On paper, West Mifflin American Legion manager Tom Simcho entered this summer with his best ever team.
Paper does not always translate to grass and dirt -- or in this case, artificial turf -- but this West Mifflin team has lived up to the hype this summer.
West Mifflin entered the final week of the regular season with a perfect 17-0 record. It had already secured the No. 1 seed in the Allegheny South Division.
"Honestly on paper, when I looked at it I said this will be the best team I ever had talent-wise and that is saying something," said Simcho who is now entering his 10th year managing the West Mifflin Legion team. "We have had some good teams in the past, this is hands down the most talent I have had."
Last year's teams was one of the good ones. West Mifflin got through the district playoffs to earn a spot in the Region 6 tournament where it reached the finals only to run into Blackhawk and ace pitcher Brendan McKay.
The district playoffs start Saturday. West Mifflin earned a bye and will begin play on Sunday where they enter as the favorite in the tournament, which will be played at Peters Township. Regionals this season will be at Connellsville.
The team is made up almost entirely of West Mifflin students and graduates with two additions from Steel Valley and one from Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
"The nucleus was back from last year and I picked up a couple new guys," Simcho said.
From Steel Valley he picked up Derek Morrison and Brandon Donovan and from Pittsburgh Central Catholic he picked up Luke Hils.
"I knew what I had with the West Mifflin kids and I knew what to expect, I just didn't know what I would get out of the other kids," Simcho said. "I wasn't sure because a lot of times when you bring kids in from other schools, they are not used to the way you play."
The additions did not disappoint.
"Morrison is just a flat out hitter," Simcho said.
Donovan pitched two games and won both. Hils tossed a no hitter this summer. Morrison can play first base or in the outfield while Donovan and Hils mostly pitch.
The additions have been a nice complement to an already strong nucleus of West Mifflin players headlined by Ryan Kandsberger, one of the most versatile players on the team.
"He would be our number one catcher if we put him back there but he is our best outfielder," Simcho said. "He can play anywhere, wherever I need him I can put him."
Kandsberger is a recent West Mifflin graduate who will play at Marietta College next season.
Shortstop Zack Miller is a West Mifflin graduate and rising sophomore at Bethany College. He is batting .422 with a team-high 21 RBIs.
Zach Fodor starts at third base and he can also play second base. He is batting a team-high .649 with 17 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. A recent West Mifflin graduate, Fodor will play at Pitt-Greensburg next season.
The pitching staff is anchored by Hils, Cody Gross, Zach Fodor and his younger brother, Josh Fodor, and Donovan, who was selected to the Post-Gazette's All-Area team after the high school season as well as being chosen the PG South Xtra Player of the Year.
Hils allowed one earned run through 25 innings. Cody Gross, a rising sophomore at Bethany College, has a 0.82 ERA through 17 innings. Zach Fodor has 18 strikeouts in 16 innings while not allowing an earned run all summer. Josh Fodor, a rising junior at West Mifflin, threw a no-hitter earlier this year.