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Eagles learn from new experience

April 19, 2005|by BILL STERNER/Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - After 17 games, Hedgesville softball coach Bill Laing figures playing from behind shouldn't bother the Eagles.

But playing with the lead just might be a little strange. So Laing simplified things for the Eagles in Monday's Apple Valley League against Hancock.

Emily Cunningham pitched a complete-game victory with five strikeouts as Hedgesville (9-8) clinched at least a share of the league title with a 2-0 victory in a game that completed in under an hour because of superb pitching and defense.

Laing allowed Cunningham to finish her start to give the Eagles the different perspective while Hedgesville won its fifth straight game and its first title since 1996.

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"We usually throw Allison (Bowman) and Emily in there for half the game," Laing said. "But tonight, Emily was doing so well and the (Adrienne) Kesecker kid for Hancock was pitching a great game, I decided to change it up and leave Emily go."

The move benefited Hedgesville as Cunningham kept Hancock's bats in check by depending on her defense.

Hedgesville scored in the third inning as Jen Richmond reached on an infield single, took third on Cunningham's single up the middle and came home on an error.

"We struggled to get that one run in, but even then I knew this game was being decided on those little things," Laing said.

Hancock threatened to tie the game in the fourth when Aimee Barton led off with a double and took third on an error, but Cunningham coaxed a groundout to preserve the lead.

Kesecker kept Hancock in the game by seemingly having the Eagles' number with eight strikeouts without a walk for seven innings.

"They can hit the ball hard," Kesecker said of the Eagles. "But we play great defense. I have loads of confidence in my teammates."

Richmond got Hedgesville's offense started again in the fifth with a single up the middle before scoring on Cunningham's two-out bloop hit to center field.

"Emily can do it all, really," Laing said. "She wins games with her bat, arm and legs. She is a complete player."

With the two-run lead, Cunningham cruised through her final three innings, only allowing a single in the seventh.

"That is the best we have played all year, honestly," Hancock coach Heather Creek- Martin said. "We were aggressive with the bats and on the bases. Sometimes we are too patient, but our young kids have come a long way."

"I give Hancock a lot of credit," Laing said. "That team is tough to beat and they have a young lineup."

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