California is eyeing its sixth WPIAL baseball championship, and although No. 1 seeds don’t always translate to titles, Trojans coach Lou Pasquale was glad to see his team earn the top spot in Class A when the pairings for the WPIAL playoffs were released on Friday afternoon.
“No doubt we are excited about being the No. 1 seed,” Pasquale said. “I really think our non-section schedule helped us to get the top seed, but we know that there can always be upsets in sports. There have been No. 1 seeds that go down.”
California swept through Section 2-A play and its only loss was a 10-2 setback at Waynesburg Central, a Class AAA playoff team, on March 28. The Trojans have won 14 in a row since then, including non-section victories over playoff teams Serra Catholic and Beth-Center.
California will receive a bye in the first round and play the winner of Eden Christian and West Greene with the date, site and time to be determined in the quarterfinals.
California was the highest seeded local team and one of only two that were placed in the top four. Yough was the other with the Cougars at No. 2 in Class AAAA. They play No. 15 Central Valley, 4 p.m. Wednesday, at Shaler.
Carmichaels, a section champion which won 11 games in a row at one point and was ranked among the top teams all season, was surprisingly left out of the top four in Class AA. The Mikes were slotted at No. 6, according to the brackets, although the WPIAL only officially seeds the top four in each classification.
Carmichaels coach Dickie Krause wasn't complaining, though.
"I have two takes, really. One is I learned a long ago not to get caught up in that," Krause said of the seedings. "Second is I really wasn’t surprised. We did not play good baseball the last week. We struggled and won some pretty tight games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs. I wasn’t shocked. I’m not upset with it at all.
"I think when you look at the overall seedings I thought they got it right for the most part."
Laurel Highlands was also in the No. 6 spot, in Class AAAAA. The Mustangs and Mikes will play at the same site, Seton Hill University, on Thursday. Carmichaels takes on No. 11 Jeannette at 2 p.m. and LH meets No. 11 Kiski Area at 4 p.m.
“We will get a scouting report on Kiski Area in the next few days and see what they have,” Laurel Highlands coach Scott DeBerry said. “Some of our players will be at the prom this weekend, but we will be back at it Monday and hope to get three good practices in. Seton Hill has a turf field, but we have played on turf before, and we can always go to the football field to work with our infielders on the turf.”
Connellsville is in the No. 11 spot in Class AAAAAA and will play No. 6 Seneca Valley, 4 p.m. Thursday at Fox Chapel.
Along with Carmichaels in Class AA, Brownsville is in the No. 10 spot and will play No. 7 Avonworth, 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Burkett Complex.
The Falcons lost most of their starting lineup from last year's WPIAL Class AAA championship team, which, ironically, beat Avonwoth in the final, but seem to be peaking at the right time as they ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak.
"We didn't have a lot of kids that had varsity experience," Brownsville coach Skooter Roebuck said. "It was kind of a struggle for awhile but they pulled it together at the right time. The kids worked hard all year.
"A lot of them were back-ups last year but they saw what it took to win in the playoffs."
There are four other area teams in Class AAAA along with Yough.
Defending PIAA champion Ringgold tied for first place in its section but still wasn't given a top-four seed. The Rams are in the No. 5 slot and will play No. 12 Mount Pleasant in a clash of two local team at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Seton Hill.
"I kind of pictured us being anywhere from three to five," Ringgold coach Don Roberts said. "We were even better last year and they only had us as like a three seed. I still think they overlook us a little bit despite a lot of our success."
Ringgold has a solid core back from last year's title squad.
"The run that we made last year, I think that definitely helps," Roberts said. "We have about five new starters but we still have a lot of players back who were on that team, so they have a lot of experience in all these situations.
"I feel like they're battle-tested. I thought our section was the toughest section, so I feel like we've already played some of the best teams in all of Quad-A."
No. 8 Elizabeth Forward and No. 11 Belle Vernon play a doubleheader at Fox Chapel on Wednesday. The Leopards go against No. 6 Beaver at 2 p.m. and the Warriors play No. 9 New Castle at 4 p.m.
There are three local teams in Class A along wit the Trojans, with two of those -- No. 9 West Greene and No. 10 Jefferson-Morgan -- involved in a doubleheader at Boyce/Mayview Park on Wednesday. The Pioneers' game against No. 8 Eden Christian will start at 2 p.m. and the Rockets take on No. 7 Bishop Canevin at 4:30 p.m.
J-M coach John Curtis was happy with his squad's placement in the bracket.
"I always do kind of a mock draw-up of where I think they might put us in the pairings and I thought we'd end up at 12 or 13," Curtis said. "When I saw we were 10, well, I thought they saw that we played a lot of bigger teams (three Class AA teams and one Class AAA team) in our non-section schedule. I think playing those games helped us but it didn't help our record.
"We have gotten better as the season has gone along. This is probably the best we've played all year right now."
The Rockets are 5-2 in their last seven.
Monessen is slotted at No. 6 in Class A and will play No. 11 St. Joseph's, 2 p.m. Wednesday at Seton Hill.
Waynesburg is in the No. 8 slot in Class AAAA and will play No. 9 Freedom, 7 p.m. Wednesday at Boyce/Mayview Park, following the West Greene and Jefferson-Morgan games.
"It'll be Greene County day over there," Curtis said with a laugh.
No. 12 Beth-Center meets No. 5 New Brighton, 4 p.m. Wednesday at North Allegheny.