Incoming Norwin freshman set to take Pony League World Series stage


A game-winning hit to the gap or a highlight catch to seal a victory. That’s the way Liam O’Donnell wants to go out at the PONY League World Series.

He has dreamed about playing on this stage, and now he wants to make his mark.

An incoming freshman at Norwin, O’Donnell is set to play for a Johnstown team in the annual baseball tournament set for Friday through Aug. 17 in Washington County.

A full field will return this year after covid disruptions in recent years.

Players from 13- and 14-year-old-level teams around the world will compete in the double-elimination event, which is just as much a festival of the game as it is high-level competition for the next wave of teen talent.

The championship will be Aug. 17 at Lew Hays Field.

“I think it will be a great experience,” O’Donnell said. “I am looking forward to the good competition. I hope I can get a game-winning hit or catch.”

A pitcher who also plays first base and shortstop, O’Donnell was selected from his summer PONY team, the Johnstown Pit Bulls — along with teammates Drew Irons and Alex McCartney — to play for the World Series team.

O’Donnell also plays travel ball in Johnstown for Flood City Elite.

“They came to us and said we were picked to play,” O’Donnell said. “I knew about the PONY League World Series and followed it. I always thought it would be great to play in that one day.”

Bugsy Roberts will coach Johnstown at the World Series. He put the team together and rounded up players of O’Donnell’s caliber.

“Liam is a quiet kid who often could be overlooked by an opponent,” Roberts said. “What I like about Liam is that he does his talking on the field. He’s a kid that every coach hopes they have in a sense he can literally play any position around the field, whether it’s infield or the outfield. On top of that, he’s got great stuff on the mound.”

Roberts said O’Donnell is aggressive at the plate and can overcome pitchers locating their throws.

Jerry O’Donnell estimates he and his wife, Kristen, spent around $500 in gas driving from North Huntingdon to Johnstown this summer. Jerry said it is a small price to pay to forward his son’s baseball career.

“It’s worth it,” he said.

Liam’s brother, Declan, also is a budding pitcher and shortstop.

“You have to give his parents credit,” Roberts said. “With today’s economy, they travel an hour and 45 minutes to games or practice just to find him a league that is challenging to keep his skills sharp. I say it all the time: Kids are usually gifted at a few things in life, but without the parents to take the time to seek a challenge, it oftentimes gets overlooked. Liam’s got a huge upside to his game.”

The closest thing to the PONY event so far for O’Donnell was the Ripken Experience in 2020 when he played at the 12-U level.

“That was the year they were supposed to go to Cooperstown,” Jerry O’Donnell said. “The pandemic hit, so we ended up going to the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach instead.”

A fan of recent Norwin graduate Jake Kendro, Liam O’Donnell, is hoping the PONY experience can help serve as a springboard for his upcoming high school career.

He said he wants to make his mark on the program, which will soon be under the direction of a new coach after the resignation of longtime leader Mike Liebdzinski.

“I hope I can,” he said.

O’Donnell, a 6-footer, also runs cross country and plays basketball.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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