Kiski Valley Legion still searching for consistency on offense as playoffs near
In baseball, it takes being solid in all three phases of the game to make a serious run at a championship. Playoffs are where weaknesses are exposed.
The Kiski Valley District 31 Legion team is set with pitching, but the hitting has been inconsistent and the defense has been suspect as the Vikings jockey for playoff positioning going into the final week of the regular season.
“The kids are playing as well as they can,” coach Dennis Montgomery said. “It’s just a recurring theme of no offense, and our defense is no where near as good as we thought it could be. Whoever we put on the mound does a good job, but we can’t seem to support them in the other facets of the game.”
Kiski Valley (7-6) is still in the mix for a District 31 playoff spot. The top eight teams in the standings advance to the postseason. The Vikings are in seventh place in the 10-team district. The standings are top heavy with Hempfield East (10-1-1) leading the pack followed by Bushy Run (9-3) and Unity (7-4).
After those three teams, parity takes over. The next five teams have six wins and almost assuredly will reach the postseason. Murrysville (6-8) is in eighth place and has a three-game lead over ninth-place Mt. Pleasant (3-11).
“It’s very much top heavy,” Montgomery said. “There’s a couple teams at the very top, and there’s the rest of us.”
With five six-win teams creating a log jam in the standings, what happens over the final week of the regular season is crucial for playoff seeding. As it stands, with two games remaining on the schedule, Kiski Valley would match up with Bushy Run in the first round. The Vikings suffered 6-1 loss to Bushy Run last week.
“If we go and face Hempfield East, Bushy Run or Latrobe (in the playoffs), they’re not gonna pitch their 15-year olds against us,” Montgomery said.
The one thing the Vikings have going for them is pitching. Led my Kiski Area’s Ryan Rametta, Kiski Valley has been able to stay in games early. Along with Rametta, a pair of Leechburg standouts, Jacob Pochiba and John Sorisio, have bolstered the staff by exceeding expectations. Freeport’s Sean Furlong brings depth and experience to the staff as well.
“Rametta has done nothing but throw great for us,” Montgomery said. “We’ve really appreciated his efforts on the mound, and the games we won over decent teams has been because of pitching and he’s a part of that. They have all come as advertised.”
A glance at Kiski Valley’s results reveals the obvious: The Vikings’ Achilles’ heel is getting runners across the plate. The only thing consistent about the offense is its inconsistency. This has led to some blow-out wins and losses during the season.
“We don’t have anybody hitting over .300 on this team,” Montgomery said.
Another Leechburg Blue Devil, Mario Leonard, has shown the most spark at the plate this season. But overall, the run support hasn’t been there. The Vikings have been outscored 64-59 by their opponents through 13 games.
“We had some games where it looks like we’ve exploded, and it’s because we faced 15-year-olds and they’re just getting their feet wet,” Montgomery said. “We needed some surprises, we felt, in order to be competitive. We can play. We just don’t have the talent level we need (to make a long postseason run) this season.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.