It won’t be an easy road for the team that wins the American Legion Baseball Region 7 tournament.
This year’s field is loaded with talent.
Returning champion Hempfield East captured the 2018 title by defeating Bedford in the finals. Hempfield East did it the hard way, losing its first game of the tournament to Punxsutawney.
It’s not the ideal path to a title, but it worked.
Hempfield East opens against Punxsutawney at 11 a.m. Friday at Latrobe Legion-Keener field.
After losing to Bushy Run, 4-0, in the District 31 championship game Tuesday, Hempfield East coach Scott Smith and his staff told the players to refocus.
“We made too many mistakes,” Smith said. “We knew it would be a close game, but we never seemed in it.”
Bushy Run, however, continued its strong postseason performance. It was the fifth consecutive shutout for Bushy Run. Coach Scott Peyman said he hopes that continues. Bushy Run faces Mifflin County at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Derry Middle School.
“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing: play good defense and get good pitching,” Peyman said. “It’s worked so far. We just have to figure out how to score a run or two.”
Bushy Run’s strength is pitching. The oldest player on the roster is Max Pisi, who has thrown two shutouts in the playoffs.
Pisi called Tuesday’s performance against Hempfield East his best of the season.
“We played well in last year’s tournament,” Peyman said. “We just ran out of pitching. That won’t happen this year. We’re nine pitchers deep.
“Every team is good in this tournament. I think with our pitching depth, we’re built to make a run in the region,”
Bushy Run will have to do so without a few players. Tyler Horvat, who will start on the mound Friday, is headed to Myrtle Beach for a family vacation Saturday. Outfielder Luke Fabec is on vacation, and pitcher Maclean Maund won’t be at Friday’s game because of freshman orientation at Seton Hill.
“I don’t know much about Mifflin County, but the high school team made the PIAA Class 6A playoffs, so I expect them to be good,” Peyman said.
The other games at Legion-Keener on Friday has Beech Creek facing Bedford at 2 p.m. and host Latrobe meeting Claysburg at 5 p.m.
Because Latrobe coach Jason Bush is the Region 7 tournament director, his son Zach will coach the Jethawks.
Jason Bush said it should be an exciting tournament and he expects good baseball over the next five days.