Focus on fundamentals pays off for Yough Legion |
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Focus on fundamentals pays off for Yough Legion

Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Yough's Nathaniel Roebuck pitches against Latrobe during District 31 American Legion baseball at Legion Keener Park in Latrobe, on Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Yough's Noah Manns bats against Latrobe during District 31 American Legion baseball at Legion Keener Park in Latrobe, on Saturday, June 23, 2018.

Yough Legion coach Craig Spisak is aware it sounds cliche to say he takes it one game at a time.

“I know everyone says that, but that’s honestly how I approach it,” he said.

Spisak said he hasn’t looked at the District 31 standings this season. If he did peek at them, he would see his team near the top of the league, where it has been all season.

Yough is a respectable 8-5 and in fifth place heading into Monday’s game at Mt. Pleasant. With eight games remaining in the regular season, Yough ranks fifth in District 31 with 67 runs scored and had allowed 34 runs, which was the fourth fewest in the league.

All of those stats sound good to Spisak, who also coaches the Yough high school team, but it’s the way the players accumulated them that matters more. Spisak said his team has excelled in the integral parts of baseball: sound defense, timely hitting and working ahead on the mound.

“Every coach wants to win, and we all want to finish in first, but the biggest thing for me is how we are playing the game,” Spisak said. “I’ve stressed how critical those details are, and we’ve improved in every area. Sometimes the small things get overlooked, but every coach knows they’re important. If we’re playing the right way, the wins take care of themselves.”

The majority of the team played with Spisak during the WPIAL season except college players Dom Charletta (Penn State Behrend) and Nate Roebuck (Saint Vincent). After experiencing some early struggles at the plate, the Cougars started hitting consistently in the final two weeks of the high school season, which translated to Legion play.

Yough is getting contributions from Dom Koch, Jarett Bach, Noah Manns, Charletta, Roebuck and Scott Houseman, among others.

“We were a really young team this spring, and it was a big adjustment for our young kids to play varsity baseball,” Spisak said. “As the season went on, we found our footing and started playing some better ball. The game started slowing down for them, and they became more comfortable. It carried over to the Legion season. With winning comes confidence.

“The game of baseball can test you mentally in so many ways. As young kids, they went through some adversity in the spring, and they’ve learned to handle that. Hopefully, we’ll continue to improve, the confidence will continue to grow and even better things lie ahead for us.”

Yough’s best win so far was a 5-4 triumph over league-leading Hempfield East. Yough has posted four shutouts behind the pitching trio of Koch, Michael Bell and Steve Manon. Bach, Yough’s top pitcher during the high school season, is receiving interest from Division I schools. He has pitched only once because of travel ball obligations, but he has been a position player.

“I know what Jarett can do since I’ve had him the last two years of varsity, so it’s nice that I can develop these other guys over the course of the summer,” Spisak said. “I told the kids the other day that we have three weeks left and half our schedule remaining. We’re going to be using more than three guys to pitch. It’s going to be a group effort to get through the rest of the season.”

Spisak hopes to see continued focus on improving fundamentals so the team sits in good playoff position for Legion play and takes a few steps forward next high school season.

“To get where we want to be in the spring season, we have to take some positive steps, and I’m glad we’re taking some of them now,” Spisak said. “We have to keep going, though. I told the kids we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We have to keep working and see where we end up at the end of the season.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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