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Bushy Run Legion ready to defend district title

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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Bushy Run Legion pitcher John Peduzzi competes against Derry on Thursday, June 14, 2018, at Penn-Trafford.

With the District 31 Legion regular season nearly finished, Bushy Run coach Scott Peyman is waiting patiently for Phase 3 to kick in as the defending champions head toward the postseason.

“Last year’s team, we just out-slugged everybody,” said Peyman, who is in his fourth season as Bushy Run’s manager. “When you put all three phases together like we did last year, you win a championship. I’m looking for Phase 3. We got (phases) one and two down, and if we get Phase 3, we’ll be a dangerous team.”

After 16 games of a 22-game schedule, Bushy Run was in the thick of a crowded District 31 postseason race with an 11-5 record, resting just behind Latrobe (13-3-1), Hempfield East (12-3) and Unity (11-4).

“The good thing about it is, I have the junior class out of Penn-Trafford that have all been playing together at this level forever,” Peyman said. “They’ve played together since T-ball. Defensively, I’m surprised how well they’ve played together. If they ever come together offensively, get used to the wooden bats, I think we’ll take that next step to be a championship team.”

With Phase 1 (catching) and Phase 2 (throwing) going well, Bushy Run’s performance at the plate will ultimately determine how far the team will go in defense of its title. And in all fairness to the players, the lack of production at the plate can partially be attributed to switching from aluminum high-school bats to wooden bats.

“If you don’t barrel a ball with a wood bat, you’re not going to get a hit,” Peyman said. “You have to make sure you’re perfect with a swing. You lose 100 to 150 points off your average, and you just can’t outslug somebody.”

Mario Disso leads Bushy Run in batting average (.455), singles (16), doubles (four), hits (20) and comes in a close second behind teammate Hunter Destafano (10) with nine RBIs. Disso, who has zero strikeouts this season, has turned into Peyman’s surprise player at the plate and in the field.

“Mario’s high school coach told me that he plays good defense, and he’s been one my best players to the halfway point,” Peyman said. “He’s probably the best shortstop I’ve ever coached. He’s flawless.”

Bushy Run is batting .309 as a team. Luke Fabac is hitting .364, followed by Jon Peduzzi at .346 to round out Bushy Run’s top-three hitters.

Another explanation for the slump at the plate could be because of the giant bull’s-eye Bushy Run is wearing as the defending District 31 champ.

When a team goes up against an opponent’s ace pitcher night-in and night-out, it tends to wear a batter out and challenge a player’s confidence at the plate.

“(Teams) were circling us on the calendar, and we were seeing everybody’s best pitcher,” Peyman said. “I think we’re sitting pretty well here considering how young we are. Who knows (which pitchers) we’re going to see coming down the stretch here.”

Bushy Run is young this season. Peyman had to replace nine players from last season’s team, and the few who returned were role players a year ago. One thing Peyman can hang his hat on is his team hasn’t taken a loss to a team with a losing record. The back half of the regular-season schedule shapes up pretty nicely for Bushy Run, too.

“We’re only playing two teams with winning records here in the next two weeks, and seven of our last nine games are at home,” Peyman said. “That’s been the challenge this year, which is to get the young players ready to play varsity baseball.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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