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.

 

"We've had a few chances to work with (wooden bats) and I can tell you that we're going to have to work on moving runners over, getting bunts down and playing small ball to help us win," West Hempfield coach Bob Stokes said. "No question it's going to affect the distance and squaring off the ball up on the sweet spot."

Some teams welcome the challenge that wooden bats brings and will use it to their advantage. Latrobe is a team, Bush said, that will benefit greatly from the pure skills its players has rather than resting on a power game.

 

"I don't think it'll have massive impact on how we play because that's our style of baseball," Bush said. "We don't sit around waiting for the three-run home run. We like to hit and run bunt move runners over.

"I have a feeling if you look at the box scores this season you'll see a lot of tight baseball games because runs are going to be a premium."

The reigning District 31 and Region 7 champion, Hempfield East, will look to continue what it accomplished last year with first-year head coach Tom Beresford. Beresford said the players have shown no hangover from winning the region and district last year, rather he said the love of the game has them excited to attempt a repeat.

"I have a lot of returning kids and I know it's good competition and it's going to be tough," he said. "I added a nice pitcher and a couple of big bats. I think we have a chance of repeating as long as we hit the ball and play consistently."

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.
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