Leechburg baseball not satisfied with just WPIAL playoff spot

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Sunday, March 15, 2020 | 6:03 PM


After making the WPIAL baseball playoffs each of the past two seasons, Leechburg would like to break out of the 2-0 mold.

The Blue Devils have lost opening-round playoff games to Jeannette and Quigley by 2-0 scores.

Leechburg finished last season 5-5 in Section 3-A play, 7-10 overall.

“We can get into the playoffs. We can compete, but we’ve lost 2-0 the past two years,” Blue Devils coach Bob Oberdorf said. “We’ve played higher-seeded teams, of course, but we’ve got to score some runs. We have to play some small ball or something.”

To get back to the postseason, maybe even with a higher seed, Leechburg will look to improve its fourth-place mark.

For the Blue Devils, it all starts behind the plate, where senior Anthony Mangee is expected to be a team leader.

“Defensively, I think he’s one of the better catchers around,” Oberdorf said. “He’s going to keep us in games with his defense. His presence behind the plate, his arm, I believe he threw out the last three runners who tried to steal on him last year.”

Said Mangee: “I think we’re going to be pretty good. We’ve got a lot of good young people coming up. We have most of starters coming back. We can be solid.”

Another returning starter will experience a change in position. Senior Jake Blumer will move from shortstop to center field.

Cam Curfman was Leechburg’s leading hitter last season as a sophomore, and the Blue Devils are hoping he can pick up where he left off. He can pitch, play the outfield and can play at first base.

Senior Jake Pochiba pitched well last season, keeping Leechburg close in the playoff game.

“He’s not overbearing with his speed,” Oberdorf said of Pochiba. “He’s had great success as a left-hander getting ahead of the hitters and keeping us in games.”

Junior Dalton Hamm returns to play right field.

Sophomore Eli Rich is battling for a position, along with DeVaughn Knight, another left-handed pitcher.

Another left-hander, freshman Logan Cline, will pitch and could see some action as a baseball rarity — a left-handed catcher.

Freshmen Owen McDermott and Braden Turiak might also throw some innings.

Mangee is impressed with some of the youngsters.

“A lot of them have been playing since they were young and have been playing AAU ball where they’ll see faster pitching,” Mangee said. “I feel they’ll be prepared for high school.”

Oberdorf’s son, Taylor, will be the assistant coach.

Leechburg was supposed to open the season March 24 against Riverview, but with the state order closing schools, the next two weeks appear to be by the boards.

The Blue Devils’ section opener April 6 at home against Greensburg Central Catholic might be played.

Vincentian is the defending section champion. The McCandless school will close at the end of the year, so the Royals will pull out all stops to make their final year a memorable one.

Other section foes include Springdale, St. Joseph and Clairton.

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