SEVEN FIELDS — Every year, certain high school athletes search for a home away from home.
Justin Dattoli found his without much delay.
In 2017, the recent Seneca Valley graduate took part in a baseball showcase at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, hoping to find a place where he could continue his athletic career.
“I was looking to play the infield, but there were a lot of guys there playing the infield,” he said. “There weren’t many catchers, though. I wanted to get seen, so I got behind the plate.”
He did well enough that Pitt-Bradford recruited Dattoli as a catcher and landed the resident of Seven Fields.
“The campus is beautiful and it felt like home,” said Dattoli. “When I met the head coach, Zach Foster, I knew that’s who I wanted to play for. He’s a younger guy, someone who can relate to me.”
Dattoli was a first baseman his junior year at Seneca Valley and started at second base this past season. His prior experience at catcher came with a travel team, Steel City Select.
“I learned a lot of the little things about catching through my travel team,” said Dattoli. “I learned a lot of things it takes to be good at the position.”
Dattoli has also served as the catcher for Cranberry Township in the Butler County Area Baseball League this season and has left a strong impression with manager Larry Stelitano.
“Justin is an outstanding player,” he said. “I talk strategy with him before every game because he is our field general. He makes all of our defensive calls.”
Offensively, Dattoli is a patient hitter, evidenced by his 15 walks last spring for Seneca Valley.
“Coach Foster said he likes my swing and my approach at the plate,” Dattoli said.
“He has hit in the No. 3 spot all season,” added Stelitano. “He has come up with big hits for us, but I know he has the potential to be better. He just needs to keep working at it.”
Dattoli said he has been told he will have a limited role as a freshman next spring for Pitt-Bradford, but hopes to make a difference when given the chance.
“I will be a backup and will get some at-bats as a pinch-hitter,” he said. “I was recruited as a catcher, but he (Foster) likes my versatility and I think I could see time at other positions.”
Foster was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 and advanced as far as Class AA. He led Pitt-Bradford to a 17-16 record last spring while competing in the Division III Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.
Before he heads north to Bradford, Dattoli is hoping to help Cranberry Township to a BCABL championship. The team is 13-6 and earned the king seat in the double-elimination postseason tournament.
Cranberry will play either Saxonburg or Center Township in the championship round on Tuesday at Kelly Automotive Park.
“I’ve enjoyed this summer so much,” he said. “Our expectation was to reach the final, so we are where we thought we’d be. To win it all, that would be a thrill.”