One of the area's premier youth baseball teams is having another busy and successful summer campaign. The West Hills Show, a 14-under travel team, has piled up tournament trophies once again this summer.
The same core group of players who won a major youth tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park in New York two years ago as the Beaver Valley Black U12 won a United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Super NIT in Sterling Heights, Mich., to qualify for the USSSA World Series last year as the West Hills Show U13.
This year as the West Hills Show U14, the group repeated, winning the 32-team tournament in Sterling Heights, Mich., to once again qualify for the USSSA World Series in Orlando, Fla.
Unlike last year, the team passed on the World Series and instead competed in a prestigious Triple Crown Summer National tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"There are 62 teams at the Myrtle Beach tournament, a lot of great teams from the southeast," Show coach Tim Zeroski said before the team departed. "We already did Disney last year."
The West Hills Show earned the No. 9 seed in the 26-team field after two games of group play.
In the knockout rounds, the team won three consecutive games to reach the championship game where it ran into Sports Zone Express, another local team based out of Beaver. Sports Zone Express came away with a 7-1 win to claim the tournament championship.
The tournament wrapped up the summer for the group.
A year ago the team finished the summer 74-10. This summer the team entered the Myrtle Beach tournament with a 43-8 record.
"These kids are pretty serious about it," Zeroski said.
The accomplishments this summer are highlighted by the 28-team Super NIT win in Sterling Heights along with a 36-team Beast of the East tournament over the July 4 weekend in Wheeling, W.Va..
At a 48-team Perfect Game Invitational tournament near Atlanta, Ga., the West Hills Show had a strong performance in group play.
They tied the Central Florida Gators, 1-1, in the first game before losing their second game to a team from Georgia. In the third pool-play game, the Show defeated the 643 Tigers, one of the premier teams in the southeast, 9-2. Despite beating the Tigers, the Show lost a tiebreaker to them and did not advance past pool play. The 643 Tigers went on to win the tournament title.
The team is made up of players from all over the Greater Pittsburgh area who are about to entire their freshmen or sophomore years of high school.
Michael Collins will be a sophomore next year at Seneca Valley. He was one of the top hitters on the team and he was the starting catcher. Zach Mancz was another top bat in the lineup. He provided a left-handed power bat in the middle of the order. Mancz will be a freshman at Penn-Trafford.
Alex Osborn, an Avonworth freshman, was another middle-of-the-order hitter and the team's starting right fielder..
The pitching staff was composed of Ian Hess, a rising freshman at Canon-McMillan, Connor Johnsen, a rising freshman at West Allegheny, Cameron Pies, a rising freshman at Montour, Steve Twardy, a rising sophomore at West Allegheny and McKeesport resident Nathan Piontka, a freshman at Serra Catholic in the fall.
Pies also played in the outfield while Piontka played shortstop when he wasn't pitching and batted leadoff. Twardy was the ace of the staff. He fired a seven-inning perfect game this summer at the Buckeye Elite tournament in Columbus against Ohio Elite. He is a left-handed pitcher. Johnsen is another rising star who is already throwing 83 mph.
Josh Trautman is a big left-handed cleanup hitter playing at first base. He lives in the Avonworth School District but will go to Central Catholic in the fall as a freshman.
Two other players from West Allegheny, Justin Usenicnik and Trey Zeroski, also start. Usenicnik, a rising sophomore, played catcher and first base. Trey Zeroski, the son of coach Tim Zeroski, played second base. He will be a freshman at West Allegheny in the fall.