Dunmorean of the Month: Kayleigh Semion


kayleighBy Steve Svetovich

Dunmore High School graduate Kayleigh Semion could have played Division II or III college basketball just about wherever she wanted, but her dream was to go to Penn State.

When she enrolled at Penn State she thought her basketball career could be over, but it wasn’t. Now the 2015 Times-Tribune Player of Year is really living her dream.

She is a key member of the Penn State University women’s club basketball team.

And while it is not Division I varsity level, this team plays a brand of highly competitive basketball with six to eight tournaments throughout the year. The team practices at least two hours three nights per week.

Daughter of Sherry Nicolais and step-daughter of Mark Nicolais, Kayleigh, 20, is a sophomore Kinesiology major with aspirations to eventually become a physical therapist.

An All Regional and second team All State point guard at Dunmore in her senior season, she had opportunities to play division II or III college basketball, but her dream was to attend Penn State.

Then the opportunity came to tryout for the club basketball team. The tryout was competitive and intense, but Kayleigh, a sophomore at Penn State, made the roster. Now she gets to attend Penn State and play basketball.

With over 1,200 career points at Dunmore, she quickly became a key member of the club basketball team. She averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game in her senior season at Dunmore and is playing that same type of game for the Penn State club team. She averaged 8.0 points and 4.5 assists mostly coming off the bench for the club team this season.

She helped her Penn State club team place in third place in the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Championship tournament last month at Ohio State University. Her team beat Virginia Tech, Ohio University and the University of Connecticut, but lost to Air Force. She came off the bench to score 13 points against Virginia Tech.

Kayleigh was named to the All-Tournament team following the Regional Championship Tournament at Boston University earlier this year. Her Penn State club team won that tournament.

“It is very competitive basketball,” she said. ” It is on the level of division II or III college basketball. We practice hard and get to go away to games. We get to practice all the time. The games are highly competitive. The players love to compete. It is a terrific experience. And it is great representing Penn State.”

Breana Toro, former Lackawanna League all-star from Abington Heights, is a member of her club team.

Two of the girls on the club team were promoted to the Penn State varsity roster after injuries to players last season. Most of the girls on the club team attend the varsity games.

And Kayleigh is even a manager for the Penn a State varsity team.

“I will do anything I can to stay in the game,” she said. “I love basketball.”

The scholar-athlete has an impressive 3.8 grade point average at Penn State. She takes a lot of what Dunmore coach Ben O’Brien instilled in her. “He taught me about work ethic . He is really into what he does as a coach. He really helped me as a basketball player.”

Kayleigh also ran track at Dunmore and was a twirler.

She and her two sisters Brittany and Meredith learned twirling from her mom, a prominent twirling instructor in Dunmore.

“My mom always teaches me to go after whatever I want in life 110 percent at a time. She tells me to go after it full speed.”

Personable and full of life, Kayleigh knows she is living her dream at Penn State. “I love it here,” she said. “I always dreamed of going here. I look around and here I am. I love the atmosphere here. And I still get to play basketball.”

Kayleigh said she likes listening to music in her spare time. She would like to see Ed Sheeran in concert.

And while she continues to do what she loves at her dream college, Kayleigh thinks of her future. “I want to get into a physical therapy school after graduation. It is highly competitive, but I want to become a physical therapist.”

And competition seems to be something Kayleigh Semion thrives on.


Athlete of Month: Vince Rebar

image_handlerBy Steve Svetovich

Vince Rebar knows he has baseball in his blood, and he shows it through his work ethic and consistent production on the field.

The former Holy Cross All Regional baseball player has been one of Marywood University’s leading hitters in each of the past four seasons.

He has a robust team leading .469 batting average after the first 30 games this season. That includes a team leading 53 hits, six doubles, five triples and four homers. He leads the team in homers, runs with 33, RBIs with 34 and stolen bases with 20. His 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts broke the school record previously held by his current third base coach JoJo Diskin.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said after he was told about the stolen base record. “I didn’t even know. Awesome.”

Son of Vince and Maureen Rebar, the 2012 Holy Cross graduate hit .377, .317 and .374 in his first three seasons at Marywood. He spent his freshman season at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, but was red shirted after just two at bats and a season ending injury. He transferred to Marywood in 2014 and quickly made an impact.

He played four years of baseball at Holy Cross where he batted.471 in his senior season. He played third base, but made the All Regional team as a DH.

WP_20170429_15_58_29_ProThe scholar-athlete received a B.S. in business from Marywood in 2016. He finished with a 3.4 grade point average. The stalwart infielder decided to play as a graduate student for Marywood this season after he learned he had one year of eligibility left. “It was an easy decision,” he said. “I applied for the waiver this past summer when I decided to go to graduate school at Marywood. I went for the red shirt and was declared eligible.”

A marketing major as a graduate student, Rebar talked about his approach at the plate. “My approach is to get a fastball and try to get out in front of it. I like to go after the first fastball I see as the number three hitter on the team. I don’t want to miss it.”

And the clutch hitting senior does not miss many. He has a .500 on base percentage this season and has two or more hits in most of the first 30 games he played in this season.

Rebar was the starting second baseman for Marywood last season. This year most of his starts are at shortstop, but with a few games at second base.

He looks at the ending of his Marywood baseball career with mixed emotions. “I don’t want to stop playing,” he said. “There are definitely mixed emotions.

“There are a lot of young guys on the team this season. I wasn’t sure how it would all work out. But the chemistry on this team is very close. We all hang out. It’s been a lot better than expected. I know the seniors on this team play the game with all their hearts.”

And while he strokes line drives all over the diamond, Rebar ponders his future. “Well, I have another year of graduate school. Then I want to keep playing baseball as long as I can. I want to be a coach on this team next year. I am hoping that can be worked out. I would like to stay in baseball as a coach.

“I know there is a baseball scouting school in a Florida. I would love to do that. I want to stay in the game.”

He talked about what it takes to be a solid hitter on the collegiate level. “Well, just to be here playing college ball you already have to be a good hitter. But you have to stay within yourself and don’t get out of your zone. Don’t jump out of your shoes.”

And it’s that mental approach that helped him earn two MVP awards in the Hudson Valley League. He helped the Hudson Valley Pirates win two league titles in his three seasons playing in the summer collegiate league.

Well spoken and confident, Rebar said he learned a lot from Sandy Menichetti, his high school coach at Holy Cross. “He is a great guy. I will never forget the first day I showed up at practice. He told me to break down my swing in three sections – stride, hitch and swing. I remember laughing a little about it at first, but then it all came ¬†together. It sure makes a lot of sense now. I learned a lot from him. It took me some time to figure it out, but I did.”

The modest, but talented hitter said he likes listening to European dance music in his spare time. He has eclectic taste and would like to see Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike in concert.

His dad is present at every Marywood baseball game. “I have learned a lot from my parents,” he said. “They always tell me to never give up and always support me. I do a lot of extreme sports, but they are always behind me. They always encourage me to play baseball. They are my biggest supporters.”

And if you want to see a live hitting machine, go to a Marywood University baseball game.

Just watch Vince Rebar.


RailRiders’ Dustin Fowler Caps Cycle With Walk Off

By Steve Svetovich


Credit: The Times Leader

Dustin Fowler does not get the notoriety of some of his Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders teammates, but his hustle and “gamer” approach bring him in front of the pack.

It’s hard not to notice Fowler’s scrappy style and hustling nature.

And it was that approach that really shined Sunday, April 30, when he hit for the cycle and totaled five hits, including a walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to lead the RailRiders to a 7-6 win over Indianapolis.

Fowler hit his game winning shot to right field. His second double of the game moved teammate Tyler Wade to third base in the bottom of the ninth. Wade then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

Fowler, 22, a native of Dexter, Georgia, hit a single and scored in the seventh, doubled and drove in a run in the fifth and tripled and scored in the bottom of the first.

The five-hit game raised his season batting average to .293. He has three triples, five doubles and four homers while driving in 12 runs in the first 20 games.

Currently ranked the New York Yankees No. 8 prospect, Fowler does not get the publicity of his left field teammate Clint Frazier, but his production speaks for itself.

And if you know baseball and watch him play, it is easy to see a diamond in the rough.

Drafted by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2013 June amateur draft, Fowler has quietly worked his way up the ladder to Triple-A performing well at every level. He consistently shows a combination of some power and speed while scoring runs, driving in runs and stealing bases.

Last season in. 574 plate appearances at Double-A Trenton, he batted .281, with 67 runs, 88 RBIs, 30 doubles, 15 triples, 12 homers and a .341 on base percentage. He also stole 25 bases for a second consecutive minor league season.

Fowler was raised in rural Georgia where dirt roads are abundant and traffic lights are few and far between. He hunts like almost everyone else in his hometown, but baseball has always been his passion.

He was more than happy to accept the $278,000 the Yankees offered him after he was drafted. After all, baseball is his dream.

Fowler, who bats and throws left, is a lean 6-0, 185-pounds. Swift on the bases, he also shows range in the outfield from his center field position.

He batted .333 with two triples in his second spring training with the parent club while rubbing elbows in the outfield with the likes of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. He certainly did enough to impress New York  Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Modest yet confident, Fowler speaks in a bit of a southern drawl and he has the cowboy boots to fit the part.

But the main thing is he has made progress and performed well while moving quickly up the ladder. At press time, he had hits in 11 of his past 12 games. He has shown a knack for hitting in the clutch and appears to thrive in those situations.

It may not be too long before we see this young man in New York Yankees pinstripes.

He certainly has the talent and the make up.


Former DHS Shortstop Brings Positivity to Marywood

Baseball - Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins, left, a former shortstop for the Dunmore Bucks, now plays for Marywood University. He is shown here with his teammate, Vince Rebar.

By Steve Svetovich

Matt Higgins may not always be the biggest star on a baseball diamond, but he is the most positive.

The former Dunmore Bucks shortstop always looks at the bottle as half full.

And that positive outlook is a strong influence on his Marywood University teammates.

Short and somewhat stocky, he doesn’t look like a middle infielder, but he sure plays like one.

He has natural leadership skills that he fully enjoys bringing to the table.

His constant bantering comes both on and off the field. Even on a plane ride to Port Saint Lucie, Florida, when Higgins kept the positive vibe up with constant jabs, humor and banter towards his teammates. And he doesn’t leave any of them out.

Joking about a teammate who is an only child, he said, “Ok, the big question is are you in the family Christmas photo with your parents or by yourself? Oh, I know it’s just you and the dog.”

And it’s that kind of humor that brings his teammates together and has them cackling in laughter.

And he takes a busting or jab better than anyone.

When third base coach Jo Jo Diskin was hit by a foul line drive in Florida, there was complete silence until Higgins ran out and gave his coach a quick massage. Higgins has a unique way of making everything all good.

Son of Sean and Virginia Higgins, Matt, 21, is a 2014 graduate of Dunmore High School. He played four years of baseball at Dunmore and was the varsity starting shortstop his final two seasons.

He played basketball as a freshman and sophomore and soccer as a senior.

Not one to sit and do nothing, he was a member of almost every club at Dunmore and took a particular interest in the Mock Trial group.

He batted .270 and .250 in his junior and senior high school seasons, but his impact came more as a team leader, positive impact on younger players and overall team player.

Mark Finan was his coach. “He expects you to be a leader on and off the field,” the Marywood middle infielder said. “He taught us to play for each other.”

The junior spark plug said he gets both his positivity and humor from his parents.

“They taught me to drop the negatives and look at all the positives in life. They are positive people.

“It takes a man to put all the negatives aside and overcome adversity.

“You have to face your problems and adversity head on and then move on to the positive. I like to look at the positives in life. Enjoy the game of baseball. Enjoy life.”

And Higgins has no problem taking on the role of a leader. In fact, he revels in it. “I like to play the game. We play for each other. I take a positive approach to the game and life in general. I think you need to stay positive and be a good influence on the younger players on the team. They will follow your lead. I have no problem lighting a fire.”

Higgins did not get much playing time his first two seasons with Marywood, but he kept his positive outlook and cheered his teammates on from the dugout.

His playing time has increased this season and he is making the most of it. He played shortstop and second base in Marywood’s doubleheader sweep over Cairn University, 2-1 and 3-1, Saturday, March 25. He had two hits in the second game win.

“We did not open this season on a positive note, but we are playing as a team now. We backed our pitchers up. We will have a positive outlook from this point on. Our team feels we can get a good streak going.

“Our team in general is hitting better now. We are putting the ball in play. We could win a lot more games.

“The team is building character and we are having a lot more fun. We are more of a team now.”

Higgins talked about what it takes to be a solid middle infielder in college baseball.

“You need to put in a lot of time and hard work. You have to trust your hands. And you need to trust your teammates.”

Higgins, not surprisingly, sees a bright future. “We want to make a strong run at the playoffs and win. We want to be a part if something big here.”

He also looks forward to obtaining his degree in architecture, getting a good job and possibly attending graduate school.

In the meantime, he keeps the positive vibes and humor flowing on the baseball diamond at Marywood.

“You have to have fun playing baseball,” he said. “I love this game.”