Carter Lehman didn’t count on playing in the AAABA League this season.
As the stretch run begins, the right-hander who wasn’t supposed to pitch has a 7-0 record for second-place Delweld.
“Early on our staff wasn’t so deep,” Delweld manager Chris DelSignore said. “We brought in Carter after the season started.”
Delweld started slow but is rolling as the playoffs approach.
The team had a 12-game winning streak that was snapped by first-place Martella’s Pharmacy on Sunday. The two league leaders have had a tight season series, with Delweld taking a 5-4 edge over Martella’s.
The turnaround might not have been possible had it not been for the late addition of Lehman.
“We had signed Carter the last couple years,” DelSignore said. “We ended up having to release him last year because he had some arm problems. He went up to the Mount (Aloysius) and pitched and had a solid year. It was one of those things where we had some guys who weren’t healthy early on. (Delweld shortstop-pitcher) George Roberts was still playing in the playoffs in school. We needed guys to pitch. I called Carter. He’s been with us before and I wanted to give him another opportunity. He jumped at the chance and we’re happy he’s with us.”
Lehman played at Shanksville High School, batting .510 with five homers and going 6-3 with 74 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. But an elbow injury during his junior season cut short his scholastic career.
He was tabbed to join Delweld’s staff but the arm wasn’t better last season. This spring, he made a comeback as a freshman at Mount Aloysius.
His numbers (1-4, 9.78 ERA in 12 appearances) weren’t spectacular, though he played on a sub-.500 squad with a team ERA of 8.36.
More important to Lehman was how his arm felt after the spring season.
“Last year I started throwing a little bit,” Lehman said. “In college this year I started to get back to where I used to be.”
“He called me up one day and I didn’t expect it,” Lehman said. “He said, ‘Can you come down and sign with the team?’ I was down that night. He asked, ‘How’s your arm?’ I said, ‘I feel fine.’ I had been throwing in college all year. He told me I’d be starting the next day. I came down the next day and started.”
He tossed a three-hitter while striking out six and walking none in an 11-1 win over Roxberry Creamery on June 3 and hasn’t slowed down.
“He just goes out there and throws strikes. He’s not overpowering,” DelSignore said. “He does everything we ask of him. He’s answered the bell every time. He’s very confident when he takes the mound and we have 100 percent confidence in him when he takes the ball.
“He changes speeds and he’s effective in doing so. That is his secret. He keeps guys off-balance and uses his defense behind him. He doesn’t try to do too much. He doesn’t try to strike everybody out.”
Lehman, 19, appreciates the second opportunity.
“Baseball has been my life since I was little,” he said. “Whenever you can’t play, it really hurts you.”
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Slammin’ Sam: Martella’s four-year starter Sam Watkins is having another big season.
Watkins had 39 hits in 31 games, ripping five doubles, two triples and five homers through Wednesday. He also scored 41 runs and drove in 31.
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Numbers: Martella’s Mike LeViseur is batting .516 with 32 hits in 62 at-bats entering the week. ... Principle’s Matt Donaldson had a team-best .364 average with 32 hits, 17 RBIs and 22 runs. He had 10 doubles, a triple and a homer. ... Alex Buccilli topped Roxberry with a .310 average in 58 at-bats. He had 18 hits with a homer. ... Martella’s had six pitchers with three or more victories, including Scott Dixon with a 5-1 record.
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Milestone: The AAABA League and sports teams throughout the region lost a friend – one of the true good guys – when Gary Friedman of Johnstown died on Sunday after a battle with cancer.
Friedman had been an umpire in the AAABA League and other baseball leagues before being stricken with the illness about two years ago.
He also was a PIAA and Tri-County umpire and officiated basketball games. Additionally, Gary announced peewee football games and high school hockey games.
Friedman was known in the hockey arena as an off-ice official for local high school teams at Cambria County War Memorial and for the ECHL’s former Johnstown Chiefs team.
Those of us who knew Gary appreciated his sense of humor and quick wit – not to mention his carrying a tune or dancing to ‘oldies’ while working the penalty box during Chiefs games.
While sympathies go out to the Friedman’s wife of 41 years, Jean Marie, and family, there was some good news. Friedman’s son, Jeff, and daughter-in-law, Dana, welcomed a baby daughter on Wednesday.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.