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Sports

Hard work pays off

| Thursday, May 17, 2007

Connellsville senior Joe Leonard has played in many different baseball leagues at many different levels of competition. Next spring, he will be competing on another level, as he will take the field for the Pitt baseball team. Leonard has received a full scholarship to play baseball for the Panthers.

"It was something that I have worked for, and I am happy to get it," Leonard said, noting that he received interest from several other schools, including Maryland, Penn State, Ohio University and LSU. "Pitt is close to home, and the academics are very good."

While at Pitt, Leonard plans on majoring in business administration. He also has other ambitions when it comes to his athletic career.

"I've been thinking a lot about starting as a freshman," Leonard said. "It will take some hard work because there are a lot of good players there."

Something that may give Leonard an edge when it comes to competing for playing time is his versatility.

Primarily a shortstop, Leonard, 18, has been utilized in many positions in a variety of area leagues. He can play just about every position, including pitcher.

"He is an on-the-field leader," Connellsville coach Brian Shipley said. "The shortstop position is obviously one of the most important positions, but he can play anywhere. In college, he'll have to play all the positions, and he can do that."

Shipley pointed out that Leonard has the mental ability to compete at the next level as well.

"He knows how to play the game," Shipley said. "He's played tons of games in summer and fall leagues. He has great baseball instincts, and that's the reason he's the player he is."

Leonard lettered in all four of his high school seasons, and he earned all-county and all-section honors in each of the past three seasons and has been selected to the 2007 WPIAL Class AAAA All-Star team.

In his senior season, Leonard hit .500 (32-64) with 14 doubles and three home runs. A great contact hitter, he struck out only once.

Although the high school season is over, Leonard will continue to play baseball throughout the summer. He is a member of the Pittsburgh Bulldogs of the Western Pennsylvania Elite Baseball League. He also may play for one of the area teams in the Fayette County Baseball League.

Competition is something that Leonard has always enjoyed, and it is something that he is looking forward to when it comes to playing for Pitt.

"I want to play against some of the top teams in the country," Leonard said.

In addition to baseball, Leonard was a standout basketball player at Connellsville. He earned three varsity letters in basketball. He is an honor student and a member of the Spanish Honor Society.

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