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PSU Fayette baseball team committed to winning

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 12:51 a.m.
Burrell's Alan Beattie takes down Southmoreland's Jacob Beistel during their 285-pound championship match during the WPIAL Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships at Chartiers Valley High School on February 23, 2013. Beattie won by fall at 5:07. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

Ray Smitley has been involved with the Penn State Fayette baseball program for 13 seasons, including the past seven as the team's manager. As he prepares for his eighth season as skipper of the Roaring Lions, Smitley is optimistic about this year's team.

“This is probably the best committed and hard-working team we've had,” Smitley said. “I've got some outstanding freshmen coming in, and we have real good hitters and pitchers. At this point we are ahead of where we were last year.”

Last year didn't produce the best results for Penn State Fayette. The Roaring Lions finished with a 13-19 record and were 7-11 in the PSUAC.

“We made too many mental mistakes, and we walked way too many hitters,” Smitley said. “We lost to teams we shouldn't have lost to. We didn't have deep pitching last year. This year, our pitching is much deeper.”

Senior Jonathan Eicher, juniors Connor McKeel and Braden Royer, sophomore Colvin Adey and freshmen Liam Constantine and Shawn Cotton likely will comprise Penn State Fayette's rotation in the early part of the season, with several other players slotted for relief work.

The Roaring Lions lost all-conference players Sam Beucher and Zach Durbin, as well as pitcher Nolan Zavora.

“When you lose quality players, it's tough to replace not only their ability, but their leadership,” Smitley said. “But we have young men that are up to the task. They have a great attitude, and they are responding well.”

Penn State Fayette has a 17-player roster, and according to Smitley, it's probably the deepest Roaring Lions team since the PSUAC championship team in 2004.

“We probably go seven- to nine-deep in hitting, and if they perform like they do in the cage and focus on what they need to do, they can accomplish anything they want to accomplish,” Smitley said.

One of the top returning hitters is junior shortstop/pitcher Alex Fogle. The Connellsville graduate earned all-conference honors and led Fayette with 28 RBI during his sophomore season.

“I can't say enough about Alex,” Smitley said. “He does a great job, and he has been smashing the ball. This could be a breakout year. He is a hard worker who is dedicated and committed.”

Also adding some punch to the lineup will be senior Cody Ward, a Connellsville graduate who is capable of playing in the outfield or the infield, and can pitch in a pinch. Last season, Ward hit .305 and led the team with 26 runs scored.

The Roaring Lions will start the season with a trip to Vero Beach, Fla., in early March. Penn State Fayette's first game will be against Rochester College on March 4.

Smitley is hoping the spring trip sets the tone for a big season.

“They are a great bunch of young men,” Smitley said. “They are committed to winning.”

Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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