Jeannette senior Legion squad still in playoff hunt

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It's the last week of the season and the Jeannette senior American Legion baseball team is still in the playoff hunt.

“Playing games that mean something in the last week of the season is something that hasn't happened at Jeannette in a long time,” said head coach Jules Ponterio. “It's exciting.”

After dropping two close games over the weekend, Jeannette entered the week with a 6-7 record and four games left. Depending on how other teams in the division fare, winning at least two of those games could get Jeannette into the post-season.

“We have some big games coming up, and we are all focused,” said shortstop Dom Disso. “Making the playoffs would be exciting. There is nothing like playoff baseball.”

Ponterio said the excitement extends beyond the team and into the community.

“I was at the dry cleaners and the people there were saying, ‘Hey, I see you guys are winning some ball games,'” said Ponterio. “There's some people in the community talking about it. They see that we're winning more games than in the past and they're following it.”

Jeannette was scheduled to play at Kiski Tuesday night but the game ended too late for this edition. The team hosts Bushy Run on Friday, then finishes with a two games on Saturday: at Latrobe in the morning and home against Kiski in the evening.

Ponterio knows what his team needs to do to make a strong final run. Jeannette's team batting average is .246; Brady Cameron leads the team with a .366 average, and Disso is second at .300. The rest of the bats, though, have been quiet.

“If we don't get that average up, we're in trouble,” he said. “Hitting .246 in Legion won't do it. Hopefully we'll come out of it this week. If we don't hit this week, we won't make it in (to the playoffs). If we do hit, we'll be in.”

On Sunday, Jeannette dropped a 6-2 game to Unity, which, at 14-1, is one of the best teams in the area.

“We had runners in scoring position but couldn't get that key hit,” said Ponterio.

The coach explained that Rob Duffy was the star of the game. Playing with a heavy heart because of the recent passing of his grandfather, Duffy started the game and pitched three-and-one-third innings until having to leave to attend the funeral services.

“He still came and played. That's impressive,” said Ponterio. “I tip my hat to him.”

Tyler Stevenson, pitching for the first time in several weeks after elbow soreness, relieved him and was impressive; he allowed just two hits and no runs in two-and-two-third innings.

On Friday, Jeannette fell to Yough 5-4. The local squad had nine hits compared to just six for Yough, but here too, the hits were not during clutch situations.

On the mound, Garrett Elliot pitched six innings, allowing five runs but only two earned.

“We committed three errors, which hurt him,” said Ponterio.

Offensively, Cameron led the way with two doubles.

“Pitching is basically what has gotten us to this point, so we need to keep doing what we've been doing there,” said Disso. “I think we need a couple more timely hits, and we need to cut down on the errors and then we could be in the playoffs.”

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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