North Xtra: New manager enjoys Saxonburg's surge

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Mike Hickey was privileged enough to coach his youngest son's baseball team for the past seven years.

But when he was given the opportunity to coach his middle son, Jordan, on the Saxonburg American Legion team, he couldn't pass that up.

"This is my first year at Legion," Hickey said. "I wanted to coach my middle son who is on this team."

While it was nice to be involved with his son, it has been extra rewarding that Hickey took over a team that is motivated and skilled enough for a mid-summer run.

Saxonburg started the season with 11 players, eight of whom played on the Knoch High School varsity team. But like most Legion teams, Hickey had to deal with the issue of players leaving for family vacations.

"We have been fortunate enough to have call-ups from the Colt team," Hickey said. "The hard thing is if [the Colt team is] playing on the same night. We had a couple kids take family vacations and won some games with the call-ups, but everyone is here now. You just have to be flexible."

Saxonburg ended the regular season with a 14-5 record, earning them the No. 2 seed behind East Butler in the Butler County American Legion League.

After getting knocked out in the first round last year, Saxonburg has already made it one step further with their opening round 9-5 victory against Center Township.

"It was a little scary to start with," Hickey said. "We only had nine players to start the game.

"The game started slow for us. We left the bases loaded in the third but ended up scoring six runs in the fourth. It was a good game. We only made one error so that was key for us."

In their second-round matchup, Saxonburg defeated No. 3 seed Slippery Rock, 8-0, at home Tuesday night, a team they lost to twice during the regular season by one run each time.

In the double-elimination format, Saxonburg will play East Butler tonight in the winner's bracket final. The winner advances to the championship round.

With the double-elimination format, Saxonburg should feel like it had an advantage with all of its pitching depth.

The rotation consists of varsity members Gavin Miller, Zach Junk and Dustin Montgomery.

Also making an impact is graduate Taylor Sharer.

Offensively, Jordan Hickey is leading the way at the top of the order with a .720 on-base percentage. He is the team's second baseman after playing center field during the high school season.

Another bat contributing at the top of the order is catcher Joel Zacherl.

In the midst of its playoff run, Saxonburg has one goal in mind, to make the regionals.

"Moving on to regionals is our main focus," Hickey said. "We just want to keep playing ball and winning. As long as they are winning and they get to play together. They are having fun."

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