Despite 1st-round exit, Murrysville Legion finds positives in return to District 31
The Murrysville Senior American Legion baseball team knew it was going to be a tall playoff task against top-seed Hempfield East in the best-of-three District 31 first-round series.
Coach Chas Brncic said despite the tough postseason matchup — Hempfield East scored a two-game series sweep July 8-9 — he was glad his young team was able to make the playoffs after an up-and-down regular season that saw it go 6-12 overall.
“We pitched well in the series, and I was happy with the way we responded to the challenge,” Brncic said. “We outhit them in the second game. We had guys on base, but we just couldn’t get that key hit to get them home to put the pressure back on them. Hempfield East scored 90 percent of its runs in three of the 12 innings played. That’s what good teams do.”
In then end, Hempfield East moved on in the playoffs with wins of 14-2 and 4-1.
“Hempfield East has probably been the most consistent team in the league,” Brncic said. “They have solid pitching, and their lineup top to bottom is pretty strong. There are no easy outs in their lineup. They are a good running team, and they put a lot of pressure on you to make plays.”
Brncic said the season as a whole was a step in the right direction after Murrysville was not able to field a Senior League team last year because of a lack of enough players.
It started 0-4 against the top teams in the league as it found its footing before going on a four-game winning streak that included a win over Latrobe and two against Kiski Valley.
“There were ups and downs, you would figure, from a program which did have a (Senior Legion) team last year,” Brncic said. “We started without several of our older players who were still with the (Franklin Regional) team in the playoffs. We got those guys back, the younger guys were getting more comfortable, we got a couple of practices in, and we promptly ripped off four wins in a row.”
Then came a June 23 doubleheader against Unity and Young Township that Brncic said was frustrating for his players.
“We pitched two strong games and ended up losing them both,” he said. “It was a big day because we were playing two teams who we knew were going to be in the mix, and we had lost to both of them already.”
Unity scored all four of its runs in one inning in a 4-0 victory, and Murrysville had a 5-1 lead against Young Township before falling 6-5.
Brncic said emotions ran high in the game against Young Township as a couple of calls went against his team.
“We also had the bases loaded three times and missed opportunities to score additional runs,” Brncic said. “We hit balls right at people.”
Murrysville then suffered losses to Yough and Bushy Run and stood at 4-8 before responding with 23 combined runs in wins over Derry (14-7) and Mt. Pleasant (9-2).
Brncic said senior trips, vacations and other variables limited the roster down the stretch. Bushy Run, which finished the regular season No. 2 in the standings at 13-4, edged Murrysville, 5-4, on June 29, and that started a six-game losing skid that closed with the two playoff losses to Hempfield East.
“We were playing competitively, and some of the younger guys were hitting better, but it was just a tough stretch of games,” Brncic said. “We only had nine players for our two playoff games, but we played well and battled hard.”
Eight of the players on this year’s team — Luke Trelor, Jeff Downs, Trevor Brncic, Connor Helm, Chris Pagano, John White, Noah Sofran and Anderson Petrazzi — were part of last year’s Junior Legion squad which took third overall at states.
Only two players — Traynor Grantire and Shane Sciorilli — are not eligible to return next summer because of age restrictions. Brncic said several players from this year’s Junior Legion team are expected to join the Senior Legion squad.
“I’m hoping that all the players that can come back next year do come back, and we can add kids to the program,” Brncic said. “We ended the season with a lot of hope for next year.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .