Westmoreland high school baseball notebook: Ligonier Valley closes in on playoff spot

Thursday, May 6, 2021 | 5:28 PM

Ligonier Valley is on the verge of securing a playoff spot in its first season playing in the WPIAL.

The Rams, who had a strong program in District 6 before joining a new league last year, were playing .500 baseball (7-7, 4-4 Section 3-3A) at midweek.

Coach Brett Marabito said there are no nights off in District 7.

“Life has definitely been different playing here in the WPIAL,” he said. “Every game is a grind, and you have to be physically and especially mentally prepared to compete. It has been a good change of pace for us as we’ve been playing some great teams, and our kids are especially growing as ballplayers as a result.”

Marabito said he hopes to develop some rivalries as play moves forward. Playing back-to-back section games on consecutive days has been an adjustment for not only the Rams, but also the entire WPIAL. The new format has drawn mixed reviews, but many coaches like it.

“It’s great, but it has also been tough to manage with pitching, and we are an especially young team without a lot of work not having the winter to prepare as we usually have,” Marabito said.

Nick Beitel (.452), Haden Sierocky (.395) and Connor Tunstall (.353) had the top three averages on the team, with Sierocky scoring 16 runs and driving in 13, Beitel scoring 18 and Tunstall knocking in 10.

Grant Dowden had two homers and 16 RBIs.

Jake Bleehash had three pitching wins, and Beitel had two. The pair had been tied with 25 strikeouts each.

In District 6, teams played under a points system to make the playoffs. In the WPIAL, the top four teams in each section qualify based on their record.

“Every single game mattered in terms of playoff qualification because of the points system,” Marabito said. “Now we are able to play nonsection games and not have to worry about the win meaning much for playoff contention. Of course we are going out with the intention to win every game, but being able to focus the top end of our pitching staff on section games makes it a lot nicer. The freedom to be able to play up in classification to become a better team and face some good competition is a great advantage to that format, as well.”

Who’s in?

At the beginning of the week, five Westmoreland teams had secured spots in the WPIAL playoffs: Norwin and Hempfield in Class 6A; Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford in 5A; and Greensburg Central Catholic in A.

Whalen joining ‘The Hill’

Norwin junior Jack Whalen gave a verbal commitment to play for one of the nation’s top Division II programs, Seton Hill. An outfielder for the Knights, Whalen is a middle infielder during the travel season with Flood City Elite.

Whalen is the 13th player on the current Knights roster to commit to a college program.

Let’s play two

Yough and Southmoreland will play a Section 4-3A doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. Friday at Yough. Rainy weather forced the teams to postpone their initial game Monday.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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