The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 17, 2013

MIKE MASTOVICH| Hot times for two AAABA League teams

Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — Two AAABA League franchises have heated up as the temperatures soared this month.

The Berkley Hills Renegades beat First Commonwealth 11-1 on Wednesday, the defending champs’ seventh consecutive victory.

Manager Larry McCabe’s team has won 11 of its past 12 games and now has a 22-12 record, good for second place and 31⁄2 games behind league-leading Delweld.

Even after a 7-1 loss to frontrunner Delweld on Wednesday, Laurel Auto Group still had 10 wins in its past 13 games. Manager Mark Thomchick’s squad is 20-13 overall, a significant improvement for a franchise that posted 14 wins in 2012.

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20-something: Four of the six local AAABA League teams have 20-plus victories this season. The balance was a positive development.

Entering Wednesday night’s games, Delweld (24-8), Berkley Hills Renegades (21-12), Martella’s Pharmacy (20-12) and Laurel Auto Group (20-12) had combined for 85 wins.

Delweld and Martella’s Pharmacy (Johnstown Grays) have been at the top of the standings for more than a decade. Last summer, the Berkley Hills Renegades broke through by winning the regular-season and playoff titles.

The depth bodes well for the league. The tough competition should prepare the local teams for the AAABA Tournament.

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Two for five: Martella’s Pharmacy had two pitchers atop the win list entering this week. Both Mike Mulvey and Derek Younker began the week with five wins.

Younker won his sixth game on Monday night against Ophthalmic Associates. Younker and Tim Mulvey combined for a no-hitter in that 11-0 victory according to Martella’s scorebook. Ophthalmic manager Jason Kaminsky said his book had credited his home team with an infield single that was ruled an error in the Martella’s book.

Either way, Younker and Tim Mulvey combined for an impressive outing.

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Power surge: The Renegades smacked three home runs in Wednesday’s mercy-rule win over First Commonwealth at Roxbury Park. John Jones had a grand slam homer, and Rick Jones and Brett Marabito each had solo shots.

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Baltimore legacy: Vincent J. Leone, one of the three Leone brothers who in 1952 founded the baseball program that now is Youse’s Maryland Orioles of Baltimore in the AAABA, died on Saturday. The AAABA Hall of Famer was 91.

In 1952, Vincent Leone and his brothers Dominic and Tony began sponsoring Leone’s Baseball, a franchise that evolved into one of the top amateur programs on the East Coast and produced many powerhouse Baltimore AAABA Tournament teams under the banners of Leone’s, Johnny’s Auto Sales, Corrigan’s Insurance and Youse’s.

From 1952 to 1972, the Leone brothers sponsored a franchise that produced future major league  stars such as Al Kaline and Reggie Jackson.

The Leones actually brought the Maryland State franchise to Johnstown during their first three tournaments from 1952 to 1955. In 1957, with Baltimore, Leone’s Cafe won a AAABA Tournament championship and put a trend into motion.

In 21 seasons, Leone’s teams collected 1,365 wins and 189 losses, an average of 68.2 wins a year.

Not surprisingly, Leone’s won four AAABA Tournament titles and finished as runner-up three times during that span, building the foundation for a franchise that has captured a tournament-best 28 championships.

The AAABA Hall of Fame inducted the Leone brothers in 2006. Vincent was the last surviving brother.

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Top bat: Wins have been scarce for first-year AAABA League franchise First Commonwealth Bank.

But manager Jim McMillen’s team has produced some solid individual performances.

Luke Trotz qualified as the league’s leading hitter this week with a .480 batting average, including one homer.

The Berkley Hills Renegades’ Jason Shirley had held the top spot and still is batting .458, but he missed the minimum cut of 55 at-bats. Shirley is 22-for-48.

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Packed house: Johnstown Oldtimers President George Arcurio III said 54 of 60 tables have been sold to the 20th annual AAABA Hall of Fame banquet on Aug. 3 at the Pasquerilla Conference Center.

“We’re nearing a sellout,” Arcurio said. “Once again, it’s shaping up to be a great event.”

Former Pittsburgh Pirates player, coach and manager Bill Virdon will be the featured speaker. Virdon played on the Pirates’ 1960 World Series championship team and was an coach on the 1971 World Series champs. In addition to the Pirates, Virdon managed the Yankees, Astros and Expos.

The Class of 2013 includes: Ross Kott (Johnstown); Joe Scaletta (Johnstown); Len DiForte (Chicago Metro); and twins John O’Brien and Ed O’Brien (South Amboy, N.J.).