2013-07-25 / Front Page

Legion Team Wins First-Ever Baseball Title

Advanced to regional tournament
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
NEWS EDITOR


American Legion Post 561 McConnellsburg team, bottom row, left: Justin Welsh, Casey Elbin, Jesse Swope, Colton Strait, Zane Baker, Dylan Everts, Logan Little, Brandon Beam; standing: assistant coach Greg Strait, Dillon Lashley, Tristan Gelvin, Connor Litton, Ryan Koontz, Landon Richards, Jordan Clingerman, Brayden Litton, Casey Wade, Kyle Schoen, head coach Robert Koontz and team mascot George Lashley. Not pictured is J.T. Barnard. American Legion Post 561 McConnellsburg team, bottom row, left: Justin Welsh, Casey Elbin, Jesse Swope, Colton Strait, Zane Baker, Dylan Everts, Logan Little, Brandon Beam; standing: assistant coach Greg Strait, Dillon Lashley, Tristan Gelvin, Connor Litton, Ryan Koontz, Landon Richards, Jordan Clingerman, Brayden Litton, Casey Wade, Kyle Schoen, head coach Robert Koontz and team mascot George Lashley. Not pictured is J.T. Barnard. “It’s been a journey,” said American Legion Post 561 Mc- Connellsburg baseball team head coach Robert Koontz of his team’s performance during the 2013 summer season.

On Monday, Koontz and assistant coach Greg Strait, along with their roster of 18 young men representing the Central Fulton, Forbes Road, Southern Fulton and Southern Huntingdon school districts, wrapped up what has been the best season in the team’s history that spans 31 years.

Closing out the season with an overall record of 17-8, the team not only secured its very first Franklin County American Legion League title but also played three tough games as part of the Region IV Tournament over the course of the last week.

The journey referenced by Koontz was filled with ups and downs, many hard-fought victories and several heart-wrenching losses that will serve as life lessons.

However, none may be as memorable as the four back-toback games played against big competitors from Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Greencastle and Fayetteville. Their hardwork paid off as this team of all-stars not only managed a three-way tie for first place but then downed Fayetteville 5-3 for its first-ever Franklin County title last Wednesday night.

“They got to see what big-boy baseball was all about ... . That was a great run right there,” said Koontz.

Coincidentally, the last Mc- Connellsburg team to ever challenge a Franklin County team for the title was in 1983. Koontz was among the players taking the field for then-manager Kirk Cover and was noted for having connected for a two-run homer as the team’s cleanup batter. Since that time, Koontz’s knowledge of baseball has served him well as he has played at various levels, including college, and coached multiple teams, including Legion and travelling teams.

Koontz boasted of his pride for this title-winning team, pointing out how they came together from opposing, competitive school districts and still worked together as a successful unit.

Pure dedication exhibited by the players was one reason the team was so successful this year. From their roster totalling 18 kids, Koontz said, the least amount of participation was 13 kids. Most game nights 16 to 17 boys lined the dugout bench, a difficult feat for any summer team given vacations and participation on travelling teams.

“We fielded a quality team every night. There was not one particular standout on the team. Whether you came off the bench or never left the field, everyone contributed,” said the head coach.

“We had a good crop of good ballplayers this year,” he added. “We had solid pitching. Pitching that could overcome the teams from larger areas.”

Star pitching for American Legion Post 561 McConnellsburg this summer included Brayden Litton, Connor Litton, J.T. Barnard, Tristan Gelvin, Casey Wade, Casey Elbin and Jordan Clingerman.

With the league title in their pocket, the team travelled to Hanover Saturday, Sunday and Monday to participate in the Region IV American Legion Baseball Tourney. McConnellsburg faltered in its first pairing of the tournament against Red Land, who swept the game with nine unanswered runs. In Sunday’s elimination game, Mc- Connellsburg redeemed themselves in a 9-2 win over Hershey.

On Monday, the season came to an end against Spring Grove, which was touted by Koontz as having an amazing lead lineup. The teams battled it out throughout the playoff game, often times only separated by one or two runs, turning it into a pitching battle between Spring Grove’s Nick Spangler and Mc- Connellsburg’s Connor Litton. Litton was joined on the mound Monday by Elbin and Brayden Litton.

Closing out the game with a 5-3 loss, Koontz and his team took the defeat in stride knowing they’ll be coming back next year bigger and better with having only lost several teammates.

“It was a good ride,” he said.

In the end, Koontz stated none of the team’s achievements would have been possible without the financial and moral support of the officials at Post 561. “They are the first people I’d like to thank. Without the Legion’s generosity, it wouldn’t be possible for us to operate a team,” he said.

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