PIAA softball playoffs: Players to watch as tournament opens Monday

Mike Copper
Erie Times-News

Play ball.

Those two words, among the most cherished in all of sports, will be barked by home- plate umpires throughout the state when the PIAA's softball tournaments start Monday.

Games are scheduled throughout the commonwealth in 12 brackets. Teams begin the process of determining who appears in the state's softball finals on June 17-18 at Penn State University.

The following are some of the players to watch (from Gannett newspaper coverage areas) who seek to assure their teams will compete at some point over those two days at State College:

CLASS 1A

Alix Tipton, sr., Meyersdale:  Tipton is hitting a whopping .544 (31-for-57) while compiling 22 RBIs, 10 doubles and a home run. She has struck out just twice in 78 plate appearances this season.

Shade pitcher McKenzie Baer smiles after setting down the first two McConnellsburg batters on strikes during a District 5 Class A first round softball playoff game, Thursday, in Cairnbrook.

McKenzie Baer, sr, Shade: Baer has served as Shade's top pitcher since her freshman season. She has posted a 0.80 ERA in 96 innings pitched this season while striking out 122 batters. She is also hitting .484.

Paige Verbanac, sr., Cambridge Springs: Her diving catch in the outfield was a critical play during the Blue Devils' 6-2 victory over the rival Saegertown Panthers' in their District 10 championship game. Verbanac also scored for Cambridge Springs, which will open PIAA play against Clarion-Limestone at Penn State Behrend in Erie.

Baseball stars:Players to watch as PIAA playoffs open Monday

Taylor Rapsky, sr., Shade: Rapsky is hitting .451 out of the leadoff spot for Shade, while leading the team with 37 hits. She has also tallied five home runs, four triples, two doubles and 29 RBIs.

Tara Knopsnyder, sr., Meyersdale: Meyersdale's ace in the circle was 14-0 as of June 2. She has tossed five complete games, including a perfect game during the regular season. Knopsnyder is also hitting over .400 at the plate while serving as the Red Raiders' leadoff hitter.

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CLASS 2A

Katey Brennan, so., Conwell-Egan: Helped the Eagles win the District 10 title from her shortstop position. She's also kickstarted their offense from the top of the batting order.

Union City Area High School senior Eliza Reynolds, left, and teammates cheer a run scored against Reynolds during a District 10 Class 2A semifinal softball game on May 26, 2021, at Penn State Behrend in Harborcreek Township.

Eliza Reynolds, sr., Union City: She's hitting an eye-popping .617 (37-of-60) with 14 doubles, three home runs, 31 RBIs and 39 runs scored.

Breanna Hanley, so., Sharpsville: The pitcher paced the Blue Devils to a 1-0 upset of top-seeded Union City in the District 10 final at Erie. Hanley blanked the Bears on a two-hitter and struck out 10. She also singled during the rally that produced her team's lone run in the sixth inning.

Abby Tingley, jr., Union City: Helped the Bears recover from their first loss this season. Union City, which lost to Sharpsville in the District 10 final, advanced a 4-0 victory over Upper Dauphin in a subregion game. Tingley blanked the Trojans on four hits and struck out nine.

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Jamestown's Dani Ficeti pitches to Fairview's Julia Golden during the Dsitrict 10 Class 3A softball championship game on Monday, May 31, 2021, at Penn State Behrend.

CLASS 3A

Maria Ioanilli, sr., Ellwood City: An absolute force at the plate, hitting .483 with six home runs and 24 RBI entering the 3A District 7 championship game on Wednesday.

Dani Ficeti, sr., Jamestown: An all-around contributor for the District 10 champions, who will open state play vs. Avonworth at Penn State Behrend in Erie. Ficeti was the winning pitcher for the Muskies when they claimed their district title with a 9-3 victory against Fairview. She also had two hits against the Tigers, scored one run and drove in another.

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Beaver's Payton List pitches against West Mifflin,  during a WPIAL Class 4A semifinal game , Wednesday at Peterswood Park.
[Sally Maxson/For BCT]

CLASS 4A

Trinity Edge, so., Franklin: Shut out Villa Maria on three hits when the Knights won the District 10 championship game 3-0 on Memorial Day in Erie. Edge also singled for one of six hits for Franklin, which will take on Elizabeth Forward in a PIAA opener scheduled at Slippery Rock University.

Payton List, jr., Beaver: The Virginia Tech commit is one of the most dominant players in the state, entering the 4A District 7 championship game with a perfect 10-0 record, 0.30 ERA and 151 strikeouts in only 71 innings pitched. Is also hitting .455 with FOUR home runs.

Morgan Estes, jr., Eastern York: Was vital to the Golden Knights' 8-6 victory over East Pennsboro in District 3's third-place game. Estes pitched the entire game, hit a triple and drove in two runs.

Ava Tsiouplis, so., Villa Joseph Marie: Expected to start at second base for the District top seed when it faces District 12 second seed Archbishop Carroll on Monday. Tsiouplis also is considered the main catalyst when it's the Jems' turn to bat.

Emilee Hohenshel, sr., Beaver: The heart and soul of the Beaver Bobcats, hitting .422 with 2 home runs and 17 RBIs entering the 4A District 7 championship game.

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CLASS 6A

Syd Andrews, jr., Quakertown: Helped the Panthers qualify for state playoffs even though they were seeded eighth going into the District 1 tournament. Andrews has been the team's starting pitcher since she was a freshman.

North Penn pitcher Mady Volpe smiles after a strikeout on against Pennsbury. Volpe struck out 12 batters in the 3-4 loss on Tuesday, April 20th, 2021.

Mady Volpe, sr., North Penn: The Maidens' top pitcher will resume her softball career at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.  Volpe is considered among the greatest players in the program's history.

Kylee Jones, sr., Neshaminy: She's considered the catalyst of Neshaminy's offense, even though she traditionally hits second in their batting order. Jones is a threat to steal second – and third – if she reaches base.

Neshaminy pitcher Kennedie Ruth winds up during the District 1 Class 6A semifinal game against Haverford on Tuesday, June 1st, 2021. Ruth struck out 9 in the 4-1 win and moves on to the district championship game.

Kennedie Ruth, jr., Neshaminy: Considered one of the state's best pitchers. District 3 Chambersburg will find out if that's the case when it takes on the Neshaminy in Monday's state opener at Royersford.

Julia Schearer, so., North Penn: A leadoff hitter with excellent speed who played her way into the Maidens' starting lineup despite missing her freshman season because of COVID-19.

Ainsley McClure, jr., Pennsbury: Won't be rattled when the District 1 Falcons face Warwick on Monday. She's been the team's starting pitcher since she was a freshman.

Hannah Runk, so., Chambersburg: Runk has been the most consistent hitter for the Trojans this year, as Chambersburg will look to rebound from a District 3 title game loss to Warwick.

Note: No Class 5A players to watch are from Gannett newspapers' coverage area.

Contact Mike Copper at mcopper@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.