South/West Xtra: Char Valley grad gives South Hills a big boost in Federation League

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After starring at Chartiers Valley, Jonathon Kletzli was expecting to challenge for a starting job during his freshman season at Waynesburg University.

But even he was surprised by how well he did for the Yellow Jackets this spring.

A 6-foot-3 left-handed hitting first baseman, Kletzli started all 42 games for the Yellow Jackets and led the team in average (.383), on-base percentage (.465), slugging percentage (.511) home runs (2) and RBIs (37).

"I was a little surprised," said Kletzli, who lives in Scott Township. "I didn't think I would lead the team in all those categories."

Kletzli has continued his impressive hitting for the South Hills Federation League team this summer.

Kletzli came to the attention of the South Hills team through his personal hitting coach, Al Liberi. Liberi also coaches a few of the other players on South Hills, and asked if there was any room on the team for a power-hitting first baseman.

Kletzli, despite being one of the younger players in the league, has come on and given the team a good bat toward the bottom of the lineup.

"He's got a lot of pop, especially for someone who is just 18, 19 years old," said South Hills cleanup hitter Matt Rossi. "He's a big lefty who goes gap to gap. And he hits lower in the order, and it's nice to have a bat like that to balance the lineup."

Kletzli usually is the designated hitter for South Hills, but has played some first base, with Rossi moving over to third.

South Hills coach Kenny Morgan said Kletzli reminds him of Rossi when he was younger. When Rossi graduated from Clarion in 2012, he was the school's all-time leader in home runs and in the top three in hits, RBIs, runs and total bases.

"He's pretty comparable to Rossi years ago," Morgan said. "Rossi maybe had more raw power, but they have the same approach."

Kletzli said his greatest strength is his disciplined approach at the plate, which was echoed by Morgan.

That approach is getting honed by facing the Federation League's veteran pitchers, almost all of whom played college baseball and some who played in an independent/unaffiliated league or pro minor leagues following their collegiate careers.

The experience Kletzli is gaining should only help him next season at Waynesburg as he tries to improve on his impressive freshman year.

"[The Federation League] is a lot different than college," Kletzli said. "The pitching is a lot better. They have much more experience.

"I think it definitely will make me better. It will help me adjust better in college."

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