The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 23, 2013

CORY ISENBERG | Wooden bats make big impact on Legion

JOHNSTOWN — All one has to know about wooden bat usage in the Cambria American Legion this season is that statistics don’t lie.

Near the midway point of the 2013 season, the impact of the wooden bat is especially noticeable in the categories of home runs and earned run averages, which are both down compared to previous years.

According to the league’s website, only four home runs have been reported and no one has hit multiple home runs..

The home run hitters with one each are Mark Mardula of Lilly, Michael Mock of Claysburg, John Sheesley of Cernic’s and Eric Grace of Bedford.

“Wooden bats, I think the kids are learning to hit the ball,” Patton manager Ray Eckenrode said on Wednesday after the Red Men defeated Portage. “A metal bat, a high pitch you get the barrel on it and it flies. They are learning now that you can’t go after high pitches because you are going to fly out or pop up and it’s an education for them because they’ve been using metal bats for most of their careers. Sixteen of our 18 kids have played some wooden-bat baseball, but it’s certainly a whole different ball game swinging with a wooden bat and getting used to what pitches to swing at.”

The Red Men also have the top three in the RBI department led by Josh Bonatesta with 12. Adam Polites has 11 and Josh Serafin has 10. Kasy Hamm of Claysburg and Troy Templeton of Ebensburg round out the top five with nine each.

Patton’s Jarid Ivory has three triples with 12 others having one each.

The doubles leaders are Dom Milanesi of Patton and Joseph Donoughe of St. Michael with five apiece. Jared Baker of St. Michael, Templeton and Bonatesta all have four doubles while Sheesley, Ivory, Caleb Palko of Ebensburg, and Brenden Bowser and Eric Costea of Somerset all have two doubles.

“The wooden bats have gotten us back to basics with bunting and running,” St. Michael manager Denny Gramling said.

North Division-leader Patton has three pitchers among the ERA leaders led by Brandon Fox at 0.32. Charles Miller of Portage’s Serenko Funeral Home is second with a 0.51 followed by Patton’s Andrew Brawley (0.64) and Nathan Bearer (0.91). St. Michael’s Jared Baker (1.27) rounds out the top five.

Fox also has the league lead in wins with four. Ryan Orlovsky of Richland, Bailey Kerch of Portage, Josh Prasko of Patton and Templeton all have three wins.

Miller is the saves leader with two while Gavin Oswalt of St. Michael, Zachary Cox of Claysburg, Simon Itle of Lilly, Brandon Fesko of Richland and Ethan Keefer of Somerset all have one save.

The three division races are tight at the midpoint.

In the North, Patton is 12-2 after a sweep of Cernic’s on Sunday, building its lead over second-place nemesis Ebensburg, which travels to Patton for a game on Tuesday and another on Wednesday.

St. Michael remains a half-game ahead of Portage in the Central Division, with both teams squaring off again on Tuesday.

In the South, Bedford is 11-1, a game ahead of 9-1 Claysburg.

Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat