BP Legion

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

The members of the Bethel Park Post 760 team are, front, from left, Nick Gasper, Gianni Magnotti, Ray Altmeyer, Isaac Solarzano, Anthony Moreno, Josh Clunnan, Will Sikora; back, coach Dan DLeo, head coach Jack Svitek, Nathan Sokira, Ed Counihan, Nick Calano, Max Rich, Evan Holewinski, Andrew Kvak, Aiden McKenzie, coach Austin Carrozza, Ben Hudson, Jack Ednar and coach Bailey Fertig.

The Bethel Park Hawks defeated Penn-Trafford 5-1 at Haymaker Park in Murrysville to capture the Westmoreland County 16U Baseball League championship.

Bethel Park pitcher Josh Clunan dominated until being forced to exit the game with a back injury. He allowed two hits over four shutout innings.

Will Sokira came on in relief for the Hawks and scattered three hits and allowed one run over three innings.

Issac Solorzano had two hits and scored a run for the Hawks, while Ben Hudson drove in a pair of runs with two singles and Ray Altmeyer added two singles and three RBI.

Shortstop Evan Holewinski and Hudson, at second base, helped bring home the victory behind their pitchers.

“They had a couple of momentous double plays and we committed one error, one more than we’d like,” said BP manager Jake Svitek. “Our pitching was excellent and our No. 3 and No. 4 hitters did their job, driving in all of our runs with clutch hits.”

The Hawks finished 15-0 in what used to be called Super Colt or Junior American Legion league. There was no American Legion or Colt League competition in the South Hills area this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Baldwin, Riverview, Murrysville and Smithfield also competed in the Westmoreland League.

“We enjoyed this league a lot,” Svitek said. “It required a little bit of travel, but there were great teams in the league.”

The team is in its second season and does welcome players from outside Bethel Park if a neighboring community does not sponsor a team.

Mt. Lebanon native Aiden McKenzie hit .364 over two season for Bethel Park and often filled a key roster spot as an extra hitter or right fielder.

“He was a great kid to have on the team,” Svitek said. “He was our biggest breakthrough performer by far.”

The Hawks defeated Riverview in the opening round of the tournament beofre knocking off Penn-Trafford in the semifinals and finals.

“We hung in there every game,” explained Svitek. “We had fantastic pitching and we showed huge improvement at the plate. Our bats came around this year. We limited errors because we had a couple of standouts on defense.”

Bethel Park was eliminated in the first round of the same tournament last summer, but Svitek said the maturation of his players put the Hawks over the top this time around.

“The was our second year together and we had some big additions. A few new names on the roster. The kids developed a lot,” he said. “They worked hard in practices, but they also had fun.”

Clunan posted a 0.93 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 20 innings for the Hawks. He also batted .509.

Hudson added a .500 average and two round home runs.

Nick Gasper batted .402 and had the most at bats behind only Sokira, who finished with a .385 average.

Sokira also led the team in stolen bases and played “lights out” in the outfield, Svitek said.

Max Rich hit .342 and third baseman Gianni Magnotti committed only one error. He started every game.

Hawks catcher Nick Calano minimized opponents’ stolen bases with a great glove, strong arm and handled the pitching staff well, calling every pitch, Svitek said.

Andrew Kvak excelled with two hits and a run-saving putout at the plate in the first-round playoff win against Riverview.

Altmeyer, Holewinski and Jack Edner joined the team late in the season. Newcomers to the team also included Hudson, Ed Counihan, Nathan Sokira and Anthony Morneo

Altmeyer batted .463. He hit a go-ahead home run in his first game with the Hawks and provided “stellar” defense filling in behind the plate and in right field, Svitek said.

“Ray showed an exceptional level of hustle and understanding of the game both on and off the field,” Svitek said.

Holewinski also provided key innings at shortstop and on the mound. He gave up one earned run in 10 innings and had key hits.

Edner was the “ultimate” utility guy, playing in the infield and outfield Svitek said. He also got a mound win over Murrysville in late-July.

Counihan had an errorless season in the outfield while Sokira was the ultimate team player.

Svitek’s assistant coaches were Bailey Fertig, Austin Carrozza and Dan Deleo.

“I can’t express how I have loved getting to know these players,” Svitek said. “It was a pleasure for myself and the other coaches. We gained more from this than the kids. It was a great learning experience.”

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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