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 Irwin Pleased with Legion Playoff Berth

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By Paul Schofield
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Irwin baseball coach Jason Seidling and his team had high expectations when the District 31 American Legion baseball season began.  But injuries to a couple key pitchers had them worrying about just qualifying for the playoffs. Irwin (11-6) was able to pull things together after a shaky midseason, however, and it earned a postseason spot.  Now, the team is looking for success in the playoffs, which begin 5:30 p.m. Friday at four sites.  There are four series: Irwin will play at Latrobe, Murrysville is at Derry, Kiski Valley will play host to West Hempfield and Arnold is at Hempfield East. The second games of those series will be Saturday and the third games, if necessary, on Sunday. 

The first-round pairings were announced Wednesday at a meeting at the Mt. Pleasant American Legion. Hempfield East (16-2), the South/East Division champion, was seeded first, while North/West Division winner Kiski Valley was seeded second.  District 31 will send two teams to the Region 7 tournament on Aug. 1 at Bellefonte.  "The goal is to win the district," Seidling said. "When the season got under way, we were hoping for a big season. Then, we had a couple of injuries and lost a few games, and we were at .500."  After losing to West Hempfield and Murrysville, Irwin went to Murrysville a week later and pulled off an upset.  "We were missing a couple of starters, and we lost some key players," Seidling said. "We were just hoping to keep the game close. We were able to pull off the win. Nate Babyak pitched well, and the team didn't quit."  The victory ignited Irwin, which entered the final day with a chance at winning the North/East Division. Irwin lost to Arnold, but Seidling says the loss may actually help.  Seidling said a lot of his players played well down the stretch. Brandon Munshower, who was the winning pitcher in the 2006 WPIAL semifinals, became the ace of the staff after Tom Shirley's season came to an end because of an injury. Others to step up were catcher Josh Haubrich, outfielders Nick Krul, Ryan Neel and Keary Hoffman, third baseman A.J. Bergman and utility player Brendan Kollar.  "We had a lot more competition by players, and we were able to define some roles. And Brandon was unbelievable," Seidling said. "It's been a rewarding season."