Not all leaders are natural-born.

In fact, before they can show the way for others, some must conquer the challenge of getting their own house in order.

George Whitleigh can speak with intelligence on that matter; momentary academic miseries prevented him from playing baseball at Central High as both a freshman and sophomore.

"I thought I could get through by doing no work," he said. "I came from a grade school where I didn't have to do too much. At Central it's a totally different ballgame.

"Not being able to play was horrible. I was going to go out 1 year, but they told me not to even waste my time because of my grades. Even when I came here, I wasn't sure I'd be able to play."

"Here" is Prep Charter, and the 5-8, 150-pound Whitleigh is now a senior in strong academic standing bound for Neumann College with designs on becoming an accountant.

Baseball? That's going well, too. Whitleigh plays a mean shortstop and bats third in the order for a Husky squad with aspirations of earning a spot in the quarterfinal round of the overall Public League playoffs.

Yesterday's schedule offered a Class AA semifinal, in which PC numbed Nueva Esperanza Charter, 12-1, in five innings. The Huskies will meet W.B. Saul Thursday at a site to be determined. That winner will earn a berth in next Monday's quarters along with a spot in the down-the-road PIAA state tournament.

There was mild concern for PC when Edwin Lebron crushed the game's first pitch for a one-hop double off the leftfield fence. However, Whitleigh followed immediately with an excellent play on a deep-in-the-hole grounder and junior Joe Crooks wriggled out of the minijam.

The Huskies posted four runs in the first and eight more in the second, then Angelo DelVecchio blasted a third-inning solo homer out of the park in exact left-center.

In four plate appearances, Whitleigh had to settle for three walks, two steals and two runs scored (along with a strikeout).

Oddly, Whitleigh was the only senior in either team's lineup.

"Coach [Rob Hale] looks to me to be a leader," he said. "In the beginning of the year, it was kind of tough to try to be a leader and still play my own game. But toward the end, the guys started to follow me and we came together as a team.

"It is my personality to lead. But before, I think I was too worried about what everyone else was doing."

Casey "Butters" Margerum went 2-for-4 with a double and one RBI and kiddingly yelled that he'd make himself available for anyone who wanted to interview "the real hero." Mike Bariana and Sean McGovern posted identical two-run singles (shots to center) in the 13-batter second.

In all, the Huskies stole 12 bases and drew nine walks while NE committed six errors. Crooks pitched all five innings, surrendering five hits and striking out as many. The Scorpions' lone run scored on Jose Fortin's bases-loaded walk. (Next year, the school will drop "Nueva" from its name and change its nickname from Scorpions to Toros.

"In warmups, they looked tough," said Whitleigh, who grew up near 17th and Wolf and now lives a short distance away. "Even during the game, they did some nice things. They definitely had two, three ballplayers."

Of playing shortstop, he said, "I love that position. You're the leader of the infield. I love knowing that at any time a hard groundball could be coming at you, and that you have to make the play. I love facing that pressure. It makes me perform better." *