Latrobe legion ready to preside over Region 7 tournament
When the Latrobe American Legion baseball team was ousted by rival Unity in the opening round of the Westmoreland District 31 playoffs a year ago, it left a bad taste.
"It was unexpected," Latrobe manager Jason Bush said. "Unity was the better team in the playoff series and we didn't deserve to win it."
Latrobe finished the regular season 21-4 and tied for the best record in the league with West Hempfield, the eventual playoff champion and Region 7 winner. It was only the second time a team from the league had advanced to the state tournament, which will be held in Boyertown this season.
This season, Latrobe is 5-3 in the league and 8-4 overall. But no matter how it finishes, Latrobe gets to host the Region 7 tournament beginning July 21.
"Just because we're already in the tournament, our season goals remain the same," Bush said. "We want to win the regular season and win the playoffs.
"With us hosting the tournament, we'll be playing deep into July. We want to be playing well and we don't just want to back into the tournament. We want to be the best and want to represent the league well."
Latrobe returns six starters from last year's squad: pitcher/infielder Ryan Bisi, pitcher/center fielder Matt Shoemaker, pitcher/third baseman Luke Zamiskie, outfielder Pat Davoli, outfielder Kevin Davoli and designated hitter/pitcher Dom Shojaie.
Bush said he'll be counting on his veteran leaders to carry the team. He's excited about the addition of some high school players who are expected to make a huge impact.
They added three starters from the high school team -- catcher/pitcher Derrick Zavatsky, shortstop Jordan Giannini, outfielder Josh Roble and infielder Anthony Monteparte -- and outfielders Bryar Pletcher -- who played at Unity last year but moved into Latrobe -- and Dylan Hall.
"We're still finding ourselves," Bush said. "We have started hitting like we're capable, but the pitching has been good."
Latrobe was 2-1 over the weekend, defeating Blairsville twice in a home-and-home exhibition series but falling to Kiski Valley in a league game Sunday.
In that contest, Latrobe struck out 14 times, which disappointed Bush.
One of Latrobe's early wins was a 3-2 victory against a talented Irwin squad. Bush called the victory huge.
"Zavatsky started the game on the mound and Shoemaker saved it," Bush said. "The Norwin High School team was really good and many of our players remembered them.
"It was a big confidence booster. They realized that they are a pretty good team, too."