Last Updated: Tue Aug 03, 2021 - 4:02AM
In a state baseball tournament that has been dominated by East teams for nearly 40 years, Penn-Trafford Junior Legion reigned supreme earlier this week. The Warriors capped off an incredible season with their first-place finish, courtesy of a 6-0 victory against Connellsville in the title game on Wednesday in Berwick, Pennsylvania.
Penn-Trafford concluded the campaign with a record of 22-3, which also included winning the Westmoreland County Junior Legion League and the Western Regional.
“They’re just such a tight-knit bunch. They’ve grown up with each other,” said manager Steve Freas, who was officially in his first year guiding the program, but had coached many of the players in various leagues since they were seven years old.
In 2020, Freas was slated to lead the Warriors, but COVID-19 prompted the cancellation of the Legion affiliation, forcing the team to seek another league to play.
While the league permits players ranging from ages 13 to 16, the Penn-Trafford squad had just a pair of 16-year-olds, and was comprised primarily of rising sophomores. The most notable player was Jason Sabol, who also played extensively for the Penn-Trafford varsity team during the high-school season, as well as for the Bushy Run senior legion squad. Sabol, who had played shortstop for most of his life, shifted to outfield this year, and proved a natural at the new position.
“He’s a special player,” Freas noted.
Additionally, middle infielder and pitcher Tyler Freas, the son of the manager, was the leading hitter for the season, and batted more than .600 in the state tournament. Other key components included Chuckie Fontana, who played corner infield and served as the team’s closer, middle infielder Brody Hoffmann, catcher and pitcher Ian Temple, pitcher Drew Sherwin, who worked more than six innings scoreless in the decisive game, outfielder Carmen Metcalfe, who excelled in the state tournament, first baseman Ethan Septak, a younger player who has a massive frame and immense power, and Owen Demeri, who returned from injury to play in the state tournament. Other players on the team consisted of Brandon Long, Hunter Brown, Eric Biroscak, Evan Gross, and Brandon Roher.
During the regular season, the Warriors went 11-2 in league play, and then defeated Plum, Monroeville, and Connellsville to claim the league title.
Both the Warriors and Connellsville, as well as third-place Monroeville, advanced to the Western Regional in Punxsutawney. In pool play, P-T bested Monroeville, Oil City, and Punxsutawney, and then defeated Connellsville in another title game, 12-3, to move on to the state bracket.
In a double-elimination, eight-team tournament, Penn-Trafford opened play with a victory against Boyertown, which captured the state title when it was last contested in 2019. The Warriors followed with wins against Conneaut and Connellsville, by a score of 16-4, to advance out of the winner’s bracket.
Despite a loss to Upper Perkiomen, the Warriors advanced to the title game, which became a single-elimination matchup, setting the stage for another triumph against Connellsville.
In doing so, Penn-Trafford became the first team from the West to win the state title since 2002, when Punxsutawney prevailed. Prior to that, the last champ from the West was United, in 1983.
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