PG NORTH: Pit Stop rolls on to state softball crown

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Ten years ago, a group of 30-somethings from the Saxonburg and West Deer area collectively put its softball skills to the test, rose above the competition and claimed a state championship.

A decade later -- and possibly a step or two slower -- the squad defied the odds and once again struck gold.

Pit Stop, a modified fast-pitch team that participates in the Fieldhouse Men's League, traveled to Meadville on July 29 in hopes of reliving past glory. What it came home with was its second state ASA modified fast-pitch title.

"It gives you goose bumps," said Gary Coe, one of three standout pitchers who led the crew to the Class A title. "Some people play the game for years and don't get a chance to do that. And we've done it twice now. We've been lucky."

Calling it "luck" might not be the correct word to use, though. "Dominant" would be more appropriate.

Unlike its name, Pit Stop did nothing of the sort in the one-day, double elimination tournament. Overall, the team racked up an impressive 54 hits in that span, and led throughout in its championship win over Gallo.

Modified fast-pitch softball is pretty much as it sounds, a modified version of the more popular fast pitch style. The big difference, however, is that pitchers in modified fast-pitch are easier to hit because they are not allowed a full windmill windup. A pitcher essentially brings his arm back as far as they can, and then throws it as hard as he can.

The 20-year-old Fieldhouse Men's League comprising players from all around Southwestern Pennsylvania, included Allegheny County for the first time in 15 years this season, playing its games at the Culmerville District Sportsman Club in West Deer.

The five-team league is aggressively looking to expand, and hopes that Pit Stop's success will help them do just that.

"I think it brings some attention to the competitiveness of the league and the type of ballplayers that are in the area," league treasurer Mike McGrogan said.

McGrogan, a player/coach for rival squad Unwired/Merchants, has witnessed first-hand the dominance of a Pit Stop outfit that earlier this week put the finishing touches on a 19-1 regular season.

"They pretty much rolled through the league," McGrogan said. "They have three very dominating pitchers. They have good hitters, too, but they're definitely the class team for pitching."

That success has been the product of a trio of effective, yet very different pitchers: John Trinidad , who is the team manager, Don Kern and Coe.

"We're all so [darn] old it takes three of us," Coe laughed. "Johnny throws gas, I throw a knuckleball, and Kern is just accurate as [heck]. We kind of work out well together."

Handling those pitchers and the catching duties is Bill Konar, a guy Coe called, "one of the best I've ever seen."

A standout group of hitters includes first baseman Rob Wolford, second baseman Jay Livingood, shortstop Carl Hayes, third baseman Steve Mix, and outfielders Tim Seezox, Kris Kramer, Dan Kramer and Tom Eurich.

The unsung heroes of the team might be the players' wives, whom, Coe joked, is the reason they get to play.

While Coe said the team's average age is above 40 and higher than most opponents, the roster has some youth, as well. Kramer, for instance, the leadoff hitter, is just 22. His father, Dan, has been a part of both championship teams, the first of which occurred when the son was just 12.

As for the future, the team expects to compete in the national tournament in Drifton, Pa. later this summer.

Next season, they are expected to be moved up to the highest division, Open Class -- formerly known as Major -- the same level the team conquered 10 years ago.

"We've won the Major before, when were younger," Coe said. "We have a decent team. I'm sure we can play with them."



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