South Xtra: Mt. Lebanon deals with new problems this season in Fed League

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Since reviving the Mt. Lebanon Federation League baseball franchise in 2011, coach Ryan McDonough has had trouble getting players out for the team.

In fact, for some games in the past few seasons, he'd have just nine or 10 guys on game days.

This season, he has a 23-man roster and often has more than 15 players at the field for games. Although that is certainly better than the alternative, the increased roster size has brought some new issues.

"We've got a bunch of new guys and we're still trying to figure out where everyone plays well in the field and in the lineup," McDonough said.

"Is it better this way? Yes. Is it easier? No. We have more options now, but figuring out everyone's different talents and how to use them is a challenge in and of itself."

While Mt. Lebanon, which won just one of its first seven games, has many new players on the roster, there are a few players McDonough knows well.

Ryan Eckenrode and Dan Ruef have played for McDonough since the program was revived four years ago. They, like McDonough, also played for the Mt. Lebanon Federation team back in the mid-2000s for longtime coach George Strasbaugh.

The trio, like many on the team, are either Mt. Lebanon residents or former Mt. Lebanon High School players.

Ruef, who played his college ball at Case Western University, is the team's top pitcher, getting the win in the team's lone victory entering this week, a 12-0 thrashing of Ohio Valley.

Joining Ruef on the mound are Eric Drobotij, who previously played at Mt. Lebanon High School and Mercyhurst College, and former Keystone Oaks hurler Alex Carr, who now plays at Washington & Jefferson.

The pitching has been inconsistent, allowing more than eight runs per contest.

"We're not firing on all cylinders," McDonough said. "It seems like when we hit, we can't get a good pitching performance. And then when we do pitch well, we don't hit."

In addition to Ruef and Eckenrode, newcomers Brendan Depp and Camden Kelly have nice additions to the lineup, McDonough said. Depp, a 2013 Mt. Lebanon graduate, plays in the outfield, while Kelly, a Riverview graduate who plays at Point Park, has seen some time behind the plate.

But other than that, McDonough is still trying to get a read on the rest of his players. That process has been made tougher since he's missed a few games as he helps to plan his wedding, which is this upcoming weekend.

But he believes that once he settles on a consistent lineup, Mt. Lebanon's team will start to soar.

"I'm expecting we'll play much better as the season progresses," McDonough said. "Guys will get used to playing with each other, supporting each other, and learning their roles. It's only a matter of time."

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