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Eagles cross up Hubs with timely bunt

March 25, 2006|By TIM KOELBLE

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va.

The bases are loaded, the No. 5 batter's up and there's only one out.

The last thing to expect is exactly what Hedgesville coach Ben Merica called for, resulting in a surprise ending to the Eagles' 6-5 victory over North Hagerstown on Friday.

Hedgesville (4-0) spoiled a North rally when its only hit in the bottom of the seventh inning went all of 8 feet - a squeeze bunt by Robert Ahalt that left plenty of room for Jesse Simmons to come sliding home with the decisive run.

With the hard-hitting Ahalt at bat and the North defense playing tight, Merica flashed the bunt signal with a 1-1 count and Ahalt deftly responded with the successful bunt.

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"Robert's bunting skills are not that good," Merica said, smiling wryly. "He's a senior, he accepted the signal I flashed and got the job done. I suppose there was a little element of surprise there."

"We thought about (the bunt)," said North coach Shawn Reynolds. "It was well done on their part."

North's Cadyn Robinson, the third Hubs pitcher, got into the jam with three walks, one of them an intentional pass to Logan Clark, Hedgesville's starting pitcher who earlier hit a pair of ringing doubles and a single.

After North (1-1) scored an unearned run in the fifth to get on the board at 5-1, the Hubs struck for four runs in the sixth inning off relief pitcher Matt Stewart.

With one out, Chris Palmer roped a triple, his third hit of the game. Adam Tosten followed with a walk and Fred Kreiger drove in a run on a force play at second. Marcellus Sumlin coaxed a walk as the Hubs went into the heart of their batting order.

Justin Weaver, who hit the ball hard in the fifth inning but had nothing t o show for it but an out, came to the plate as the tying run in the sixth, and hung a 2-2 fastball from Stewart out to dry with a liner over the fence to left-center field for a 5-5 tie.

"I'm happy with how we battled back and it shows we won't go away and die," said Reynolds.

The Hubs would have been in a better position had they come through early, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. In the second, North had three hits without scoring, as Clark picked runners off base twice.

"We didn't get the hit early when we needed it," said Reynolds. "On the first pickoff, there was a signal missed and the second one just got picked."

Hedgesville opened with a first-inning run off Sumlin on a walk to Josh Lebo, the first of Clark's two doubles and a sacrifice fly by Justin Everhart.

The Eagles stretched their lead to 4-0 in the third when Simmons laid down a perfect bunt and went to third on Clark's second double, this one off the fence in center. After a walk to Everhart loaded the bases, Ahalt sent a potential double-play chopper to short. The Hubs got the out at second as Simmons scored, but Kreiger's throw from second was wide, allowing Clark to come around around and score. Michael Lopez then drove in Ahalt with a double.

"We took advantage of our opportunities early by putting the ball in play," said Merica, happy with the Eagles' 4-0 start. "Clark came through when he had to early, keeping (North) from scoring."

Simmons earned the win with a perfect seventh inning of relief, including two strikeouts.

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