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Cougars claim seventh straight section title

May 16, 2002|BY BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It could be said that Jefferson baseball coach John Lowery is a creature of habit.

Since that particular habit is winning, the Cougars' faithful are glad he is.

Jefferson closer Jawaan Holmes scattered four hits over the last three innings, twice pitching out of tight spots, to help the Cougars to their seventh straight Region II Section 1 title with a 7-2 win over Martinsburg at P.O. Faulkner Field on Wednesday night.

Jefferson left fielder Sam Walls put an exclamation point on the Cougars win, hammering a towering homer over the left centerfield fence in the fifth inning to help hand Lowery and the Cougars their 11th title in the last 12 years.

The last team to knock off Jefferson in the sectional was Martinsburg's 1995 state championship team.

"I'll tell you, this was tough," Lowery said of Jefferson's 19th title during his tenure. "This year our section had three 20-plus win teams, so three out of four teams had a legitimate shot."

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But the Cougars' timely hitting, along with Martinsburg's missed defensive opportunities, doomed the Bulldog's chances of unseating their rival in a year when Martinsburg beat Jefferson twice in the regular season.

Martinsburg starter Brandon Bartley opened strong for the Bulldogs, throwing less than 30 pitches in the first two innings and holding Jefferson (30-8) to one run on a pair of hits.

The only Cougars run was manufactured after a misplayed ball on a pickoff attempt at first allowed Jefferson's Donnell Lee to advance to third. He came home on Brad Williams' sacrifice fly to right.

But in the third inning, Bartley, who pitched a complete game Saturday, threw 26 pitches just to get out of the inning. Jefferson plated three runs on four hits and three Martinsburg errors.

"Brandon did what he could," Martinsburg coach Dennis Etherington said. "He threw 147 pitches Saturday, so we really didn't know how far he could go. The errors hurt a little. You can't hand Jefferson extra outs - they know what to do when they get them."

But Martinsburg (20-16) wasn't finished yet. In the bottom of the inning, the Bulldogs' offense clicked as Kyle Triggs and Blaine Durst hit consecutive singles. Brett Twigg drove in Triggs with one out.

Miek Ware followed by driving the first pitch he saw to deep left center, where Sam Walls made a spectacular snow-cone catch while slamming into the fence for the second out.

Although the sacrifice fly scored Durst, the catch proved to be both a rally point for the Cougars and rally killer for the Bulldogs.

"It's a sectional game and everyone has to put it on the line," Walls said of the catch. "I hoped the ball wasn't going out. I took my last step, jumped and hoped for the best."

"That catch was huge, almost Willie Mays-ish," Lowery said. "If Sam doesn't get that, Martinsburg maybe gets some runs and the complexion changes."

Jefferson starter Terry Mumaw ended the inning by inducing Joey Yurish's short fly ball to center.

Mumaw gave way to Holmes in the fourth and the Cougars cruised defensively.

"We didn't take advantage of our opportunities to the extent we would have liked," Etherington said. "But I was so pleased with these guys. They never quit and this was the most enjoyable group I have ever worked with as a coach."

"I'm tickled we won this thing," Lowery said. "Next year, there won't be a four team sectional, so we can say we won the last one."

Jefferson 7, Martinsburg 2

Jefferson 0130120-7101

Martinsburg 0020000-2116

Mumaw, Holmes (4) and Noll. Bartley, Walther (4) and Twigg. WP - Holmes (4-0). LP - Bartley (6-3). HR - J: Walls (5th, none on).

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