Murrysville Junior Legion finishes third in state
The Murrysville Junior Legion team had the goal of playing as long as it could this summer.
In the end, Murrysville almost played as long as any team possibly could.
Murrysville lost, 6-4, to Upper Perkiomen last week in the semifinals of the Pennsylvania Youth Legion Tournament. With the loss, Murrysville ended the season as the third-place Legion team in the state.
Newtown beat Upper Perkiomen, 5-1, last Wednesday to win the state championship.
“Our goal was to make it as far as we could,” Murrysville manager Ken Halleck said. “We ended one less day than the maximum.”
Murrysville (24-8) actually led Upper Perkiomen, 4-1, heading into the fifth inning of last week's matchup, but Upper Perkiomen scored one run in the bottom of the fifth and four more in the sixth to come away with the victory.
“I don't think anybody would be ashamed to say there were some tears when we got the kids together (after the game),” Halleck said. “But as we told the kids, if you're not upset, if there's not a sense of disappointment, then you're not emotionally invested. I think every kid there was emotionally invested. It was a great run, (and I) couldn't be prouder of the kids.”
While Bloomsburg also lost in the semifinals, to Newtown, Murrysville was awarded the third-place finish in the state because it beat Bloomsburg, 9-1, earlier in the state tournament.
Halleck said he looked back on the season's accomplishments — including a Westmoreland County championship and a second-place finish at the Western Regional Tournament — with pride.
“It's just a total sense of being proud of being associated with and coaching these kids, knowing the resiliency and how they had to overcome all of those things,” he said.
The state recognized Murrysville's Ben Ramey with the Sportsmanship Award. Ramey, one of the team's emotional leaders, pitched in the final game against Upper Perkiomen despite a knee injury he suffered two days earlier against Newtown.
“He gave it everything he had,” Halleck said. He added later that Ramey's teammates also showed resilience in playing through injuries late in the season.
“Every one of our kids was banged up, was tired, (had) sore arms, bad backs, scraped-up knees,” Halleck said. “There wasn't one kid on our team that was (completely) ‘healthy.' It's one thing to play your best early in the season, but we set a goal of playing our best baseball at the end of the year — peaking and playing our best baseball when it came to the county championships and the regionals and states. But we had to overcome a lot.”
While Murrysville's season ended one victory shy of the state championship game, Halleck said it was a very successful campaign overall. The team carried on the tradition of its predecessors from last summer, which went 25-1 en route to a berth in the regional tournament.
“From my perspective, (2012 coach Gus Bondi) is kind of the standard bearer of the (tradition),” Halleck said. “It was just a privilege to carry it on.”