West Xtra: Moon Legion team rises as threat in South Division

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As the temperature increases, so does the intensity on the ballfields showcasing the talented mix of players during the American Legion baseball season.

With a few weeks left in the regular season of the Allegheny South Division, the pretenders and contenders are starting to take shape.

While it seems like everyone is trying to chase down West Mifflin, Moon is a team that cannot be taken lightly as well.

Entering play on Tuesday, Moon stood in a tie for second place with a 6-2 record and its only two losses came at the hands of West Mifflin, 9-2 and 9-1.

That second loss occurred Monday in what Moon first-year manager Tyler George called "a must-win game."

"We threw Trevor Rasbach at them but he didn't have his best stuff. He threw hard but he left the ball up and when you do that against a good team like West Mifflin, it's tough," George said. "[West Mifflin] is the best hitting team I've seen this year."

Moon has picked up wins against Chartiers Valley, Carrick, Peters Township, Bethel Park and Keystone Oaks twice.

With the players switching from metal bats during the high school season to wooden ones for Legion play, pitching has become essential in this league. That's an aspect Moon has plenty of but it took awhile to gather everyone. With the long postseason run the Tigers had in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs, they were without a number of their top players to begin the Legion season.

"The toughest thing during Legion season is pitching," George said. "We were five games behind because our high school team made a run in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs."

Moon was able to weather the storm until they got their best players back, especially Trevor Rasbach on the pitching mound.

"He was a pitcher for the varsity team," George said. "He wasn't going to play Legion, then decided he was going to play at the last second. He has been lights out for us. He pitched a no-hitter against Keystone Oaks. He beat Peters Township, too. He wants the ball. You love to have pitchers like that."

Also contributing with a lot of innings on the mound is Matt Kotvas and Alex Papst.

"Matt and Alex both played on the varsity team," George said. "They didn't get many innings. They are both big right-handers. Kotvas has a really low release and keeps hitters off-balance. Papst throws the ball a little bit harder and has good pitch location.

"They have done everything I have asked of them. There pitch counts are all awesome. They are all under 100 [for seven innings] for the most part."

Along with the deep rotation, Moon also has a number of hitters who are having no problem using wooden bats.

Recent graduates Josh Bogats and Marco DeBlassio have made contributions at shortstop and center field, respectively. Both will be attending Slippery Rock University in the fall.

Also making an impact is the lone current college player on the team, Cole Koegel. Koegel just finished his freshman season at Bethany College in West Virginia.

"He is a big hitter," George said. "He is strong and powerful. He hits from the left side of the plate. I told him I need a leader on the team to take the younger kids under his wings. It is hard being the only college kid on the team. You can tell he is a college player. The way he swings the bat. He has been a great addition to the team."

With the wide mix of players on the squad, Moon looks to be a serious contender to make a run deep into the summer.

"We want to make regionals," George said. "They want to get Moon Legion back on the map. They are hungry to set the new standards for Moon Legion.

"I have 18 baseball players. They have a lot of experience. It is a lot different from when I played at Hopewell. It is a different atmosphere and I don't know why. I think the intensity will go back up once playoffs come around. They are not very vocal.

"They are a laid-back group and that's when they play their best. It has worked for them. They care about winning and baseball."

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