East Xtra: Murrysville is plowing through Westmoreland foes

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With a 9-7 record this past spring, Franklin Regional didn't generate a great deal of excitement on the baseball diamond during the high school season, finishing fourth in Class AAAA Section 3 and missing the WPIAL playoffs by three games.

But with the high school season in the proverbial rear-view mirror, the boys of summer on the Murrysville American Legion team have unleashed fireworks night after night in the 11-team Westmoreland County League.

Murrysville -- 17 out of the 18 players on its roster played at Franklin Regional and the other from Kiski Prep -- stood in first place in District 31 with a perfect 9-0 record before Wednesday's scheduled home game against Unity Township. Murrysville is scheduled to play another home game this evening at 6 at Haymaker Park against Jeannette.

"It is kind of a mix of two different teams," manager Gus Bondi said. "We combined the two age groups of the rising seniors and juniors and it has turned out well."

The perfect record is taken to another level, considering the type of competition Murrysville is playing against. Every team in the league has at least a dozen players who supported their school on their varsity team.

"It is as competitive as high school baseball and I have seen quite a few varsity games," Bondi said. "Most of the teams that we play have at least a dozen players who played on their varsity team.

"It is all about desire to win but being that it is summertime, it is more of a fun atmosphere. They don't have to deal with school and practice every day. I have 18 kids on my roster and they all come to the practices and games ready to go."

Murrysville held a two-game lead over defending district champion Unity but had yet to play the Latrobe area squad until yesterday. That is one of the few teams they have yet to play as Murrysville has been able to light up the scoreboard against the rest of the league, averaging 7.5 runs per game through the first nine.

No matter what level, in baseball it is the offense that provides all the excitement. For Murrysville, it is the other way around.

Bondi has bolstered a pitching rotation where he can send any of his four aces to the mound on any night.

"Our starting pitching has been phenomenal," Bondi said. "I have four legitimate number ones. When you think you have enough pitching, you get more. They are all proven starters.

"I have other kids who have eaten up some innings. It is beneficial when you get into the busy part of the season. You need all the pitching arms you can get."

The "four aces" Bondi is referring to are Brett Myers, Casen Wolinsky, Anthony Falce and Ben Ramey.

As a group, the Murrysville staff had given up a total of 10 runs through eight games, nine of them earned.

Bondi has been managing a Murrysville team for 12 years from Little League to his second year this year as manager of the Legion team.

Like most managers, Bondi is looking to improve on last year's results when they lost in the district playoffs, two games to one against West Hempfield.

"We were the youngest team in the league last year," Bondi said. "It was a good and humbling experience.

"I certainly would like to win our district and make it to regionals in Clearfield. Ultimately, we would like to go on to the state tournament. When you have pitching and defense the way we have this year, we are going to have a legitimate chance."

For Bondi, the hardest part may be handling his own roster. He is aware that some players will take a summer vacation and some play on Amateur Athletic Union teams, but that is why he made sure to stack his roster so he can plug in the missing links whenever it is called for.

"I am about playing as many games as you can," Bondi said. "Kids know their roles. As a manager, one of the things you try to do is put kids in the best position to succeed. You want them to have fun and want them to want to come back."

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