Billick powers Jeannette Legion past Yough |
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Jeannette outfielder Mike Pompei charges for a ground ball against Yough during American Legion baseball on Thursday, June 22, 2017.

Jeannette and Yough came out hitting, each scoring two runs in the first inning in District 31 Legion.

Then Jeannette opened up the game with four runs in the bottom of the second thanks in part to Tyler Dancu’s RBI double and Brendt Billick’s two-run single.

Host Jeannette used the big inning to forge an 8-2 victory over Yough on Thursday.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit, just not seeing the ball great, but today it felt pretty good,” Billick said. “It was a great day.”

Yough (4-3) worked to get back in the game, loading the bases in the fourth inning with one out. But a key strikeout by starting pitcher Blaze Tran, followed by a flyout to center field, got Jeannette (3-5) out of trouble.

“I started out slow. I thought my arm was going to be sore. I haven’t thrown since the Greensburg Central championship game,” Tran said. “As the game went on, I felt stronger and stronger.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Jeannette put the game out of reach after Billick ripped a ball into the left-field gap for a double and a couple of more RBIs. He finished 4 of 4 with five RBIs.

“I’ve been waiting for (Billick) to pound the ball like that,” Jeannette coach Tyler Mash said. “He’s got such a nice swing, when he makes contact it is unbelievable. That sound you think of when a wood bat hits a ball is when Brendt makes it happen.”

In a pseudo home game for Yough (Jeannette was supposed to host the game but had to play at Yough because of a scheduling conflict), they couldn’t get the hits with runners on base. Jeannette’s outfield also didn’t let a ball drop, catching every ball hit beyond the infield.

“They hit the ball and made some spectacular plays in the outfield,” Yough coach Dan Palm said. “Their pitcher kept us off-balance, created a lot of early pitch-outs. Our starting pitcher (Ryan Everly) does not normally have that lack of control. He walked the first two batters of the game, and that’s definitely not something that usually happens.”

After Jeannette’s high school team won it first WPIAL championship this spring, Mash is doing his best to keep as many of those players as he can for Legion season. But even with a 16-man roster, the team sometimes struggle to fill the diamond.

“I knew as a coach I had to try and get as many of those kids from the high school team to play Legion,” Mash said. “And I know there are other obligations when you’re in Jeannette. As soon as kids get out of high school they need to start working, so I can’t really hold back a kid from making money. You get those days when you get 16 (players) and days when you get nine. We had eight players 10 minutes before the game and then two showed up last minute.”

Billick echoed a similar concern as Jeannette picked up its third win, and Yough lost its third straight after winning the first four of the season.

“It is hard to get everyone together to play, so it’s nice when we can all come together and win a game,” Billick said. “It’s great playing with these guys. I’ve been playing with them my whole life.”

Alec Italiano is a freelance writer.

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