Leechburg baseball wants more from WPIAL playoffs

Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 9:16 PM

For the first time in seven years, Leechburg got a taste of WPIAL postseason baseball last season when the Blue Devils qualified for Class A playoffs, losing to Jeannette, 2-0, in first-round play.

Leechburg finished 4-6 in Section 1, grabbing the fourth and final playoff berth. The Blue Devils were 4-11 overall.

That experience has whetted the appetite for more. The next step for the program would be to return and win a playoff game for the first time since 2001, when the Blue Devils defeated Chartiers-Houston in a preliminary round game 9-8.

Most of the current seniors at the school were born that year, such as pitcher/first baseman John Sorisio, who feels his team is poised to move up in the standings.

“I think so,” Sorisio said. “We lost a couple of good guys but a couple of other guys are ready to step up, so we should be ready to pick up where we left off, if not better.”

Gone is pitcher Corey Kerecz, now playing well as a freshman at Pitt-Greensburg.

Coach Bob Oberdorf, in his third go-around as Leechburg coach, might employ up to “six or seven pitchers this season.”

One of those will be senior Mario Leonard.

Said Leonard: “In pitching, a two-seamer and a curveball are my go-to pitches. I think we should be able to get at least seven wins, maybe five or six in section. We lost some powerhouses in the section, Eden Christian and Union. Having a new section teams and new competition, I think we’ll do well, even though we’ve not seen them before.”

Indeed, the biennial WPIAL realignment still has Leechburg in Class A but with some new opposition. Mainstay Vincentian, the 2016 state champ, returns, along with Springdale and St. Joseph. But Greensburg Central Catholic, a PIAA semifinalist the last two seasons, is in the Section 3-A now, along with Clairton.

“It’s about getting those wins at the right time,” Oberdorf said. “We have a lot of question marks.”

Ready to go is shortstop Jake Blumer, center fielder Roman Yurjevich and catcher Anthony Mangee, with sophomore Dalton Hamm serving as a backup.

At a small school, versatility is always a key.

Jacob Pochiba will pitch, play first base and left field. Logan Smith will play several infield positions, and senior Nathan Shinko will be in right field when he’s not pitching.

Oberdorf is determined to find a spot on the field for promising sophomore Cameron Curfman. Leechburg has 18 players out for the team, allowing for some junior varsity games.

“We have a couple of JV games scheduled already,” Oberdorf said. “Then there’s a tournament at West Shamokin on April 13. We’ll get at least two games in there.”

The Blue Devils begin the season March 25 against Apollo-Ridge at the West Leechburg field. Section play begins with a severe test April 8 at Greensburg Central followed by a home game two days later against Vincentian.

“If we play a good, solid baseball game, I think we can stick around with them,” Leonard said. “We’ve had struggles the last couple of years with fielding and errors. If we can play good defense, then we’ll be a good baseball team.”

Oberdorf’s son, Taylor, will serve as an assistant coach.


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