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Champions aren't made in the gyms.  Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision.

 

 


 

 West Hempfield Claims Title on Wild Finish

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By Paul Schofield
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, July 21, 2005

The District 31 American Legion championship game between Arnold and West Hempfield had a little bit of everything.

And then some.

 

The teams combined for 17 runs, 23 hits and 12 errors at Lint Field on Wednesday night. There were some stellar defensive plays, key hits and some clutch pitching between the top teams from the league. When the dust had settled, West Hempfield stood as the league's new champion with a thrilling 8-7 victory.


Kyle McCullough scored the winning run from third base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Arnold shortstop Zack Nealer was unable to come up with Mike Ferrara's slow roller.

 

The miscue allowed West Hempfield to capture its first District 31 title. "I didn't want the game to end like that," said West Hempfield coach Bob Stokes, as the team celebrated with the huge crowd of over 300. "I wanted the ball put in play. But I didn't want it to end on an error. I feel bad for the kid."

 

With daylight quickly evaporating with every pitch, West Hempfield took advantage of a couple Arnold mistakes. McCullough reached on a throwing error by second baseman Frank Sharrock. Two outs later, McCullough stood at third following two wild pitches. West Hempfield second baseman Dan Norris, who committed four errors, worked Arnold pitcher Kevin Rayburn for a walk.

 

That brought Ferrara to the plate. Ferrara, who, according to his coach, doesn't have one of the prettiest swings, was 3 for 5 and scored three runs as West Hempfield's ninth batter. Rayburn made Ferrara look bad on two curveballs. But Ferrara made contact with the next curveball and dribbled it toward shortstop.

 

"West Hempfield deserves a lot of credit," Arnold coach Doug Aftanas said. "There is an old adage that any baseball coach would tell you, if you put the ball in play, you give yourself a chance to get on base. They did what they had to do with a first and third situation, and unfortunately, our shortstop didn't come up with the play.

"I told Zack that one play never wins or loses a game. It's a play he routinely makes. What I was the most proud of Zack for, and I know he's the one hurting the most right now, is that he moved to shortstop 10 games into the season, and he did an admirable job."

 

Arnold led 3-1 in the fourth inning when West Hempfield struck for three runs and knocked out starting pitcher Anthony Campana. The big blow was by Ferrara, whose RBI single to left field was misplayed. As the ball rolled to the fence, Paul Hayne scored from second, Norris scored from first, and Ferrara got his toe on the corner of home plate before catcher Chuck Swanger applied the tag for a 4-3 lead.

 

Zack Martin hit a home run in the fifth inning to extend the West Hempfield lead to 5-3, but Arnold showed why it was the North/West Division champions in the top of the sixth inning. Brian Marzullo got the inning started when he lined a double off the left field fence. P.J. Perriello was hit with a pitch, and Sharrock reached when his sacrifice bunt was dropped for an error. On the play, Marzullo scored, and Perriello moved to third.

Nealer looped a double to right to score Perriello to tie the score at 5-5. After Campana walked to load the bases, Swanger, who had three hits, lined a two-run single to left an out later to give Arnold a 7-5 lead. Campana, however, was thrown out trying to advance to third.

 

But West Hempfield refused to go away. The South/East Division champion tied the score at 7 in the bottom of the inning. It started with a one-out hit by Ferrara. Roach, who went 4 for 4, looped a single to left. Mike Harvat drove in Ferrara with a single, and Roach scored on a throwing error by Swanger. "That was a great baseball game," Stokes said. "You couldn't ask for anything more for a championship game."

 

Roach, who was the losing pitcher in Game 1, held it together for nine innings on only two days rest.

"This is a great feeling," said Roach, as he wiped away tears. "I'm so happy. It was a great game and great season. This is amazing." This has been a great summer for Roach. He pitched for the Westmoreland County Community College team that went to the Junior College World Series, and now he was the winning pitcher in the deciding game. Roach said he feels bad for Nealer because he played such a good series. Roach and Nealer may become teammates in the fall at WCCC.

 

West Hempfield will represent District 31 in the Region 7 tournament. It will play 4:30 p.m. Monday against the Central Penn League champion at State College.