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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 Tops East in Legion Battle for Hempfield

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By The Tribune-Review
Friday, July 14, 2006

Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the third in the deciding game of its opening round playoff series against West Hempfield West, Hempfield East  had a golden opportunity to not only tie the game but break it wide open.

Hempfield East worked the bases loaded with no outs and had its 3-4-5 hitters coming to the plate against Post 53 No. 3 starter John Veach-Dixon. But instead of getting back into the game, Hempfield East walked away empty and found itself on the outside looking in at the second round of the District 31 playoffs.

Veach-Dixon worked his way out of the jam and the defending champions wormed their way into a second round matchup with South/East Division-champion Latrobe with a 6-5 win over Hempfield East. "We had the meat of the order and we had a strikeout, a pop-up and a ground out," Hempfield East coach Scott Smith said. "These guys were strong all year and had big, strong bats and we couldn't have asked for any more with that situation."

West Hempfield (14-8) also had help from an Hempfield East (14-7-1) defense that committed a costly error in the bottom of the second that led to three unearned runs. Starting pitcher Matt Geary fielded a bunt to the third base side of the mound and threw the ball away, which allowed two runs to score and erased a 1-0 disadvantage for Post 53.


"To me what won this game was fielding the bunts and placing the bunts," West Hempfield coach Bob Stokes said. "Our kids did a great job sacrificing runners over and doing the little things right."

That was especially true in the third inning when Veach-Dixon worked his way out of trouble. Facing Hempfield East's most dangerous hitter in Eric Bruno, Veach-Dixon got him swinging to start digging himself out of the hole, then picked up two quick outs to end the threat and give the West Hempfield bench a much-needed lift.

"I had the situation I wanted," Smith said. "Eric Bruno led our team all year in every statistic imaginable and he struck out, but if something falls we're back in the game."

Though Hempfield East was unable to capitalize in the third it did make a comeback nonetheless. Andrew Ziegler, who got on base to lead off the third, homered in the fifth to begin the comeback and the team had the winning run on base in the seventh before Veach-Dixon got a ground out to end the game.

"My kid was running out of game and, at the same time, I kept saying that it's his ballgame," Stokes said. "He was outstanding and his curveball was working especially early in the game and it helped his fastball and Johnny did a great job."

Now, however, West Hempfield will have to take its next step toward defending both its District 31 and Region 7 crowns against Latrobe, a team it split with during the regular season. Latrobe won a 3-0 decision and dropped a 4-0 game against Post 53.

"We've won some divisional championships in the past and last year was the first regional championship and there is a lot of pride in that on the field," Stokes said. "It's not that we talk about it a lot because we don't have to and the effort from the kids is what does it."