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Merceruio continues strikeout run

May 15, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Martinsburg softball coach Mike Mackey's approach to the postseason sounds incredibly risky, and yet it isn't: Give the ball to Tabi Merceruio and hope for the best.

Four games in, his senior pitcher has made him look very good.

Merceruio continued an amazing final run through the playoffs on Tuesday, striking out 16 in a four-hitter as the Bulldogs eliminated Musselman with a 2-0 victory in the Class AAA Region II semifinals at Hedgesville High School.

"I enjoy it," said Merceruio, who has struck out 68 in four playoff games. "Knowing that he relies on me and has the confidence that I can go out there ... I like that."

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Martinsburg (22-7) has struggled scoring runs all postseason, and Tuesday was no exception against Musselman's Jen Stanley. But the Bulldogs scratched out two runs in the second inning on a Lauren Yurish single and a poor decision on a fielder's choice to give Merceruio all the room she needed.

"We're going to rely on her right shoulder like we have all year," Mackey said. "Today, she came through again."

Musselman (19-11) entered the game talking about bunting its way to an upset victory. The plan, however, was foiled by Merceruio, who walked just one and went to a three-ball count on only one other batter.

"We didn't want to give it away at the start of the at-bat, and we'd foul the first pitch off," Musselman coach Shelly Ostrowski said. "And once you're at two strikes, you've got to pull it off.

"And our good bunters are our good hitters, too. You want to give them a chance."

"They just tried to hit," Merceruio said. "But for me, if they hit it, my defense is there. I just want to win."

The Applemen had their best shot in the sixth. A pair of singles and a stolen base put two runners in scoring position with one out. But Merceruio struck out Tabitha Salopek and Jenny Hogan - Musselman's 4-5 hitters - looking, leaving Ostrowski standing in the third-base coaching box with a look of dejection.

"With the meat of the lineup, that's disheartening," Ostrowski said. "We knew we had the ability to win and we just couldn't get that hit. I think I hurt for the team at that point."

Allie Bohrer and Erika Williams both had two hits for Martinsburg, which plays in its third straight region final Friday at Anker Park in Morgantown against East Fairmont.

"We're getting the pieces back together," Mackey said. "We got runners on base and we hit the ball hard. Hopefully all this carries over to Friday."

Martinsburg 2, Musselman 0

Musselman 0000000-042

Martinsburg 20000x-281

Stanley and Riner. T. Merceruio and Williams. WP-T. Merceruio (13-4). LP-Stanley (7-3).

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