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West End advances in district

July 10, 2002|By DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

When everything around him turned into chaos, West End Little League All-Stars pitcher Henry Fitzgerald kept battling and found his own peace.

With the tying run on base and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Fitzgerald made the pitches he needed to send West End to a thrilling 4-3 victory over Sharpsburg Little League in a District I winner's bracket quarterfinal.

"I was nervous," Fitzgerald said. "(I was) listening to my coach, and he told me to relax and concentrate."

Fitzgerald pitched a complete game, allowing two hits -- one a solo home run to Jordan Young that made the game 3-2 in the fourth -- while striking out eight and walking only two in a gutty effort.

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Leading 4-2, Fitzgerald had a chance to lose it all in the sixth. Leadoff hitter Seth Poffenberger walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on a groundout. Young followed with a hard grounder to short that Chris Jackson gloved while backpedaling, but his throw was wild, allowing Poffenberger to score.

After a meeting with manager Wink Suder, Fitzgerald got Zach Stride to ground out to third, then struck out Jacob Pendergraft to end the game.

"I was a little worried there, because they had the top of the lineup up and they had hit the ball a ton," Suder said. "We told him every pitch had to be low in the strike zone."

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Sharpsburg manager Danny Pendergraft said. "They had a good little pitcher out there ... he didn't walk many and he stayed consistent."

Kyle Beers' RBI double and two wild pitches gave West End a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Sharpsburg got one back on two errors in the bottom half.

Leading 3-2 in the top of the sixth, West End loaded the bases with no outs and threatened to blow the game open, but only pushed one run across, as Sharpsburg reliever Pendergraft struck out Tim Leather and Beers to end the inning.

The game featured two outstanding defensive plays. In the bottom of the first, West End center fielder C.J. Green robbed Stride of a hit -- diving to his right to snare a line drive heading for the gap -- then doubled off Young at third for an inning-ending double play.

In the second, Pendergraft -- then playing in left field -- made a leaping grab of Fitzgerald's high drive down the line on the warning track.

"That's as good as any major league game you'll ever want to watch," Suder said.

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