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Unity Legion team off to fast start in league play

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Unity pitcher Blake Reeping delivers a pitch against West Hempfield on June 14, 2013, in Whitney.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

On the heels of a season in which it advanced to the District 31 championship and was a Region 7 tournament participant last season, the Unity American Legion baseball team is playing as if it will have a repeat performance.

Or better.

Unity won six of its first seven games in the Westmoreland County league heading into a scheduled game this past Monday.

“So far, we've been playing extremely well,” pitcher Blake Reeping said. “We're playing mistake-free baseball, and things just sort of have been going our way.”

Unity's roster is comprised mostly of players from Greater Latrobe High School, although fourth-year head coach/manager is Ed Guzik said four attend or have attended Ligonier Valley High School.

“The kids are playing as one unit, and they're playing good baseball,” Guzik said. “We're finally taking advantage of other teams' mistakes, when usually it's been the other way around in past years.

“The kids are playing solid defensively; we've been fundamentally sound with not many errors. Our pitching has carried us. We're not hitting the ball as much as I'd like to, but we're coming out with the W's, and that's the main thing.”

A pair of lefthanders, Josh Keefe and Blake Reeping, have been Unity's best pitchers, and young Rick Ross also is part of what has been strong starting pitching.

Keefe, who recently completed his junior year at Latrobe, had a 3-1 record and 0.54 ERA entering the week. Each of Keefe's starts has been a complete game.

“He's been our ace so far this season,” Guzik said.

Reeping, who just graduated from Latrobe, had won both of his starts entering the week. Ross, a rising junior at Ligonier Valley, is the lone righthanded starter. He won his first start and Guzik said Ross is his “long man” in the bullpen to be called upon if needed.

“They've all three been throwing strikes,” Guzik said of his starters. “I kind of preach that — throw the ball, let the other team hit it, and if they're going to hit it, the defense is behind you 100 percent. Let them make a play for you instead of putting guys on.”

Unity allowed a total of 10 runs in its first seven games.

“Good pitching really helps, but the fielding behind us sets us apart from everybody else,” Reeping said.

“Being fundamentally sound, that's been our bread and butter. We're not killing ourselves; we're just going out there playing fundamental baseball.”

Offensively, Unity is led at the top of its batting order by a quintet of future (or current) college athletes. Shortstop leadoff hitter Ty Ferlin, a Westminster College recruit, was hitting .360 through Sunday's action. Center fielder Brian Torrance, who bats second, was hitting .478 through seven games. A recent Ligonier Valley graduate, Guzik said he will play football at Washington & Jefferson.

Catcher Brandon Clark bats third, had a .355 average and led the team in RBI heading into the week. He recently finished his freshman season for the Penn State Altoona baseball team. Cleanup hitter and first baseman Eli Imbrogno just graduated from Latrobe and will play at St. Vincent. Left fielder/relief pitcher Ray Sowinski, a Marietta recruit, also recently graduated from Latrobe.

“We just want to keep winning and keep our role and hopefully end up where we were last year,” Reeping said.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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