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Wines dines on Eagles hitters

March 29, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg junior Jake Wines admitted he felt nervous when he made his first start of the season Tuesday night against Hedgesville.

The nervousness led to a shaky first inning when Wines loaded the bases, but the jitters would soon disappear, followed by the Hedgesville bats.

Wines scattered four hits and struck out six in a complete-game shutout and the Bulldogs did just enough at the plate to notch a 2-0 home victory under a steady drizzle.

"I think I threw pretty good tonight and located the ball well," Wines said. "I was a little nervous in the first inning because it was my first start, but I settled down."

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Wines surrendered a one-out bunt single to Jesse Simmons and back-to-back walks to Justin Everhart and John Coulter with two outs to load the bases for Michael Lopez in the first. Wines pitched the count full, but got out of the jam with a heater down the middle that Lopez swung through for the final out.

"Jake threw about as good as you could ask in his first start," said Martinsburg coach John Lowery Jr. "He pitched good at the end of last year and now he's off to a good start.

The Bulldogs (5-0) loaded the bases in the bottom half with help from the Eagles (5-2). Kaylor Hedges led off with a single to center field and Zach Newhouse followed with a ground ball down the third-base line. The ball squirted through the legs of Hedgesville third baseman Scott Rhoe and into left field, where it was mishandled by Josh Lebo.

The two errors moved Hedges to third and Newhouse to second. With first base open, Eagles coach Ben Merica elected to intentionally walk Kevin Griffin and load the bases with no outs.

Two batters later, Brandon King hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Hedges. A.J. Roberts followed with a run-scoring single to give Martinsburg a 2-0 lead.

"We squandered some opportunities in the first inning and (the Bulldogs) did what they needed to do," Merica said. "They had a couple of young guys come up big ... but I'm surprised those runs stood up."

The runs stood thanks to the pitching of Wines and sharp defense behind him. Beginning with the Lopez strikeout in the first, Wines retired 11 straight batters with help from the young infield as middle infielders Hedges and Spike Geffert, both sophomores, veiled their inexperience with their gloves.

Hedges had a pair of web gems at second base, the first a diving catch on a pop fly to shallow right field and the second on a slow roller that he charged and quickly unloaded to narrowly beat the runner.

Geffert charged a chopper and chased down a line drive to prevent two more potential hits.

"(The defense) boosted my confidence a lot," Wines said. "It really helps to know that you have a good defense to help you."

Rhoe snapped the Hedgesville slump with a single up the middle in the fifth, but two pitches later was caught stealing by Griffin, who unloaded a frozen rope to Geffert.

The biggest defensive sequence came in the sixth, with an assist to Merica. With one out, Ahalt singled to center and Everhart followed with a single to right. Ahalt got a good jump and sprinted around second with a head of steam toward third. Paul Chenowith, who had just entered the game for Mark Clatterbuck, bobbled the ball in the right field and Merica waved Ahalt around third. Chenowith quickly got a handle on the ball and fired to the cutoff man - Roberts - who made a perfect relay to Griffin, who made the tag on Ahalt at the plate.

"I made a bonehead decision," Merica said. "I was thinking the ball had to be wet from the rain and after he bobbled it I though (Ahalt) could make it. They made a good relay to get him."

The Eagles wouldn't get another chance as Wines retired the final four batters on just 11 pitches.

"We've sort of announced our rotation for this week, but as with any team we're going to do it based on performance," Lowery Jr. said. "Jake will definitely get another start."

Sure to earn another start for the Eagles is Ahalt, who was the tough-luck loser. Aside from the two unearned runs, Ahalt matched Wines inning for inning. He gave up six hits and matched Wines with six strikeouts.

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