Nick Pellegrino was the only Wladyka player to get a base hit against the Bandits.
By Rich Bevensee
While Leor Kedar was looking for his home run ball on the woodsy, brush-covered side of the right field fence at Field 5 at Diamond Nation in Flemington, he was explaining what kind of college he’s looking for.
But don’t be fooled into thinking he’s headed for a baseball school because of the words “home run.”
Yes, the right-handed hitting Kedar did show off some power by leading off the bottom of the first inning with a 325-foot, opposite-field homer, which triggered a four-inning, 10-0 victory for the Philly Bandits 17U club over Wladyka American in the 17/18 Blue Chip Prospects Powered By Victus on Tuesday afternoon.
But just because the young man can hit, baseball doesn’t begin to encompass who he is.
“I’ve worked too hard in school the last several years just to settle for a college which has a great baseball program,” said Kedar, a rising senior at Council Rock North in Newtown, Pennsylvania, who owns a 4.3 grade point average and a 1420 SAT score.
“I’m looking at high academic schools – it doesn’t matter Division 1, 2 or 3 – just high academic schools, where I can study and play baseball,” he said. “I’m looking at some Ivy League schools and some NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) schools. I’m going to weigh my options and go as high academically as I possibly can. I’d like to stay on the East Coast to be close to family. I plan on majoring in economics and minoring in math, and I want to work on Wall Street.”
Leor Kedar (18) celebrates with teammates after leading off the bottom of the first with a HR.
So, Leor, books or baseball? Pick one.
“Both,” he said. “Has to be both.”
Bandits coach Jon Cross believes Kedar has the focus and drive to successfully pursue academics and baseball in college. Cross has coached Kedar for the last six summers, going back to the summer of 2018 when Cross and Kedar were part of a Philly Bandits 13U team which won the Diamond Nation World Series title.
“He wakes up, gets out of bed and he hits,” Cross said of Kedar. “What you saw today is an example of what kind of hitter he is. Very talented hitter. Line drives all over the place. Certainly one of the best hitters in the state (of Pennsylvania).”
The homer itself was a show of power, but rare in the sense that very seldom does the 6-1, 180-pound Kedar go deep. It was his first home run of the summer and just his second on a 90-foot diamond; he hit one homer for Council Rock North in the spring.
“He started me off with two balls so I knew the fastball was coming,” Kedar said. “I loaded back and tried to hit it as far as I could. I got great wood on it, too. As soon as it left the bat I knew it was gone. It felt awesome.”
Kedar, who hit in the third slot for Council Rock North, said he doesn’t anticipate being moved down in the Bandits batting order because he still doesn’t believe he qualifies as a power hitter.
“Sometimes I bat No. 3 for my school team but for the Bandits I’m a great 1-hitter because I get on base and I have great guys behind me who can drive me in. It’s been working for the four or five years that I’ve been playing for the Bandits.”
Once Kedar cleared the right field fence Tuesday, the Bandits exploded for a nine-run first inning which took 42 minutes off the 1-hour, 50-minute game clock. They sent 13 batters to the plate and scored nine runs on four hits, four walks and two hit batsmen.
Four batters after Kedar went deep, Hunter Petrich was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run. Matt Gannon, a rising senior at LaSalle College HS in Wyndmoor, Pa., had the loudest stroke of the day, a three-run double which gave the Bandits a 5-0 lead.
Kedar came around to bat again and was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in another run. Joey Amati scored from third on an infield throwing error, and Jay Slater roped a two-run double to right center to complete the onslaught.
In the bottom of the third the Bandits added one more run to reach the mercy rule threshold when William Irons scored on an outfield error following a Johnny Giordano pinch-hit single.
On the hill for the Bandits, Cole Kochanowicz pitched two scoreless innings, allowing no hits, four walks and a hit batsman. Brett Smith pitched one inning and allowed one walk and struck out one. Braden Kelly pitched the fourth and allowed one hit and two walks and struck out one.
For Wladyka, Nick Pellegrino pitched 2⅔ innings and permitted an unearned run on two hits and two walks while striking out two. Pellegrino was also the only Wladyka player to scratch out a base hit against the Bandits.
The Bandits (1-1) will face Beast 2025 National on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., and TSA 2024 Castillo on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Earlier this week the Bandits lost, 2-1, to the Richmond County Baseball Club Ghost 17U Nationals.
Wladyka (1-1) takes on TSA 2024 Castillo on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., and Stinger United Mid-Atlantic on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Earlier this week Wladyka defeated Beast 2025 National, 11-0.