West Xtra: New Brighton stays on upswing in league
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Last summer was a big step for the New Brighton Post 19 American Legion baseball team.
After countless sub-par seasons, New Brighton fielded one of its most competitive teams, finished as the Beaver County League runner-up and made a surprising run in the Region 6 tournament.
"There were many years the team won only a few games," fifth-year manager Whitey Debo said. "We've been improving every year and we're doing well now, but when I first took over the team it was pretty rough.
"Last year was very good and we're happy about that."
Last season, New Brighton beat Beaver Falls in the semifinals of the county playoffs before losing to Blackhawk in the championship series.
Post 19 still earned a trip to the Region 6 tournament and even stunned No. 1-seed Shaler of the Allegheny County League in the first round. New Brighton, however, faced Shaler again and lost in later-round action and finished its season with an 18-10 record.
"I'm hoping the younger kids in the Colt League take notice of what we've been able to do at this level for the past two years," Debo said. "We want the younger kids to continue their baseball efforts and continue to have a successful program."
New Brighton (11-4) continued its course into this year and completed its regular-season schedule with a 9-7 loss to Blackhawk on Saturday.
"We fell short against Blackhawk, but we're hoping we do much better in the playoffs," Debo said.
Defending league champion Blackhawk entered this week 11-3 but still had one game to play against River City (7-4). River City is the newest addition to the league, combining players from both Riverside and Ellwood City, and still had even more games to play before the league's playoffs were scheduled to start this past Tuesday.
River City's game against Blackhawk and both teams' overall records would determine which team would capture the West Division title as well as earn the No. 1 seed and first-round bye in the league playoffs. Hopewell (10-4) won the East Division title, ahead of Ambridge-Baden (3-10) and Center-Monaca (2-10), to earn the No. 2 seed.
Debo returned 10 members of last year's team and was able to fill his roster with players from the surrounding communities.
"Beaver Falls wasn't able to field a team this year and Freedom-Rochester decided not to have a team a week before the season," Debo said.
"We were able to follow Legion rules and contact some other players. We had to come up with 18 players, but some of the guys playing for us from other areas also played for us last year."
"It's a good mix of kids. Everyone gets along and just wants to play baseball."
While half of Debo's team attends New Brighton High School, the other half represents a variety of nearby school districts.
Pitcher Jordan Ransome, second baseman John Horvatch, catcher Cole Krut and second baseman Dustyn Monroe are all from Beaver Falls. Center fielder/pitcher Alente Johnson and outfielder Todd Weischedel both attend Rochester and played for Debo last season. Second baseman/pitcher Franzee Barlamas is from Freedom, third baseman/pitcher Jake Debo attends Quigley Catholic, pitcher Nolan Lamont goes to South Side Beaver and outfielder Robert Strang is from Riverside. Jake Debo is a grandson of the coach.
"We've been playing well and we hope to keep that up," said Debo, who has his son, Walt Debo, and Brian Lambert on his coaching staff. "We have a really good defensive team and the guys have been hitting well enough for us to win."
Post 19 entered the playoffs batting .370 as a team and was averaging 8.3 runs a game.
Shortstop Brian Circle batted .542 through the regular season, while pitcher Ed Emes was hitting .439 with two home runs. Debo also was pleased with the offensive production from both Barlamas and Tyler Brelloch.
Pitching, however, has been reason for New Brighton's success this season.
"Just about every kid on the team can pitch," Debo said. "We've used seven different pitchers in seven games."
Debo expects Emes to play a bigger role as the staff ace in the playoffs. He, however, also is confident in handing the ball off to Chuck Zahn, Bob Reina, Jake Debo, Johnson, Barlamas, Ransome, Lamont, Circle or Reina.
The Beaver County League semifinals are scheduled for July 8 with the five-game championship series to follow July 13. The winner of the county championship advances to the Region 6 tournament July 21, which will be played on the CCAC-Boyce campus in Monroeville.
"We're going to need good pitching," Debo said. "As long as we have good pitching, keep the team together and keep getting hits at the right time, we'll stay competitive."
First Published July 6, 2012 12:00 am