Bishop McCort High School senior James Podgorney used his left arm to make his mark on the region’s baseball diamonds.

On Wednesday, Podgorney’s left hand inked a NCAA Division I letter of intent to the University of Akron.

“Sitting through school all day, I was so antsy,” said Podgorney, who signed his letter in the McCort library. “I always wanted to play Division I. I’ve worked so hard to get where I’m at. When it finally happened, it was like a load off my shoulders. I can relax and play my senior year of high school without the pressure of trying to impress all of these colleges.”

Podgorney has been a mainstay in the Crimson Crushers rotation and was a key player on the Johnstown Grays team that advanced to the 61st AAABA Tournament this summer.

“James has developed really well,” said Crushers coach Denny Altimore, who also is the Grays sponsor. “His strength is his work ethic. He throws constantly. He’s always looking for ways to get better.”

In addition to playing for McCort and in the AAABA League, Podgorney has pitched for the Johnstown Jay Sox traveling fall baseball team and participated in the Keystone State Games from 2002 to 2004. He also was in the Team One Midwest Showcase in Cincinnati, Ohio, this year.

Akron impressed Podgorney on two fronts.

“The thing that I liked most is I was looking for a school that was going to help me progress athletically and academically,” he said. “I liked the coaches. (Johnstown Grays teammate) Doug McNulty goes out there. I’m going to major in political science and they have their own law school on campus.”

At McCort, the lefty had a 3-3 record, with a save and a 3.20 ERA as a junior, when he struck out 45 batters in 391⁄3 innings. Podgorney broke the McCort single-season record with a 0.97 ERA as a sophomore in 2004.

As a 17-year-old rookie in the AAABA League, Podgorney went 3-2 with two saves and a 1.09 ERA.

Podgorney, who has a 3.967 grade point average, thanked his family and extended baseball family for this opportunity.

“The person that I have to give the most credit to is John DeFazio,” Podgorney said of the former Crushers coach. “He put so much time with me since age 12. He took so much time out of each day and worked with me for five years. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be signing.

“I have to thank my summer baseball coaches, Chris Pfeil and Mr. Altimore, and (Johnstown’s) Dee Dee Osborne. He gave me the opportunity to play for the Jay Sox this fall and that’s where Akron saw me pitch.”

James is the son of Jim and LeeAnn Podgorney of Johnstown.

Mike Mastovich can be reached at 532-5083 or

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