taking L’s from GCC and Monessen, but a first round matchup against Leechburg should put them right back on track.
- Our deep, deep, deep, sleeper is Cornell. The Raiders were highly overlooked all season long, and this Blackstone kid can really play ball. Cornell will have a tough road ahead going up against a solid West Greene team, and then the top dawg in Vincentian, but we like what we are seeing out of the Raiders this season.
- #3 Neshannock is phenomenal, #2 North Catholic is a group of absolute BALL PLAYERS, but it looks like no one can come close to taking down the powerhouse that is #1 Serra Catholic. Serra has one loss all season, and it came in a 4-3 fashion against one of the best teams in 3A (Avonworth). They are playing at a different level right now, and their 19-1 record shows what they are fully capable of, which is acquiring another gold medal.
- If there is one Underdog team in this group I am taking Shenango. They got off to a bit of a rocky start this season, but finished out in a very strong fashion. I like their draw, and think they have more than enough talent to play for a medal in Washington.
- We want, we want, we want a CWNC vs Neshannock final four contest. These section rivals have already gotten into two major battles earlier this season with CWNC coming out on top both times. I am not calling it now, but know that Neshannock could make a third matchup very intriguing if the oppurtunity presents itself.
- Honestly, while taking a quick glance at the 3A bracket I am pretty disappointed. There are several teams I really like out of this group and think they could scrap together a nice playoff run, however they are all on the same side this year. The heavy favorite is Riverside who has dominated on their path to a 15-1 record. But, they will have to go up against a winner of Steel Valley/Charleroi, two teams that are both very good and know how to win come playoff time, and then take down #4 seeded Brownsville who is 12-2 on the year and easily won section 3.
- The WPIAL rewarded Avonworth and South Side Beaver for having to deal with Riverside twice a year, giving both teams the respective #2 and #3 seeds. Don’t get me wrong, I think Avonworth is the second best team in 3A, and should have no trouble making their way to Consol. I am very curious to see how SSB holds up.
- Looking quickly at this field of 12, I could easily see it playing out in a chalk format. Higher seeds all the way through with the top two powerhouses battling for a third time this season under the bright lights of Consol Energy Park.
- I am all on board for the 4A playoffs. This group is as deep as you could ever imagine and will create some very entertaining ball games.
- With that being said, Blackhawk is incredible. 16-1, 14-0 in section, two absolute studs in Turconi and McClymonds. It is going to be extremely tough to take these guys down.
- You know how just above I said 3A will play out like chalk? Yeah, I am taking the latter for this conference. Give me South Park, give me New Castle, and throw in some Hopewell all to take games in round one from the higher seeds. You might call it crazy, but with this season I am calling it a comeback.
- All three of these teams started off their seasons roughly. South Park was one of the top teams we had our eye on this preseason, and found their way back to playoff contention with an 8 game winning streak to finish the season. New Castle is a tough group of guys who really believe in their abilities this year. They started off section play 0-3, and answered that call going 9-2. Hopewell is very similar to our opinion of South Park: they have shown glimmers of greatness, but have also struggled mightily. I am a big believer in Joe Rock, Ohio commit, and think he can guide the Vikings towards the Elite Eight.
- Moon had never once been #1 on our Power Rankings, they have gone up to as high as #2, but never controlled the top spot. The Tigers slid into the premier position by winning 13 of their last 15 contests. During that span, they handed West Allegheny their first loss, and beat the likes of 6A strongholds, Mt. Lebo and Norwin. Playoffs is a lot about pitching, and the Tigers have two Arms, Maue and Schoeneweis, who are more than capable of dominating a ball game.
- After the Tigers, there are three teams that I would not bat an eye if they raised a WPIAL banner at the end of this season. Those squads are #3 North Hills, #4 Laurel Highlands, and #5 Mars. North Hills was the consensus #1 for majority of the season and hosts a 17-3 record. Laurel Highlands surprised us all on their way to a 15-3 season, but proved they are a fantastic ball club. And Mars, our preseason #1 that could not figure out how to win, ends their year on a 5 game dub streak. Like I said before that pitching is the key, Mars has two D1 arms controlling their staff, Bednar and Craska.
- WPIAL Fans, if you want the best game to watch out of the entire lineup for May 15th, headover to Fox Chapel and watch #8 Hampton take on #9 Gateway. Two legit squads that have had awesome seasons.
- Vanderbilt, Penn State, Kent State. Three Major Division 1 programs who all have commits playing for none other than the Pine Richland Rams. And yet, PR is not the one seed and they failed to win their section. Instead, the top dawg is Central Catholic. The Vikings won their last 7 games, finishing with a 14-4 record in the toughest section in 6A.
- Now with that being said, Pine is still one of our MAJOR teams to watch out for. They are obviously battle tested at this point, and with that much raw talent in one lineup it is going to be a difficult team to beat. They would not have to matchup with Central until the finals, but wow would that make for a great WPIAL Championship.
- One of the coolest stories of the year has been Bethel Park’s trek to the top. The #2 overall seed was not a highly touted team during the preseason, but Eastern Michigan commit, Justin Meis, has dominated Section 3 this season en route to a 17-3 record for the Hawks.
- My favorite team to watch come playoff time are the Canon Mac Big Macs. Year in, and year out, their lineup is always filled with tough outs. They are grinders and know what to do in order to squeeze out tough ball games. This year, it is not just the lineup teams have to look out for. Their pitching staff has a huge presence on the mound that should contribute greatly towards their chances of making a deep playoff run.
These were just our first impressions and there will be a lot more playoff information coming your way! Make sure you hit the subscribe button on the left hand side of the screen, and continue to tune in on Twitter and Instagram @wpial_baseball to stay up to date on everything you need to know before the postseason officially gets underway!