Hot Latrobe ready to chase title
Unbeaten Kiski Valley and Latrobe were awarded the top seeds in the District 31 American Legion playoffs, announced Wednesday night.
Latrobe (15-3), playing like a champion at the right time, has won nine of its past 10 games to overtake Hempfield East (12-4) for the top spot. Latrobe’s only loss was to Hempfield East on Sunday.
Latrobe opens the playoffs against Greensburg (9-7) on Friday at Legion-Keener Field in Latrobe.
“We hit a stretch of rain in the middle of June and our bats cooled off a little,” Latrobe manager Jason Bush said. “We tried to stay sharp by practicing indoors, and the players responded. We knew we had a lot of games down the stretch, and the players responded.”
Pitcher Brian Hantz (5-0) leads Latrobe with 30 RBI. Center fielder Spencer White is batting .490, shortstop Jess Tetkoski .462 and left fielder Zach Delsordo .438.
Bobby Price (5-0) and Brad Burkardt (4-2) give Latrobe a strong 1-2 pitching combo.
“Brian has been steady for us all season,” Bush said, “and Zach has come on strong the past few weeks. We also have a strong bench.”
Meanwhile, Kiski Valley (15-0) will open the first round of the playoffs on the road. Kiski Valley manager Dave Montgomery agreed to open the best-of-3 series against Murrysville at Haymaker Park at 5:30 p.m. Friday because Murrysville could not use its home field on the weekend.
Murrysville (6-8), which finished fourth in the Northern Division, will play Game 2 and Game 3, if necessary, at Kiski Valley’s home field at Freeport Community Park.
“I like the guys at Murrysville and I have no problem giving up a home game,” said Montgomery, who used to coach the Murrysville Junior Legion team.
Montgomery probably doesn’t care what field his team uses. Kiski Valley, which placed second to Hempfield East in last year’s playoffs, has been playing well.
The addition of third baseman Preston Jones — son of former Pirates pitcher Barry Jones — right fielder Ryan Siegel and shortstop Carter Haponski, has drastically improved the Kiski Valley club.
“I’m surprised we’ve done so well,” Montgomery said. “We knew we had a good team coming back, but the addition of those three made us even better.”
Blake Pavlik, who pitches at Penn State-Behrend, and Willie Nelson give Kiski Valley a strong one-two pitching punch. Catcher Tyler Garrone has hit 10 home runs in 10 games. Garrone has battled injuries this summer.
Left fielder Justin Colamarino, who played at Greensburg Central Catholic, also has been a solid performer for Kiski Valley.
“There aren’t too many better than Tyler,” Montgomery said, “and Justin has been just a steady player all season. He’s stepped up his game this year.”
And Montgomery isn’t taking Murrysville lightly. Kiski Valley defeated Murrysville all three times it met this year.
“I know what type of players they have,” he said. “We’ve done well, but anything can happen in a short series.”
Other first-round matches: Irwin (8-7) at Valley (8-6-1); and West Hempfield (9-8) at rival Hempfield East. The Hempfield teams will play at Hempfield Area High School.
The second round of the playoffs is scheduled to begin Monday.