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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 Atones for Mistake

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By Keith Barnes
Monday, July 17, 2006

Latrobe had an opportunity to sweep its best-of-three District 31 semifinal series with West Hempfield on Saturday but blew a four-run lead and eventually lost on a walk-off grand slam.

West Hempfield did not make the mistake of letting its opponent off the mat in Sunday's deciding game. Post 53 jumped out to a two-run lead in the first and cruised to a 13-6 victory over Latrobe to win the series, 2-1, and earn its second consecutive trip to the District 31 championship series.

"I don't think there was a carryover because the kids were very loose in the pregame," Latrobe coach Jason Bush said. "They swung the bat well and fielded the ball well; we just got behind the eight-ball."

What caused Latrobe (17-6-1) the most grief was its inability to get off the field. West Hempfield scored all 13 of its runs and banged out 12 of its 16 hits with two outs. "I thought they were really aggressive at the plate," Bush said. "You've got to be able to close the door, step on the snake and kill it to end the inning and get back off the field, especially on a hot day."

It was a game in direct contrast to the 10-7 victory over Latrobe on Saturday. In that game, West Hempfield trailed, 7-3, before scoring three in the fifth and knotting the series on John Veech-Dixon's first American Legion home run, an opposite field grand slam off Brian Hantz.

"We felt we had the momentum before the game and, watching their dugout before the game, their coach had them all tensed up, and we were as loose as we could possibly be, and all the pressure was in their dugout," West Hempfield coach Bob Stokes said. "The kids were over at my house (Saturday), and you could feel the energy, and they were just ready to play baseball."

West Hempfield (16-9) players seemed to give the ball a jolt every time they stepped into the batter's box. Post 53 had at least one hit in all seven innings, every player scored at least one run, and seven of the nine starters drove in at least a run.

"All the energy was on our side, and Latrobe had no idea what to do," West Hempfield's Steve Dubich said. "All the momentum was on our side, we were the underdog, and all the pressure was in that other dugout, so we played loose and did what we had to do."

In the past two games, Dubich was a combined 7 for 9 with a homer, two doubles, five RBI and six runs scored. He also finished both games, picking up the win in relief Saturday and throwing the last 22/3 innings after starter Veech-Dixon was taken out in the fifth yesterday.

All this only five days after taking a line drive off his right knee while pitching in Game 2 of the opening-round series against Hempfield East. Dubich, who has been limping around the bases all week, still has a large bruise above the kneecap, and the stitches from the ball where it made contact with his skin are still visible.

"It was hard because when I got hit in the knee, I thought my season was done," Dubich said. "But I just sucked it up, and I go with it because the team needs my help, and I'd rather play for the team than sit out and watch them."

West Hempfield is in a position to defend its title against Murrysville, a team it went 0-1 against during the regular season. The teams meet in Game 1 of their best-of-three series at 5:30 p.m. today at Haymaker Field.

"I can't imagine that we're in this position two years in a row," Stokes said. "When you coach and you see your players perform like this, game in and game out ... they're giving the effort, and I just sit back, watch and enjoy."

Keith Barnes can be reached at or 724-543-1303 x221.