Monroeville Junior Legion chasing league championship
The Monroeville Junior Legion baseball program hopes to end the summer season batting .500.
Monroeville won its first Westmoreland County Youth Legion championship last year in the program’s third year of existence.
Another title this summer will make it two in four years.
“It was a highly successful season, and I’m proud of the boys and what they accomplished,” coach Matt Dunsmore said. “The boys did a great job of pulling themselves out of tough situations through grit and determination. The boys hate to lose more than they like to win.
“I’m looking forward to the playoffs. We are going to have to rely on the leadership of the players who have gone to regionals the past two years.”
Monroeville ended the regular season last week by taking first place in the North Division with a 14-2 record. The Junior Gators lost the first and last games of the regular season to Riverview and Murrysville. In between, they racked up an impressive 14-game winning streak.
“I never expected us to win 14 in a row,” Dunsmore said. “Baseball is a weird sport. If a few pitches or batted balls were a few inches different, maybe we lose. We have a great team, and we played some great ball this summer.
“We also received a good bit of luck. The main thing is through thick and thin, the boys stuck together. Everyone played their role, and they played it well.”
Monroeville, which committed only 22 errors in 16 games, and Plum battled for first place in the North Division all summer. Plum also ended up 14-2, with both losses to Monroeville.
Other clubs in the division that fought for playoff spots were Bethel Park (9-7), Lower Burrell (8-8) and Baldwin (8-8), along with Kiski (7-9) and Murrysville (6-10).
South Division playoff contenders consisted of Hempfield East (12-2-1), West Hempfield (10-2), Uniontown (10-2), Smithfield (7-6), Penn Township (7-6), Connellsville (5-7) and Ligonier (5-9).
The WCYL playoffs were scheduled to start July 5. The postseason for both divisions are two rounds of best-of-three competition.
Monroeville, the No. 1 seed, played Lower Burrell in the first round. Plum played Bethel Park.
In Round 1 in the South Division, the matchups were Hempfield East versus Smithfield, and West Hempfield versus Uniontown.
The two playoff division winners qualify for regionals July 20-24 in Homer City. They will play one game for seeding purposes at regionals, and to determine the Westmoreland champion.
Monroeville’s team roster consists of Tyler Mathias (C/SS), Jaden Brown (OF/2B), Nathan Demchak (OF/C/3B), Alex Majocha (2B/3B), Dominic Puzzanchera (3B/C/OF), Will Roper (SS/OF), Brody Clemens (3B), Noah Colberg (OF/3B), Alec Dunsmore (OF), Justin Longo (OF/1B), Bryce Neundorfer (OF), Nick Pachete (P/1B/OF/C), Dom Pascarella (1B/OF/P), Maximus Rocco (3B/OF), Angelo Ross (3B/1B/C), Joey Sides (OF/2B) and Dylan Vojnik (3B).
“We have some players who lead by example and others are vocal leaders,” Dunsmore said. “They do a great job of picking each other up and eliminating the negatives from the dugout.
“Baseball is such a mental game. Yogi Berra said it’s 90 percent mental and the other half is physical. Other than his math skills being poor, he was correct.”
On July 1, the Junior Gators rolled past Penn Hills, 10-1, to secure their 14th consecutive victory.
Monroeville’s batting order in that game consisted of Demchak (LF), Longo (CF), Majocha (2B), Ross (P), Sides (RF), Mathias (C), Puzzanchera (3B), Pascarella (1B), Roper (SS), Brown (extra hitter).
“I think my team has done an exceptional job integrating to create one cohesive winning team,” Majocha said. “At the beginning of the season I was uncertain because many talented players moved up to the Senior Legion team. I was pleasantly surprised when my team started winning, and continued to win 14 straight games, placing us in first place in the North Division.
“My expectation now is to continue winning throughout the playoffs and move on to the regionals in Homer City for the third consecutive year. I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue to play local baseball through American Youth Legion Baseball.”
The Junior Gators wrapped up the regular season with a .368 team batting average. Nine players hit .300 or better,
“We have a very consistent lineup from the top to the bottom of the order,” Majocha said. “Our team’s greatest strength is our ability to hit. In 16 games, we scored 144 runs.”
On the mound, Monroeville’s team ERA stood at 2.29; five pitchers compiled an ERA under 3.00.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.