West Xtra: Beaver County Legion champ Blackhawk ends season in Region 6 semifinals
July 31, 2014 12:00 AM
Hopewell's Mike Michalko tags out Blackhawk's Tom Piccione at home plate during a game in the Beaver County League championship series. Blackhawk won the series, three games to one.
By Drew Karpen / Tri-State Sports & News Service
Another season is in the books and it's another Beaver County championship for the Blackhawk American Legion team.
Since 2001, Blackhawk has been the number one team in the county nine times, all under manager Bob Amalia.
"We couldn't have done it without my assistants Drew Wolber, Joe Basile, Jim Kotts and Ryan Verlihay," Amalia said. "I am very fortunate to have these assistants.
"It's always more special when you do it with a team where every player comes from your community. We have had a lot of success with our kids. I try to build for our program and I have loyalty to our kids."
The main reason Amalia was able to get most of the kids from the high school team to play is that he is also the Blackhawk varsity coach as well. Amalia just finished his 27th year managing the Legion team and has served double duty as the high school coach the past 15 years.
"I think [coaching both teams] is a big plus," Amalia said. "We have had success, so most kids want to play on the team. They have the opportunity to play in the regionals and the state. Also, the continuity of the coaches is important."
Blackhawk finished the season 21-6, losing in the Region 6 semifinal to eventual champion West Mifflin.
To get to that point, Blackhawk won its tournament opener, 6-1, against Monroeville. After a 9-7 loss to Uniontown, it dropped into the losers bracket before winning possibly the game of the tournament, 14-13, against Hopewell in 13 innings.
A few of the regulars from the high school team stepped up in the late-season push for Blackhawk, especially Rich Rowe, Hunter Alexander, Joe Campagna and Adam Robinson.
"Rich [Rowe] won the first game against Monroeville and pitched five innings in relief on a days rest and got the win against Hopewell," Amalia said.
"Hunter [Alexander] stepped up big time. He was part-time in high school. He threw out a ton of guys in the four games in the regionals.
"Against Hopewell, Joe Campagna had game-tying hits in the ninth and 11th and the game-winning hit in 13th. Adam [Robinson] had clutch hits in those innings as well."
To get to the regionals, Blackhawk rolled through the Beaver County tournament, despite the absence of pitching ace Brendan McKay for the final rounds of the tournament.
"He missed the second round of the county championship on," Amalia said. "The last game he pitched before he went to school was a no-hitter against Beaver Falls with 13 strikeouts."
In the county championship round, Blackhawk beat Hopewell, three games to one in the best-of-five series, but it was game one that set the tone. Down by a run entering the final inning, Blackhawk scored two runs with two outs and no one on base.
"Hopewell is an outstanding team," Amalia said. "It was a good series. Adam [Robinson] hit a double with two outs and two strikes and Rich [Rowe] had a two-out, two-strike hit that tied the game. Then Joe [Campagna] won the game with a hit. It set the tone for the rest of the series."
Blackhawk finished a step back from their results last year when they won the Region 6 tournament, beating West Mifflin, 6-0, in the finals. It advanced to the state tournament in Boyertown where it went 1-2.
Blackhawk will have the majority of its players returning next season, with three seniors on the roster who are eligible to play with the age limit requirement being 19 years old for legion.
"The three seniors, Rich [Rowe], Duncan [Miklos] and Forrest [Beighley]were starters and had a tremendous year and provided tremendous leadership," Amalia said. "I can't say enough about Rowe and his leadership."
Also making big impacts late in the season were Miklos on the mound and Dante Parente with his bat.
In a community that thrives off baseball, the Blackhawk area couldn't have been happier with the results of its high school and Legion teams.
"I was real pleased with what we accomplished," Amalia said. "We had four starters during the high school season who didn't play for us. Brendan [McKay] had to leave in the second round of the Beaver County playoffs for school. A lot of young kids stepped up, which is good for the future.
"A lot of the elder people in the community have been coming to Legion baseball forever. I try to tell these kids that these people are expecting us to put on a show for them. It is big in our community."
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