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Softball | General | 5/2/2022

HS Playoff Preview: Great Lakes

Jerry Miller     
Photo: Perfect Game
Pennsylvania

The spring softball season in the northern climate is just rounding into shape. While the southern states are moving towards exciting conclusions to seasons that started in February, schools “up north” are at the midseason point.



The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs begin the first week in June and conclude with the Championship finals the weekend of June 16-17, when the PIAA will crown winners in six divisions. The 1A, 3A, and 5A finals will be played on June 16, while the 2A, 4A, and 6A championships will be decided on June 17. All championship contests will be played on the campus of Penn State University at Beard Field at Nittany Lion Park.

At the 1A level, there are four teams at the top of the pack that are undefeated and are aiming for a trip to PSU in June. Claysburg-Kimmel (Claysburg), DuBois Central Catholic (DuBois), Tri-Valley (Hegins) and Bucktail (Farwell) have started the season well and have the pitching, defense, and enough offense to carry their early success through to the championship. There are, of course, a few sleepers who could get on a roll at the right time and carry momentum through the playoff season but look at the aforementioned programs to play a big role as the 1A division moves through the playoffs.

The 2A division has a number of solid teams leading the way. Each of these clubs are rounding into form and could make a big push towards a date in the Nittany Valley in June. Susquentia (Duncannon) sits at 10-0, while Neshannock (New Castle), at 9-0, is not far behind. Chartiers-Houston (Houston), South Huntingdon County (Three Springs) and Marion Center could also play their way to Penn State.

At 11-0, undefeated Mid-Valley (Throop) leads the 3A pack towards the midseason mark. Also in the loop at the top of the state rankings are Central Cambria (Ebensburg), Clearfield, North Schuylkill (Ashland), Central Columbia (Bloomsburg), Central (Martinsburg), Avonworth (Pittsburgh).

The AAAA conference is a log jam of really solid clubs, all with the roster and talent to make a big drive to PSU in June. Cambria Heights (Patton), Villa Joseph Marie (Holland), Blue Mountain (Schuylkill Haven), Elizabeth Forward (Elizabeth), Hamburg, and Franklin have all shown well through the early part of the regular season and are primed to elevate their play as the weather turns warmer in the Keystone State.

Good luck figuring out who the top AAAAA program is. This conference has a bevy of outstanding players and teams and whoever advances to Beard Field in June will have earned their trip. Pittston at 10-0, currently leads a strong contingent at the top of the 5A rankings. Southern Lehigh (Center Valley), West Scranton (Scranton), Central Mountain (Mill Hall), Abington Heights (Clarks Summit), Northeastern (Manchester) and Shippensburg could all figure in the division 5A mix moving forward.

The 6A level is a “who’s who” among solid fastpitch teams in the state. There are so many top programs that it is anyone’s guess who may eventually wear the AAAAAA championship crown. North Penn (Lansdale), Spring-Ford (Royersford), Chambersburg, and Downingtown West (Downingtown) are all undefeated and have at least 10 wins. Not far from the front-runners are Northampton, Emmaus, Williamsport, Beaver, Northwestern Lehigh (New Tripoli) and Parkland (Allentown).

Ohio

The Buckeye State is a fastpitch-crazy area that boasts a number of tradition-rich programs that annually battle for the right to advance to the state championships. This year, the state will award trophies in four divisions. The Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs begin with sectionals on May 7 and conclude with the state finals, June 2-4. The championships will be contested at iconic Firestone Stadium in Akron.

The Division 4 conference sees the usual suspects leading the way at the small school level. Don’t let enrollment numbers fool you. These programs can, and do, compete with the big schools, and are always loaded with talent. Leading the way, as always, are two tradition-bound programs that have their fair share of state championship trophies in the case. Strasburg-Franklin (Strasburg) and Hillsdale (Jeromesville) are known throughout the state as having two of the top programs, regardless of classification. Each of these small schools always have their sights set on reaching the state finals. This year is no different. They will be challenged along the way by the likes of Hopewell-Loudon (Bascom), Minster, Bradford, Fairfield (Leesburg), Danville, and South Central (Greenwich).

The Division 3 title is up for grabs as there are so many solid programs that this highly-competitive conference will have to wait until the dust settles to find their winner. The roster of top programs is lengthy and just getting through sectional play could be challenging. Cardington-Lincoln (Cardington) Carlisle, Wellston, Heath, and Ursuline (Youngstown) lead the way...for now. They will unquestionably be challenged by the likes of Portsmouth West (Portsmouth), Martins Ferry, Coldwater, Arcanum, Riverdale (Mt. Blanchard), Waynedale (Apple Creek), Colonel Crawford (North Robinson), and Liberty-Benton (Findlay).

Marlington (Alliance), Jonathan Alder (Plain City), and Triway (Wooster), lead the pack at the D2 level. All three of these teams have a championship look and could find their way to Akron in June. Also posting solid records at midseason are John Glenn (New Concord), New Richmond, West Branch (Beloit), and Unioto (Chillicothe).

The highly-competitive Division 1 conference is deep and talented. There are any number of teams that are capable of surviving sectional, area, and regional play and making it to Firestone Stadium. Teays Valley (Ashville), Anthony Wayne (Whitehouse), Watkins Memorial (Pataskala), and Lancaster, are once again at the top of the DI leader board. Olentangy Liberty (Powell), North Ridgeville, Marysville, Beavercreek, and Lincoln (Gahanna) should also figure into the championship mix.

Michigan

Michigan State University in East Lansing will host the Michigan High School Athletic Association state championships from June 16-18. The road to MSU will be long and challenging and the four division winner’s will have certainly earned their glory when the tournament draws to its conclusion in mid-June. With playoffs set to begin May 26, most teams are just now shaking the cobwebs off and rounding into midseason form.

The current outlook sees a number of solid programs at the lead of the Division 1 level. South Lyon, Allen Park, Dakota (Macomb), Grandville, South Lyon East, Woodhaven (Brownstown), and Canton are the front-runners, but there is still a lot of the season left. These favorites could certainly be challenged along the way.

Owosso heads up the D2 division and is off to a sizzling start. Gaylord, Trenton, Jackson Northwest, Chelsea, and Escanaba are also off to solid starts and look to derail the Owosso train on the way to East Lansing.

The MHSAA D3 level has at the top of the current rankings any number of teams who could win the championship. Richmond, Buchanan, Millington, St. Francis (Traverse City) and Central-Montcalm (Stanton) have the depth of pitching and enough offense to not only advance through the early playoff rounds, but to get to Michigan State University and claim the title. There are certain to be a few upsets along the way, but it would not be surprising to see one of the aforementioned teams come out on top.

Lastly, leading the early way in D4 are USA, Holton, Gabriel Richard (Riverview), Mendon, Marion, and Whiteford (Ottawa Lakes). The D4 conference is wide open, and these seven clubs will certainly be challenged by a host of others when tournament play begins in earnest.

Indiana

The Indiana High School Athletic Association will award championship trophies to four division winners at Bittinger Stadium, on the Purdue University campus, June 10-11. Sectional play begins May 23. The march to West Lafayette will be challenging and filled with certain wins by favorites and upsets by upstarts.

The list of names leading the way at the midseason mark in each division is lengthy. It is anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top of each conference. As the weather warms, so will the competition.

Leading the way at the Division 1A level are Tecumseh (Lynnville), Hauser (Hope), South Central (Union Mills), Clay City, Caston (Fulton), West Central (Francesville) West Washington (Campbellsburg), and Rossville. There are an equal number of teams not listed that have the potential to walk away from Purdue with the championship banner.

2A is currently headed up by a solid North Posey (Poseyville) club. Not far behind are a number of fine programs who will look to make their marks come June. Eastside (Butler), Union County (Liberty), Pioneer (Royal Center), Madison-Grant (Fairmount), Cascade (Clayton), Sullivan, and South Vermillion (Clinton) are certainly in the 2A mix. Each will look to continue their strong starts as the calendar moves into May.

The list of 3A teams is long and impressive. Early season records point towards a collision of many sound programs before the state final groupings are determined. St. Joseph’s (South Bend), Yorktown, Tri- West (Hendricks) and Gibson Southern (Fort Branch) are all off to sound starts. Jimtown (Elkhart), Benton Central (Oxford), Cathedral (Indianapolis), Western (Russiaville), Connersville, and New Prairie (New Carlisle) have all posted impressive mid-season marks.

Lastly, the IHSAA D4 level sees New Palestine, Roncalli (Indianapolis), and Pendleton Heights (Pendelton) heading up a strong contingent of capable programs. Bedford North Lawrence (Bedford), Whiteland, Mooresville, Harrison (West Lafayette), Columbus North (Columbus), Center Grove (Greenwood), and Castle (Newburgh) are just a few of the schools that are off to good starts who hope to carry early season momentum into the playoffs.

Illinois

Louisville Slugger Park in Peoria will play host to the Illinois High School Association Championships this year. The 1A and 2A finals will be held June 3-4, while the 3A and 4A championships will take place June 10-11.

Undefeated (24-0) Casey-Westfield (Casey) heads up the 1A classification at the mid-season mark and is definitely aiming for a trip to the finals. Brown County (Mt. Sterling) is also a top-flight program that has their sights set on Peoria, too. Also in the 1A mix are Tremont, Ilini Bluffs (Glasford), Calhoun (Hardin), Carrollton, Newark, and Meridian (Macon).

A trio of outstanding teams leads the way at mid-season in the 2A division. Rockridge (Taylor Ridge), Carterville, and Freeburg, have set the standard so far and look towards a strong finish and a lengthy march through the playoffs. Also in the hunt are Marengo and Olympia (Stanford).

The 3A IHSA level is loaded with talented teams. The battles to even make it to Peoria will be epic. East Peoria, Antioch, and Washington are currently the front-runners. They will, however, be challenged moving towards the latter end of the season by the likes of Metamora, LaSalle-Peru (LaSalle), Back of the Yards College (Chicago), Pontiac, and Charleston.

Three Lincoln-Way schools lead the 4A pack at mid-season. East (Frankfort), Central (New Lenox), and West (New Lenox) are all top clubs looking to advance and earn community bragging rights. Marist (Chicago), Edwardsville, Lockport, Yorkville, and Naperville North (Naperville) are just a few of the schools who will look to make their marks come playoff time.

Wisconsin

The weather (finally) is warming up in the Badger State and so is the softball competition. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs begin in late May and will culminate at Goodman Diamond on the campus of the University of Wisconsin June 9-11. The WIAA will crown four champs the second week in June at U-Dub.

Teams are the quarter-pole, give or take, in the competitive regular season as Wisconsin gets a little later start than most states. All programs are gearing up for the playoff season which begins May 19.

A bevy of Division 1 teams are off to solid starts and hope to carry that early season success into a hopeful lengthy playoff run. Elkhorn, Sun Paririe, Bay Port (Green Bay), Reagan (Milwaukee), New Richmond, Wilmot, Janesville-Parker (Janesville) and Preble (Green Bay) have come of the chute well this spring.

Four clubs at the D2 level have had solid beginnings to their respective seasons. Lakeside Lutheran (Lake Mills), Kettle Moraine Lutheran (Jackson), Winneconne, and Medford are leading the pack in early season play have their sights set on a strong finish and a trip to Madison.

The D3 conference is headed up by five schools that appear driven towards a strong finish to the regular season and an even stronger and longer journey through the playoffs. St. Croix Falls, Waterloo, Mayville, Chilton, and Valders are moving towards their peak and should have a chance to advance to UW.

The Division 4 level will be a dogfight until the very exciting conclusion of play this spring. Blair-Taylor (Blair), Barneveld, Randolph, Belmont, and Argyle are all in the mix for the conference championship.

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