Kiski Valley Legion team again meshing players from various districts

The melting pot that is the Kiski Valley Legion baseball team looks like it once again will be in the mix in District 31.

With players from Kiski Area, Freeport and Ford City making up the lineup, Kiski Valley's players have meshed together to start 2-2 in the Westmoreland County-centered District 31 standings.

Ford City varsity coaches Dave and Dennis Montgomery again are leading the Kiski Valley team, which has a large group of returning players. Last year's team finished third in District 31 but was eliminated in the postseason by West Hempfield.

"The one player seeing significant time for us is (Freeport's Josh) Beale, who wasn't old enough to be with us last year," Dennis Montgomery said. "The rest of the team has really jumped back into the roles they had last year, and nobody's missed a beat."

Montgomery said this year's roster is probably more Freeport-heavy than some of Kiski Valley's previous teams, but some of his most veteran players come from the other schools. Among the team's oldest players are Penn State-Behrend rising sophomore Matt Wolczko, a Kiski Area grad, and recently graduated players Doug Donatelli of Kiski Area and Justin Retzer of Ford City.

Donatelli and Retzer are the team's top starting pitchers, and Freeport's Luke Mariotti — fresh off pitching in the Yellowjackets' first playoff win in 15 years — gives the team a strong third option on the hill when he isn't playing shortstop.

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Competition again high in Westmoreland County American Legion league

The competition that's bred in the Westmoreland County American Legion Baseball League is generally some of the best in the area, and this year will be no different.

While there will be some new faces and a significant adjustment to equipment use, the talent-pool will be similar if not better from top to bottom and parity will be more visible than in years past.

mt pleasant_main_page_slider_image"I think this could be the most balanced league we've had in a long time," Latrobe coach Jason Bush said. "I don't see one team head and shoulders above the rest. I don't think there will be one single team that will struggle that teams can take advantage of."

Murrysville head coach Gus Bondi said that a lot of the rosters are made up of varsity caliber athletes who made significant contributions to high school teams... some of which that made the WPIAL playoffs.

"There's a lot of good pitching and dominant hitting every year," Bondi said. "Obviously, some kids have moved up and there are teams that have solid reputations out there. Every night we'll be playing teams that have varsity players from their high school teams."

This season, teams in the WCALB will be forced to ditch the aluminum and switch to wooden bats.

The opinions among the coaches vary, but the general consensus is that it will force a return to small ball and pure baseball style.

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Latrobe Legion team prepares for summer season

Latrobe has advanced to the District 31 Westmoreland County American Legion baseball playoffs in each of thepast 21 seasons.

For coach Jason Bush and his son, assistant coach Zach Bush, one of many team goals for this season is to continue those winning ways and raise that playoff streak to No. 22.

"Our goals since this coaching staff has started has remained the same since the last coaching staff; the goals are kind of chronological," Zach Bush said. "The first one is to make the playoffs. Next goal, obviously, is to win our division. The next one is win the district regular season, and then it gets into the playoffs — win the first round, win the district, move on to the regional tournament."

latrobe legion_teamLatrobe's Jordan Giannini attempts to tag out Unity's Joey Puschnigg on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, at Legion Keener Field in Latrobe.The 12-team league, which Jason Bush compared to the level of play in WPIAL Class AAAA baseball, consists of teams ranging throughout Westmoreland County and runs from late May into July. The league is available to boys ranging from ages 15-19.

With so many players looking to play summer baseball, areas like Latrobe and Hempfield are split into two teams based on where a player lives to accommodate everyone.

"There's going to be guys that play for Unity and play for Latrobe that turned a double play probably this year together," Jason Bush said. "This summer they're going to be playing against each other."

The Latrobe team primarily is composed of players who played on the Latrobe High School team, which finished 8-10 overall and 6-6 in Section 2-AAAA.

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Latrobe, Unity Legion Teams Take Part In Annual Tradition

latrobe 1American Legion baseball game between Latrobe and either rivals Unity or Derry

The Fourth of July in Latrobe is a special day.

Thousands line the streets for the annual parade. Many flock to Legion-Keener Park for the carnival which features rides and plenty of food. And there is the fantastic fireworks display at night.

Another annual event that draws a large crowd is the American Legion baseball game between Latrobe and either rivals Unity or Derry that is played in the park. The Unity players almost all attend Greater Latrobe High School.

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American Legion: Region 7 Tourney Opens Saturday

thumb alb district 31 for dark backgroundHempfield East pitcher Brandt Frye was little when his father, Ron, coached the Latrobe American Legion team in the Region 7 tournament.

He said he doesn't remember much — except that his dad was pretty intense.

This year's tournament opens Saturday at Latrobe Legion-Keener Field, and Hempfield East — now led by Ron Frye — will play in the first game against the Indiana County champion Blairsville at 10 a.m.

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Hempfield Legion Programs Have Similar Success In Region 7 Tournament

hempfield 1

The Hempfield East and West Hempfield American Legion baseball programs have something in common — they each own a Region 7 title.

For the second consecutive season, a team from the Westmoreland County District 31 American Legion League took home the top prize from the Region 7 tournament.

Read more: Hempfield Legion Programs Have Similar Success In Region 7 Tournament