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A little does go long way

March 28, 1999|By DAN SPEARS

Bunting signifies Hancock victory at Gene Baker

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Turn, square, and pray the ball doesn't hit you in the fingers.

Bunting is one of the toughest trades to master, but the Hancock softball team made it look way too easy Saturday afternoon in the third-place game of the Second Annual Gene Baker Tournament against Hedgesville.

Eleven times the Panthers dumped the ball in front of the plate, eleven times a preferable result happened for them. Finally, those little strokes fell a very great oak, as Hancock exploded for nine runs in the first extra frame to win, 17-8.

"We kept our short game on," Hancock coach Kim Horvath said. "They didn't look real comfortable against it, so we kept doing it. We were just trying to advance the runners, and it worked."

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Hancock's team speed forced poor decisions or poor throws from the Eagles' infield all day - Hedgesville finished with 10 errors, three on bunt plays. In the eighth inning alone, No. 10 Hancock bunted four times, just once for a sacrifice. The other three turned into fielder's choices where all the runners were safe.

The miscues left Hedgesville coach Sparky Anderson at a loss for words.

"That's ... wow. The whole team just lost its composure," Anderson said. "And you don't know how you can stop it. It's like a levee, you don't know how it bursts, but it does."

Every time the Eagles (2-2) thought they had the holes plugged up, Hancock (2-1) started another leak. From the bottom of the fifth to the top of the eighth, the lead changed hands five times until the Panthers yanked it away for good.

The last inning left a very bad mark on what had been a very good weekend up until that point for Hedgesville, which did not throw pitcher Nikki Woodsmall in either of its Saturday losses because of a sore non-throwing shoulder.

"We have a three-hour practice on Monday," Anderson said. "I guarantee you that everybody will be there. We'll say, 'Hey, that's behind us now,' and come right back at everyone."

And while the Eagles are ready to leave the past behind, Horvath and the Panthers don't mind looking back at this weekend at all.

"I'm real proud of the way they played," Horvath said. "We proved we could play with some real good competition, and we showed a lot of heart in this game. Hopefully, it'll just continue on from here."

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