Hempfield East making memories during trip to Great Lakes Regional
Hempfield East’s American Legion Post 981 baseball team boarded a charter bus Tuesday morning at Westmoreland Mall and headed west on a new journey.
The team, pioneers for District 31 and Region 7, are headed to Charleston, Ill. to participate in the American Legion Baseball Great Lakes Regional beginning on Wednesday.
Hempfield East, which finished second to Swoyersville in the state tournament, will be playing the Kentucky state champion, Lyon County, at 8:30 a.m.
The double-elimination tournament runs through Sunday and is held at Eastern Illinois University. The winner of the tournament advances to the World Series in Shelby, N.C. on Aug. 15-20.
“They put the winner on a plane and fly them to Shelby,” Hempfield East coach Scott Smith said. “The players are excited and eager to compete.”
Smith said he doesn’t know much about Lyon County, but he’ll learn quickly when he sees them.
What makes Smith most proud was the dedication of the players. Instead of spending thousands of dollars to play travel ball, the players played for their community and Post 981.
The team worked out Monday at Seton Hill and was using BBCOR bats. Players are allowed to use aluminum bats at the regional tournament, instead of wood bats, which are used in Pennsylvania American Legion games.
“It’s something the players are excited about,” Smith said the change of bats. “The players and coaches are building memories. This group has been together for awhile, and they like playing together.”
“We’ve been playing since Little League at West Point,” shortstop Matt Wicker said. “We’ve bonded, and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Hempfield East reached the Region 7 tournament three consecutive seasons and has played in the state tournament the past two years.
East was 1-2 in the 2018 season and didn’t play with a full roster. Some players had vacations planned and didn’t participate. They made sure that didn’t occur since this season.
The players heard how much fun some teammates had in the state tournament so they decided they wanted the same experience.
“We are having fun,” first baseman Reid Amundson said. “I knew we would be able to do well in the state tournament, but I never thought we’d make it to regionals. But we played well.”
Hempfield East was 4-2 in the state tournament with both losses coming against Swoyersville. Even though Hempfield East out-hit Swoyersville, 15-4, in the two games, it never got the key hit to break open the game.
“It was little things we didn’t do against Swoyersville,” Smith said. “We’re going out and doing what we do. If it’s good enough, maybe we’ll be on that plane to North Carolina.”
If not, Hempfield East has made memories that will last a lifetime.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .