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Trojans stride on toward perfection

May 06, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Their Saturday doubleheader looked flashy on paper, but both the No. 1 Chambersburg and No. 6 Martinsburg softball teams still had goals in mind.

The Trojans met theirs. The Bulldogs only went halfway.

Chambersburg got solid pitching and kept its perfect record intact with 3-0 and 14-2 victories. Martinsburg wanted to prove it could compete against All-Area pitcher Steph VanBrakle and then go for a win in its second game.

Part one, no problem. Part two was another issue.

"I don't mind losing if there's something to gain, and we played decent in the first game," Martinsburg coach Mike Mackey said. "But that second game, I am not pleased with that attitude."

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Game 1 turned into the expected pitchers' duel between VanBrakle, the two-time Herald-Mail Player of the Year, and Martinsburg's Tabi Merceruio, this season's strikeout leader.

Chambersburg (13-0) pushed across a run in the first inning, thanks in part to Merceruio's slow recovery from a first-batter smash off her leg, and let VanBrakle take over.

After Heather Bell doubled to lead off the game, no other Bulldog reached base. The Alabama-bound senior struck out 16 the rest of the way, including the last eight of the game.

"We definitely want to finish the regular season undefeated," VanBrakle said. "Then we go for the playoffs next Saturday."

Merceruio more than held her own, striking out nine and allowing just two hits after the first inning. But VanBrakle's fanfest left the crowd murmuring again.

In Game 2, that required her bat. After an RBI groundout in the first inning, her monstrous two-run homer to left was part of a six-run second inning that blew the game open.

VanBrakle added an RBI single in the fifth for a four-RBI game.

Martinsburg (18-7), meanwhile, looked just plain frazzled. Seven errors in the first two frames, many on careless throws and ill-advised decisions, led to eight unearned runs and a mental lapse that the Bulldogs really didn't need heading into next week's postseason.

"We were looking for good competition, and we got that in the first game. That was fine," Mackey said. "But the girls let down in the second one.

"We've now almost lost as many games in the last 24 hours (three) as we did all season (four)," Mackey said. "That's not the way we drew this up."

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