LEGION BASEBALL: Horn leads Fort Washington past Jenkintown for Lower Montco Legion title

Fort Washington wins first championship since 2014

By Andrew Robinson arobinson@21st-centurymedia.com
Jul 12, 2017

FORT WASHINGTON >> Justin Horn just kept running.

He knew he was going on any kind of contact, so when Matt Hebling looped a ball to center, he was off. When a throw in from the outfield took a hard hop and rolled past the third baseman, Horn kept running.

He ran 90 more feet and touched home plate as the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth.
Horn made a key tag in the seventh as pitcher David Keller finished the job and made Fort Washington a 2-1 winner over Jenkintown in the Lower Montco Legion tournament final Tuesday night.

“I stole on the pitch and saw him hit a blooper to center and figured if it’s caught, I’m going to be out anyway,” Horn said. “I just decided to turn on the jets and get what I could. Luckily it dropped and we put pressure on them to make a good throw to third, they couldn’t and we scored the run.”

It’s the first title for Fort Washington since 2014 and Horn, as one of the only two players on the current roster to have been part of that team along with outfielder JT Breslin, is going back to the Region 3 tournament. A West Chester recruit who graduated from Upper Dublin last month, Horn wasn’t ready to end his season on Tuesday.

It took him a while to get going offensively but his one-out single in the sixth started the go-ahead rally.

“He’s a special kid and this is a special team,” Fort Washington coach Gary Bonitatibus said. “This is my 12th year coaching, it’s my sixth championship but the team chemistry on this team is nothing like I’ve ever had before. You hear these guys cheering for each other. They all pull for each other.”

After losing to Jenkintown 10-1 earlier in the tournament, Fort rallied to top the Angels 9-3 on Monday to force Tuesday’s winner-take-all final. Neither game was as lopsided as the scores indicated, so it wasn’t much surprise that the final was a tight contest.

Fort Washington seemed to have the advantage on paper with ace Keller on the hill, but Jenkintown pitcher Tim MacColl was every bit as good. MacColl, a righty, doesn’t have the same zip as Keller but he had that one thing every pitcher needs.

He kept getting guys out.
“He was absolutely phenomenal,” Jenkintown coach Craig Stein said. “I knew he was going to put the ball over the plate and make them put it in play. Our guys made the plays but that last inning, they got a couple hits to drop in at the right time and took advantage of a few things and that was the difference.”

MacColl retired the first seven batters he faced and held Fort in check until the fourth inning. He yielded just four hits, but one of them was Jake Dianno’s RBI single in the fourth that finally put the top-seeded Generals on the board.

The thing was, it didn’t give Fort the lead, it only tied the game. Jenkintown had been pressuring for something off Keller from the beginning, having six runners reach and stranding three in the first three innings.

Cleanup hitter John Contoudis started the top of the fourth off with a walk, then managed to score on a dropped fly ball in the outfield and a bobbled ball in the infield for the 1-0 lead.

“We had our chances early but couldn’t quite capitalize,” Stein said.

After Horn scored to put his team in the lead, he would make a key play in the top half of the seventh to help send Fort Washington on its way to Royersford for the regional tournament. Keller hit the leadoff batter in the seventh, giving Jenkintown the tying run on the bases and for a moment, giving Fort some dread.

“When David hit that kid, everybody had a little drop in their stomach,” Horn said. “But (Keller) came right back and picked him off.”
Keller, who had picked off an earlier runner at first, started a rundown that ended up with Horn making the tag in between first and second base, erasing the threat. With one out down, Keller picked up his 10th strikeout for the second out then hit another batter but recovered with a roller to second base for the tournament-clinching out.

Fort Washington has dominated the LML all season, losing just one league game and once in the playoffs. Horn said it’s partly the Upper Dublin guys on the team taking out some aggression from a frustrating high school season and the loose vibe the entire group has.

Every time the shortstop steps into the batter’s box, a teammate yells out a parody of a scene from the Bourne Ultimatum. Horn said he doesn’t know the reason behind it, but it’s those moments that keep the Generals loose.

“You could be down on the field after making an error,” Horn said after teammate Max Weinberg all but stuffed the trophy into his arms. “Then you hear something ridiculous come from the dugout and it puts you in perspective that there’s other things that matter in life and you’re right back in it and able to make the next play.”

The season ends for Jenkintown one win short of a return to regionals. Despite losing some of their best offensive players from that team, the Angels managed to finish second in the LML and pushed Fort to the limit on Tuesday. Stein was slated to be an assistant but ended up serving as the head coach and credited the team’s leadership for its success.

Blending players from Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Abington Friends and the surrounding areas, the Angels put it all together.

“It was a good group of kids who came to work every single night and that made it a pleasure to come out,” Stein said. “For a group of kids who in many ways don’t play together all season long, we had a nice mix. We had a few college kids come back and for them to put it together as a team, it’s a real credit to them.”

Both Bonitatibus and Horn said they told the guys going to regionals for the first time to just enjoy the atmosphere and experience and play without pressure.

“We just want them to enjoy it,” Bonitatibus said. “It’s such a great atmosphere playing at Spring-Ford, I just really wanted these guys to experience that because they deserved it for how well they’ve played from start to finish. This is the most consistent team I’ve ever had, this team was just specialIMG_9806

LEGION BASEBALL: Fort Washington beats Jenkintown, forces winner-take-all Lower Montco final

From Last nights Montgomery Newspapers:

Brian McPeak Fort Washington Golden Generals
Brian McPeak, the 15-year-old right-handed pitcher has been one of the team’s best players this summer.

UPPER DUBLIN >> The Fort Washington Generals knew they were far from their best the first time they played Jenkintown in the Lower Montco Legion playoffs.

With a chance to face the Angels again and needing to win to keep their season alive, the Generals were much better the second time around. Much of that was due to Brian McPeak, the 15-year-old right-handed pitcher that’s been one of the team’s best players this summer.

McPeak pitched a complete game five-hitter as Fort Washington won 9-3 to force a winner-take-all championship game Tuesday.

“This was probably the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in my life,” McPeak, a JV pitcher at Upper Dublin in the spring, said. “I was definitely nervous, but nerves are good sometimes and I think it makes you compete better.”

Fort certainly didn’t come out like the team with the pressure on it to win. Jenkintown starter Dale Jacobs started with a little too much energy on the hill and couldn’t locate the strike zone at the outset. Jacobs threw seven straight balls to start the game, most of them floating high of the strike zone.

The result saw Justin Horn and Matt Hebling walk and Horn advance to third on a wild pitch and stolen base. After a fly out to left, Horn scored on an infield error and Hebling rushed home on a wild pitch, avoiding the tag of Dan Gordon at home plate.

“He just took a little while to settle down and sometimes that happens,” Jenkintown coach Craig Stein said. “He just put a little more pressure than he needed to. We just had a bad start, but once we all settled down, we did ok.”

Gordon, the Angels’ catcher, did throw out two runners in the first.

Stein added that being down big early took his team out of its game, which involves lots of running and movement on the base paths. Where Fort Washington lost the earlier game with a bad late inning, Stein said Monday’s game was lost with a bad early inning.

Fort starter Brian McPeak did not have much trouble in the first, retiring the side on just eight pitches. While the game was played at Fort’s home field at Upper Dublin High School, Jenkintown was the home team by value of advancing through the winner’s bracket.

So, the “away” Generals took a big step toward forcing a decisive game on Tuesday with a five-spot in the second inning. Noel Franczyk singled, Owen Lawn walked and Riley Brink singled to load the bases against Jacobs.

The Jenkintown righty was still fighting with his command and hit Jack Jamison and Horn to bring in two more runs. Matt Hebling hit a sac fly to right, scoring Brink and an error on an Angels relay throw plated Jamison.

Fort finally got a run producing hit when Dianno singled in Horn for a 7-0 lead.

“It was clearly our worst game all year (earlier in the playoffs) but luckily it happened earlier than later on and we got a chance to redeem ourselves a little bit,” Fort Washington coach Gary Bonitatibus said. “It usually comes down to pitching and defense and if we throw enough strikes and make enough plays defensively, we should be in every game and we were able to do that the last few days.”

For the next four innings, Jacobs was untouchable, holding the Generals to just one hit and two total runners from the third through the sixth. His offense also found a pulse, but couldn’t quite find the difference-making hit.

McPeak wasn’t overpowering, striking out just one batter, but he was very good at getting hitters to hit his pitches and used his defense as a weapon. Fort Washington turned two double plays and McPeak stranded six men on base.

“All year long, he’s made big pitches when he’s had to,” Bonitatibus said. “He’s gotten guys out with men on base. He got their best hitter out with two on and a hit there could have turned into a big inning. He made a great pitch and got the guy to ground out. Plus, he’s been swinging the bat unbelievably, he doesn’t get any cheap hits.”

The Angels got on the board in the fourth when Jake Gaev scored on a passed ball, but Jenkintown stranded John Contoudis at third. An inning later, Jared Smith singled home Gordon and Skylar Marsh raced home on a
throwing error trying to get a base stealer.
With Smith and Christian Geer both in scoring position, McPeak stared down Jenkintown cleanup hitter John Contoudis. The righty won the battle with Contoudis, a grizzled veteran for both Jenkintown High School and the Angels, by getting the outfielder to ground out to Horn at short.

“I just wanted to keep the ball low,” McPeak said. “You just want to throw a strike, but low where he can’t get a big piece of it. You want it down the middle, but on the low side. An out like that hypes you up and makes you want to get right back out there.”

McPeak avoided giving up the big hit all game and he found a way to help himself in the seventh inning. Horn singled to lead off, JT Breslin walked and both moved up on a one-out fly to center by Dianno.

It wouldn’t have matter what base either was on as McPeak bombed a two-out double to the fence in left field, plating two runs and giving himself a five-run lead to work with.

“It made me want to get back on the mound and finish the win off for my teammates,” McPeak said.

He had little trouble finishing things off, working around a one-out walk to wrap up the game with a scoreless seventh.

Horn reached base all four times he went to the plate and scored two runs. Marsh was 2-for-3 for Jenkintown.

Much like their win over Fort Washington wasn’t as lopsided as it seemed, Stein felt his team was closer than six runs on Monday. While the Angels are at the end of their pitching rotation, the pressure is back on top-seeded Fort Washington to win the tournament.

“Hopefully the kids will play a little more relaxed and got this one out of their system,” Stein said. “If we can keep it close early in the game, we can play our game and see what that gets us.”

 

LEGION BASEBALL: FORT WASHINGTON’S PATIENCE PAYS OFF IN WIN OVER HORSHAM

By Andrew Robinson, arobinson@21st-centurymedia.com, @ADRobinson3 on Twitter
Posted: 06/30/17, 10:16 PM EDT | Updated: 3 hrs ago .

kellerHORSHAM >> During the high school baseball season, not a lot went right for Max Weinberg and Upper Dublin.
So far this summer, it’s been a much different story for Weinberg and Fort Washington’s Legion team. Friday night, Fort Washington brought early aggression, late patience and the same quality pitching its had all year to Horsham. The Generals only netted six hits, but they took advantage a lot of other places to generate a lot of runs.
Fort drew nine walks in the final two innings as it defeated the Macs 13-0 in five innings in a Lower Montco Legion contest.
“It’s mainly the same core group and we didn’t really say anything but we came together and knew it was time to go,” Weinberg, who reached base four times, said. “We said we’re done losing. Coach (Gary Bonitatibus) knows how to manage games and score runs so we felt like we had a good core group coming back and could be competitive in the league.”
Attrition finally caught up to Upper Dublin this spring, where the Cardinals fell from the perch atop the SOL American and didn’t qualify for districts. But with talented players like Weinberg, JT Breslin and Justin Horn, all just recently graduated, back for a last Legion season together, the Fort Washington players knew they had a second chance.
Horsham on the other hand finds itself in a tough spot as the Legion regular season comes to a close. The Macs have doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday and another game on Monday. With Hatboro-Horsham’s team making a run to the state tournament, Horsham’s Legion team fell behind making up games, leading to the backed-up schedule.
“Everybody kind of scatters and we fall even more behind trying to make up games,” Horsham manager Bill DeBoer said.
Horsham did manage something in the first inning the last two teams that faced Fort starter David Keller hadn’t. Keller, who attends Dock Mennonite, had thrown back-to-back no-hitters but had that broken up when Eric Jester singled with two out in the first inning.
The Generals got their first run on some of their trademark aggression in the second inning. On Albert John’s single, Bonitatibus sent Weinberg home from third, but a smart relay by the Horsham infield led to catcher Patrick Murphy tagging out Weinberg. Undeterred, when Joey Monaghan laid down a great bunt in the next at-bat, Bonitatibus sent John, who had advanced on the relay, home.
John made an athletic slide, slipping under Murphy’s tag and reaching back to touch home for the first run.
“We’re going to be aggressive, it’s one thing we’re known for,” Bonitatibus said. “We try to make things happen. I’ve found out over the years when you sit back, things don’t happen so we try to go make them happen. Fortunately we were able to do that, get on the board early and things just kind of rolled from there.”
Things certainly did roll. Fort Washington plated five runs on just two hits in the third inning with the big play being a two-run error after Jack Jamison had a bat break in his hands putting a ball in play. On top of the nine walks, Horsham hit four batters and committed four errors.
The Generals plated three runs in the fourth inning without a hit, with two runs walked in and the third coming around on a hit batter.
“We saw they weren’t getting strikes so you kind of make a box in your mind,” Weinberg said. “If it’s there and it’s your pitch, you swing but if not, you just let it go.”
Bonitatibus noted his team has been fortunate to have played all of its games without too many make-ups and was able to get Horn and Breslin, his other top arms, in for some work on Friday. The Generals wrap up the regular season on Tuesday when they take on Roslyn in their annual 4th of July game.
Josh Heebner had the only other hits for Horsham, a second inning single and fifth inning double. Murphy, who took a lot of punishment behind the plate, drew a walk in his first plate appearance and had the defensive play of the game.
In the fourth, Fort’s Riley Brink skied a pop-up straight up into the air, with Murphy unable to locate it at first. Once he did, the catcher was able to run after it and made a sliding catch right at the backstop fence for the out, which drew a round of applause from fans watching on both sides of the field.
“He played JV for me but I don’t think he caught an inning for us,” DeBoer said of Murphy, who played first base in the spring. “i told him, bring your gear because you will be catching in Legion. He knows what to do and he had a pretty good game. He hung tough in there.”
The Generals added four more runs in the fifth inning, again taking advantage of walks to load the bases with John and Weinberg drawing bases-loaded walks and Monaghan delivering an RBI single.
Weinberg, who is attending Virginia Tech in the fall to major in engineering, said he’s hoping to take this season as far as it can go. Fort Washington hasn’t qualified for the regional tournament in the past two seasons, so that’s a streak he and his fellow graduates want to snap this year.
The LML tournament begins after the holiday next week.
“The goal is to win the league and then it’s regionals,” Weinberg said. “I haven’t been there but Justin (Horn) has and the experiences I’ve heard, all the stories, it sounds awesome and I would love to get there.”

FORT WASHINGTON 015 34 — 13 6 1
HORSHAM 000 00 — 0 3 4
2B: Josh Heebner (H). Multiple hits: Heebner 2-2

Legion Heating Up for the Playoffs

In a conversation Roslyn assistant coach Mark Troyer had late in the high school baseball season he talked about his team’s prospects of defending the Lower Montco Legion championship.

He explained how he had some concerns as to how it would replace some of the offensive void left by key seniors such as Brendan Gallagher, Nick Bein and Conor Breslin.

The underlying sentiment however was that while Roslyn might not have the firepower it had a year ago the rest of the Lower Montco league doesn’t have a dominant team like Roslyn and Fort Washington over last three or so years.

“I think there are a bunch of teams right in the mix,” Troyer said after Roslyn’s 4-3 win over Fort Washington on June 14. “I think any of those teams can kind of knock off each other on any given day. And even some of the teams that are even on the bottom of the standings I’ve seen that they’ve been able to knock off some of the top teams.”

With a week remaining in the regular season the Lower Montco league has shaped up to be a four-horse race, with usual suspects Roslyn and Fort Washington with 24 and 23 points respectively followed by Jenkintown with 22 points. All three teams are currently chasing Warminster who sits a top the league with 26 points.

While all the teams have either three or four game remaining on the schedule and with all four teams in the mix having at least one game against one of the four remaining the league champion is far from being crowned.

Roslyn struggled with some offense early in the season it appears to have turned around some of its misfortune as its scored at least five runs in its current four-game winning streak.

For a team like Fort Washington it will depend on fixing some leaky defense that plagued it early in the season as the Commodores are known for being a small ball and good defensive team.

“There are four or five teams that all could be in the mix,” Fort Washington coach Gary Bonitatibus said. “I think it’s going to come down to which teams have it together at the end of the season.”

“There’s is no dominant team I would say this year so its just a matter of who puts it together at the right time.”

Warminster continues to find ways to win ball games and it has probably the best pitcher in the league in Ryan Lucas, who has been nearly untouchable this year and gives the Longhorns a great chance to win the game any time he is on the mound.

Whichever team is going to represent region three as the Lower Montco champion will have to play its best ball of the season this week.