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Sewickley Legion ball back after 2 years gone

| Thursday, June 16, 2011

The national pastime no longer ends when the school year runs out in Sewickley.

After a two-year hiatus, Sewickley's American Legion ball club is back in action this summer, operating under the Quaker Valley name for a six-week season in the Allegheny West League.

When the old Sewickley club folded at the end of the 2008 season, players from the area were forced to play on teams in other leagues during the summer, such as age-restricted Colt baseball. Because of those restrictions, some players were shut out of playing at all, or faced limited playing-time rules.

No longer. Legion ball, a 19-and-under league, gives high school players — and even some who have recently graduated — a chance to continue playing as one team.

"I'm happy about it, because it's one of my last chances to get to play," said outfielder Jeff Fecko, who graduated from Quaker Valley last month. "I don't want to leave anything out there when the season's done."

Fecko, fellow QV grads Scott Sutter and Pat Conlan, and Sewickley Academy graduate Jack Straka are the team's only postgraduate players this year, but the hope is that the team will continue to provide rising college freshmen and sophomores the opportunity to keep playing.

Those players aside, the majority of this year's team is composed of current high schoolers, who hope to improve individually and as a unit by facing the tougher challenge of Legion opposition.

"That's what we're here for," Quaker Valley Legion coach Brandon Thurber said. "We want to get exposure, face some great competition and learn a little bit more about the game."

Moon, Keystone Oaks, West Allegheny and Chartiers Valley — all Triple-A or Quad-A school districts — inhabit the newly assembled league, along with teams from Houston, Sto-Rox, Carrick, Mt. Washington and Crafton-Ingram-Thornburg.

Experience against some of those more established programs can only benefit the QV varsity program because nearly all players and coaches will be together at Quaker Valley next spring.

"From top to bottom, it's really a great group of kids," said Thurber, an assistant in the high school program last year.

Quaker Valley picked up a big win on the road last Thursday, topping perennially strong West Allegheny, 13-5, at Donaldson Elementary in North Fayette. The victory improved the team to 3-5 in the AWL.

Rising junior Nelson Westwood pitched 61/3 innings to record the win against West Allegheny before Sutter recorded the final two outs in a nonsave situation.

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