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.

 

"We're counting on those (pitchers). They keep us competitive in every game," Montgomery said.

"We came into the year thinking we were going to be competitive. So far, we've seen four teams' aces, and we're 2-2. I think we've earned a little respect, but we have to come ready to play each game."

Bringing some of the top players from three schools together is an advantage for Kiski Valley, but in some ways, it just offsets the higher level of competition in District 31. While there are a few smaller teams, such as Jeannette and Yough, most of the league's teams come from top Quad-A high schools, such as Hempfield, Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford.

"The difference between Section 3-AA (where Ford City and Freeport play) and District 31 Legion is a huge jump," Montgomery said. "It's not as deep as it was 10 years ago, but everybody still has at least one or two good pitchers. At the high end, the competition is still way up there, and we have to come with our A-game and hit the ball better than we have to win."

Kiski Valley did suffer a blow with the loss of third baseman Blake Bower, who was injured in a car accident late in Ford City's varsity season and is still unable to play.

Beale has stepped in for him at third and Freeport catcher Matt Swartz is handling the duties behind the plate, but with three district games already postponed by rain, Kiski Valley still has spots in its lineup that have yet to be settled.

"We're still trying to work out second base and left field," Montgomery said. "Some guys will step up for a game or two, but then they disappear. We're looking for someone to really step up and take those spots."

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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