Senior spotlight: Keystone Oaks ace headed to Akron after giving WPIAL hitters fits

Monday, April 13, 2020 | 6:01 AM

Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight a WPIAL spring athlete whose senior year has been cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

For left-handed batters in Section 3-3A, there was a silver lining in last week’s announcement that the PIAA had canceled spring sports.

They won’t have to try to get a hit off Keystone Oaks ace lefty Sam Tortorella anymore.

Keystone Oaks had a breakthrough season last year. After winning a total of 10 games the two previous seasons combined, the Golden Eagles went 13-4 and won a section title with an 11-1 record.

Tortorella, who struck out 88 in 46 innings last season, credited first-year coach Nick Kamberis for much of the turnaround. He also praised the work ethic of his teammates.

“We were always practicing, even before the season, non-mandatory,” Tortorella said. “We were lifting, a lot of kids getting stronger. We were excited to get into the season.”

With his senior season wiped out, Tortorella will turn his attention to his college career. He committed to Akron in February.

He said he goes to a field near his house with his dad to throw off a mound about once a week.

What’s your best memory playing baseball for Keystone Oaks?

Last year, I threw a perfect game, 14 Ks (against Washington). That’s probably the best memory of my high school career.

What’s your strikeout pitch?

My curveball probably gets the most whiffs on, but it depends on what I did to get to two strikes, I guess.

What’s your best memory as a sports fan?

Back to back Stanley Cups for the Penguins. That was a good time. A lot of wins.

Who would you say is your school’s biggest rival?

For KO, it’s always been Seton LaSalle. In baseball, they’re not in our section, but we usually get a game in. It’s just the rival school.

What’s the best way to avoid boredom when stuck at home?

Staying in shape, definitely. Playing some video games. Shooting hoops in the back.

Why did you pick Akron?

I have a lot of family and in Ohio. It’s a great campus, great facilities. The coaches are all nice. It just seemed like a great place to be.

What do you plan to study?

I was going into the engineering program, something in that field. That’s what I got accepted into.

If you could pick anyone to give a commencement speech at your graduation, who would it be?

The late, great Kobe Bryant. Such a great talent.

If you were asked to give a speech, what advice would you give to underclassmen, whether it’s about sports or school?

Definitely cherish it. Out of nowhere, pandemic strikes and now it’s gone. At least for now. If you want to be serious and get better, you’ve got to practice and hit the weights and keep your body in shape.

Jonathan Bombulie is the TribLive assistant sports editor. A Greensburg native, he was a hockey reporter for two decades, covering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for 17 seasons before joining the Trib in 2015 and covering the Penguins for four seasons, including Stanley Cup championships in 2016-17. He can be reached at


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