Uniontown top another step forward but didn’t quite get to its ultimate goal in the Pennsylvania State American Legion Baseball Tournament.
Uniontown reached the state tournament for the third time in six seasons under manager Brad Yohman where it went 1-2 in 2015 and 0-2 in 2018 before going 2-2 at Boyertown in 2021. The 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was really great having American Legion baseball back after being off last summer,” Yohman said. “To be able to get right back in the fold and get back to the states after being off for a year was a great accomplishment.
“I’m really proud of the work we did. Our players, our coaches, we’ve got a really good group. We’ll just try to get a little bit better every year.”
Uniontown ended the season with a 18-5 overall record which included an 11-1 mark in the Fayette County American Legion Baseball League and a 3-0 sweep in winning the Region 6 tournament.
In the state tournament, Yohman’s squad beat Claysburg, 3-2 in nine innings, lost to Paxton, 7-2, defeated French Creek Valley, 14-4 in six innings, and was eliminated by Norchester, 13-3 in six innings on Tuesday.
“This is our third time getting to the state playoffs since I’ve been coach and we took another step,” Yohman said. “We got one day further in the tournament this year, made it into the final four. We’re getting ourselves closer.”
The two teams that defeated Uniontown in the state tournament — Norchester and Paxton — are the two teams that advanced.
“If there’s any solace it’s that we lost to the two best teams in the tournament,” Yohman said. “We played some tough teams. To be able to play four games out there for the first time is a big step for our program.
“Now we’ve just got to figure out how to get to that final day and potentially to that next phase, which is the Mid-Atlantic regional.”
Yohman feels the Uniontown program is on solid ground and improving.
“We’re real happy with the big picture,” he said. “It was a good accomplishment. Naturally we’d still like to be playing today but the boys fought. We beat some good teams. It was a real good effort by our team.”
Yohman had the tough task of addressing his squad for the final time this season after the loss to Norchester.
“This was a great group of kids. I told them I’m proud of them more than anything,” Yohman said. “I told them this was a measuring stick game. It shows where we are. We’re getting closer but there’s still a small gap we’ve got to close to be one of those top two teams or a state champ.
“There were a couple guys in uniform who this is the second time they’ve been to the state playoffs. A lot of these kids have been a big part of the success we’re having and I told them to be proud of the work they put in and what they accomplished as a team.
“They moved the program forward yet again.”
Uniontown will lose some key pieces but still has plenty of talent returning in 2022.
“We’ll graduate out Kaleb Scott, Santino Marra, Tyler Becker and Cole Shearer, and also Andino Vecchiolla would’ve been in his last year of eligibility although he didn’t end up playing with us,” Yohman said. “We’ve got 13 available players who can return next year, all of which were contributors in some way, shape or form. It gives us a nice core to look forward to in the next year.
“We had multiple sophomores and juniors in and out of the lineup. They got invaluable experience in this tournament. Every game was live streamed across the state so they got that exposure.”
Uniontown featured one of the younger rosters at Boyertown.
“Most of those teams that we played against were comprised of 19-year-olds and seniors,” Yohman pointed out. “So our kids hung in there with some really good, experienced teams. I look at some of our young guys, they’re only going to get better.
“A kid like Braeden O’Brien goes out and pitches and wins us a game in the tournament and Ty Sankovich plays so well as our shortstop. They’ve both got bright futures, just to mention a couple out of the guys who will be big factors in what we do next summer.
“To be able to get into day four, it helps them to understand what it takes to get to the final day and handle a little bit of the additional pressure that each day brings. Our young guys definitely gained a lot by being able to play in this tournament.”