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Ford City's Retzer named Leader Times baseball player of the year

| Friday, July 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times
Ford City pitcher Justin Retzer makes a throw to first during the Sabers' season finale on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at Kittanning Community Park.
Tanner Baylor, Apollo-Ridge
Ford City's Blake Bower
Tyler Dubovi, Leechburg
Kittanning's Sam Keibler
Karns City's Tyler Kepple
Robbie Miller, Freeport
Anthony Rocco, West Shamokin
Freeport's Matt Swartz
Nathan Weckerley, Karns City
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Valley's Justin Retzer fields the ball during the game against Penn-Trafford on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, at Freeport Community Park.




If proof was needed that wins aren't the best measure of a pitcher's performance, look no further than Ford City's Justin Retzer.

Retzer was the Sabers' ace on the mound and though his record was just 2-3, that hardly reflects the throwing of a pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 37 13 innings this season.

When he wasn't pitching, Retzer would move to shortstop and maintain his No. 3 spot in the Ford City lineup. He finished the year with a .533 batting average, 19 RBI and two home runs — all team bests — and his 15 runs scored was second for the Sabers.

For his all-around contributions to a winning season at Ford City, Retzer is the 2013 Leader Times Baseball Player of the Year.

“Personally, I'm really happy with the year I had, but with the team, it would've been really nice to make the playoffs,” Retzer said. “I hit my spots and had my best year pitching the ball.”

Retzer, who will pitch in college at West Liberty, got the call in almost all of Ford City's big games this season, and he nearly led the team to the WPIAL playoffs, which it missed on a tiebreaker with Burrell.

From a shutdown performance in the Sabers' section opener against Freeport — a 2-1 Ford City win — to hard-luck, 3-2 losses against Burrell and Deer Lakes, Retzer being on the hill meant Ford City had a shot to win. The senior embraced the role of the go-to starter and often had his best games against the toughest teams.

“When I pitched against Freeport and struck out 16 guys, that was one of the big highlights of my year,” Retzer said. “I love when I have the pressure in those big games. I feel like (my record) might have been much better if we got one or two more hits when we needed them. A lot of those games were close, but we didn't score enough runs.”

Retzer also had some big moments at the plate this season, including one of his two home runs coming at spacious Pullman Park in Butler. That and a sophomore-year grand slam against West Shamokin are two career highlights, Retzer said, but he was most pleased whenever he could make a play that helped the Sabers get a win.

“Hitting or pitching, they were both equal to me. I just wanted to do whatever I had to to help the team,” he said. “If I needed to strike someone out, or if I needed a big hit to get on base, I just liked helping the team win.”

First team

Tanner Baylor

Apollo-Ridge, Sr., C

A speedy player behind the plate, Baylor led the Vikings with a .382 average, 26 hits, 14 runs scored and seven stolen bases.

Blake Bower

Ford City, So., 3B

Bower came into his own as a clean-up hitter this year with a .462 average, a .563 on-base percentage and 11 RBI.

Tyler Dubovi

Leechburg, Sr., IF/P

In a tough year for the Blue Devils, Dubovi led the way at the plate with a .424 average and eight RBI while also sharing pitching duties.

Sam Keibler

Kittanning, So., IF

Keibler's .385 average, .415 on-base percentage and nine RBI all led the Wildcats this season.

Tyler Kepple

Karns City, Jr., P/SS

Kepple had a 2.85 ERA and went 7-1, with the only loss coming in the state playoffs against Beaver. He also had three homers, 15 RBI and 22 steals.

Robbie Miller

Freeport, Sr., IF/P

Miller's .543 average was best in the coverage area, and the all-around contributor also scored 15 runs and threw 22 13 innings, many in relief.

Anthony Rocco

West Shamokin, Sr., P/SS

A .610 on-base percentage and a .500 batting average both led the Wolves, as did Rocco's 52 strikeouts in 29 23 innings pitched.

Matt Swartz

Freeport, Jr., C

Swartz caught a Freeport staff that had a team ERA of 2.85, while he had 16 RBI and drew a team-high 10 walks for a .561 on-base percentage.

Nathan Weckerly

Karns City, Jr., C

Weckerly led the Gremlins by batting .500, and he also had 17 RBI and 21 steals for the District 9-AA champs.

Honorable mention

Blake Davis Kittanning, Sr., C

Nick Ganter Karns City, Sr., OF

Mitch Johnston Apollo-Ridge, Jr., OF/P

Dustin Koedel Freeport, Sr., OF

Dave Lattanzio Ford City, Sr., CF

Luke Mariotti Freeport, Sr., P/IF

Ashton McGinnis Ford City, Jr., P

Luke Negley Freeport, Sr., OF

Jared Ravotti Leechburg, Sr., CF

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