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Junior Legion team has options at every position

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Jeannette junior legion head coach Marcus Clarkson has a problem he has not had to deal with in his previous four seasons at the helm — a deep bench and options at every position.

Clarkson's junior legion roster tops out at 18 for the 2013 season. Not that the head coach is complaining.

“It's a good problem to have,” said Clarkson. “We are going to give players opportunities to win starting positions and eventually settle in with a lineup that will be competitive.”

Clarkson will rely on several freshmen from his high school squad, but has younger players coming through the system who he expects to develop this summer.

Pitcher Jimmy Mallick, outfielders Chris Steffen and Bob Horn, and infielders Swade Redman and Phoenix Brown will all compete for starting jobs.

Returning starters from last year — transfers into the Jeannette program from other areas — include catcher Jesse Crammer and Tyler Scanirrino. Brent Billeck, an eighth-grader in the Jeannette system, will see plenty of time as well.

“Billeck swings a big bat,” said Clarkson. “We have him hitting fourth right now and he can really hit the ball.”

Jeannette's roster includes players from the Penn Trafford area, Greensburg and Hempfield. Clarkson enjoys the expanded number of options a larger roster affords him.

“The team was formed differently this year than other legion teams,” said Clarkson. “This will give a lot of guys a chance to earn their way onto the field and should make us a better team by mid-season.”

The early results, an 0-2 start against two of the better opponents Jeannette will face this season, are not indicative of the type of team Clarkson expects to field.

Jeannette was shut out by Murrysville, 7-0, in the season-opener and dropped another game last Wednesday to Kiski Valley, 5-0. Clarkson expects the offense to catch up, though, and is not concerned about the start.

“The hitting will pick up,” said Clarkson. “We ran into a couple of very good pitchers who had very good days, but I expect us to be able to score runs.”

In addition to Murrysville and Kiski Valley, Jeannette will compete against the Police Athletic League, Greensburg, Ligonier, Hempfield East, Hempfield West and Shaler.

Jeannette plays at Ligonier today to wrap up a week of three games in four days.

Dave Moio is a freelance writer.

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