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Irwin Legion team grows, learns From District 31 season

| Saturday, July 14, 2018, 12:45 a.m.

For all the players on the Irwin American Legion team’s roster, playing in the District 31 league this summer was a brand-new experience.

After taking a year off from the league, the program eagerly returned with a group of rising sophomores and juniors from the Norwin School District. And while they may have taken a few lumps as they accrued a 4-16 overall record, Irwin manager Tom Hussey said his boys never showed any signs of struggle as they sharpened their skills against the stiff opposition the league had to offer.

“We had a younger team, and they had a great opportunity to gain more experience this year, and hopefully they’ll be able to use that experience to improve for next season,” Hussey said.

“I was very impressed with the strength of the competition. I think we had four one-run losses and two two-run losses. Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side of all of those, but if we would have been able to win a chunk of them, our record would look a lot different.”

One sign of the team’s growth is evidenced by their pitching staff, composed of Billy Kerston, Javier Rosado, Vinny Oddo, Freddy Calub, Garrett Senchur and Evan Kline, and the group’s improvement in the second half of the season. The team’s stable of arms held its opponents to five runs or less in four of its last 10 games after doing so just twice in the first 10 games of the year.

There also were positive signs of improvement from the team’s hitters, who were shut out three times in the first 10 games of the year as opposed to just once in the final 10 games.

Irwin’s list of position players included Christian Kubacka, Nick Krevo, Logan Liebdzinski, Derek Turcovski, Brian Woods, Ronnie Howard, Michael Ryan and Owen Sabol, who missed a large portion of the season because of injury.

“I saw a lot of improvement in each one of our guys, and hopefully that will pay dividends in the long run,” Hussey said.

“In a lot of cases, it was just these guys getting acclimated to the speed of the game. They hadn’t seen this level of competition before this season, and once they became more acclimated, that helped out a lot.”

Now that the District 31 season is over for the Irwin American Legion team, Hussey and his assistant coach, Craig Charronn, want their players to use the lessons they’ve learned to improve their overall performance. The right attitude is already there, according to Hussey, it’s just a matter of tightening up their play over the course of a seven-inning contest.

“Those close battles, in a lot of cases, they came down to one bad inning here or there that sunk us. Going forward, if we can just eliminate or minimize the mistakes, that’ll give us a better opportunity to win those close ballgames that we came out on the wrong side of,” Irwin’s skipper said.

“But one great thing that the guys didn’t do is get down on themselves or the team, regardless of the record. We came to the field every day wanting to play baseball. That’s the thing that I’m most proud of; we battled in every single game.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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