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Servello follows coach’s path

HOLLIDAYSBURG–Because of a back injury, Sam Servello missed his junior year of baseball with the Hollidaysburg Area High School team. However, because of the resume he built up during his freshman and sophomore seasons, colleges like West Virginia, North Carolina, East Carolina and Villanova took notice. That was clearly evident on Wednesday when the Mountaineers’ program showed what gaining the trust of a young athlete can do for a team.

“They believed in me and they believed I could get healthy. Hearing that made me want to work harder and get better and get healthy as soon as possible,” said the senior Servello on Wednesday outside the school’s gymnasium, moments after signing a Division I letter-of-intent to start playing baseball for WVU in the fall of 2019.

In two years, Servello posted an earned-run average of 2.30 with 57 strikeouts in 42ª innings with the Golden Tigers, but a back injury knocked him out last year. He did play AAABA ball this past summer for Johnston Realty. He admitted he wondered about what the time off might do to him, but the WVU staff, headed by Randy Mazey, a United High School graduate, stayed in contact with him through the whole process.

“Going through the back injury, and sticking with him, and knowing he is going to get through it, they know they have a quality arm and a quality kid,” said Hollidaysburg coach Jon Syznal, himself a West Virginia graduate.

Servello’s dad, Dan, was also a standout baseball player at Hollidaysburg, graduating in 1988. His brother, John Servello, plays baseball at Toledo in the MAC. Dan went on to Pitt to play ball before transferring to WVU. He played in the Kansas City Royals organization after that. But the family ties to Morgantown were not a big reason WVU was chosen, according to Sam.

“That really didn’t have anything to do with it,” said the 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-hander. “I went there for a visit and the facilities were awesome, the coaches were awesome. We connected really well,” he said. “The pride they have in their program … I really liked that. It makes me want to work harder for them and be better.”

Competing in the Big 12, WVU went 29-27 last season, making it as far as the semifinals before bowing out. A big game, indeed, for the Moutaineers’ program. Servello, as only a freshman, pitched in the District 6 title game against Central Mountain three seasons ago in a game played at PNG Field, home of the Altoona Curve.

“To see how he handled himself, that shows a college coach a lot,” Syznal said of that game in Altoona. “He has shown since his freshman year to have a plus fastball and other quality pitches. Coaches follow that.”

Surrounded by his parents, including mom, Christy, and other family and friends, Servello talked about what he needs to do at the next level to succeed. His fastest pitch was clocked at 92 miles per hour as a sophomore. Is that something he can improve upon starting next year?

“That’s part of the plan,” he smiled.

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