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Bulldogs win Baker softball tournament

April 01, 2000|By DAN SPEARS

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - If Martinsburg softball coach Mike Mackey really wanted, he could probably rename his team. Instead of the Bulldogs, he might as well be leading the Weeble-Wobbles.

Martinsburg weebled and Tabi Merceruio wobbled, but no one fell down, and the Bulldogs held off University 5-4 in the championship of the Third Annual Gene Baker Tournament at Charlotte Prather Park.

"This is a good game for us," Mackey said. "We played a game we may have been lucky to win, and that's a character builder. We need to have situations like this."

Here's the situation. After grabbing a run in the top of the sixth for a 5-4 lead, the Bulldogs (6-0) left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh, right about the time the Hawks decided to play in every game of the tournament.

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University coach Barb Solly kidded with a fan in the sixth that, "This is about when we show up." Final at-bat victories over Hedgesville and Berkeley Springs on the way to the final proved her point, and the Bulldogs knew it.

"We knew we had to get it done. We knew they would come back every time," said Merceruio, the sophomore pitcher for Martinsburg who struck out 11. "As long as we kept them from getting ahead we'd be OK."

Merceruio retired the side in order in the sixth before the Hawks (4-2) got one last crack at another improbable win.

With one out, Megan Keith walked. Yvonne Riggie followed with a dribbler down the first-base line. Merceruio lunged for the ball - "I thought I was going to fall down," she said - picked it up with her bare hand and flipped to Erin Shawyer to barely beat Riggie to the bag.

In all the confusion, Keith raced for third, but Shawyer gunned across the diamond to Lawren Scales, who tagged out Keith to end the game and the Hawks' shot at a tournament repeat.

"We may be the 'Comeback Kids,' but we've got to learn that you can't wait until the last play to win the game," Solly said. "You have to do it earlier than that."

After last year's disappoint for Martinsburg, that lesson is already a learned one.

"We came in wanting to win, maybe even expecting to win," Mackey said. "Last year left a little sour taste in our mouth. The tournament's on our field, where we play. And we had to play our best to keep the trophy here."

* In the third-place game, Hancock got itself jumpstarted early and won a battle of emotions against Berkeley Springs, 10-5, to repeat its showing from last year.

"We were playing for third, and it was against Berkeley Springs," Hancock coach Kim Horvath said. "It was a double positive for us."

Hancock (5-2) only got one hit off Brittany Sirbaugh in a midweek loss to the Indians, but had nine hits in the first four innings against her Saturday. Five Panthers - Heidi Moats, Lauren Younker, Erica Winn, Becca Thomas and Monica Fox - finished with two hits each in the game.

"We got the momentum early, and we kept it," Horvath said. "And our key hitters got the big hits in the key situations."

For the Indians (3-3), it was the end of a downward spiral of a day that started by blowing an eight-run lead against University in the semifinals.

"It was just such a letdown after the (semis)," Berkeley Springs coach Greg Brown said. "We thought with Hancock we could get back up, but we couldn't. You'll have three or four games a year where you just forget everything ... like it's the first day of practice. This game was one of those."

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