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Warriors dodge potholes, dump Rams

May 18, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

BOONSBORO - Zac Shifler was nearly in a rut.

But instead of falling in it, Boonsboro's starting pitcher stepped around it.

Shifler used a little between-innings work - while the Warriors went to work on Southern Garrett's pitching - to put forth a five-inning outing that helped pace Boonsboro to a 12-2 victory in six innings on Wednesday in the Maryland Class 1A West semifinals.

Shifler and Southern Garrett starter Jason Ashby had similar strides on the mound, leaving an odd hole in the landing area. The hole threw off Shifler's mechanics.

"That other kid had an aggressive stride," Shifler said. "I tried to work on shortening mine. I went and threw on the side, but it's something I tried to work on all the time."

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Shifler survived Southern Garrett's aggressive attempts to hit his first pitches and relied on his defense to get him out of trouble in the first two innings. The plant-foot problem cropped up in the third inning after the Warriors took a 5-0 lead as he walked four Rams batters, but escaped after only allowing one run because of the Boonsboro defense.

"Our defense has been like that all year," Shifler said. "We are more prone to let the other team hit the ball instead of going for strikeouts. That makes pitching a lot less stressful. Now, I'm just one of nine players on the field."

While Shifler was avoiding potholes, Boonsboro's offense was putting Southern Garett in a big hole.

Cam Shifler started a five-run rally in the second with a two-run home run to left field to start an inning in which the Warriors batted around. Matt Byers added an RBI single for his first of four RBI and Cody Poffenberger stroked a two-run double to give Zac Shifler a working advantage.

"It makes everything much different when you have a three-run lead," Zac Shifler said. "It's really different when you have a five-run lead. It allows you to pitch and rely on the defense."

Boonsboro made it an 8-1 lead in the third with the help of a critical error by Southern Garrett second baseman Mark Bittinger. He booted a Jared Ferguson two-out grounder during a steal attempt to keep the inning alive. After Tim Cole walked to load the bases, Byers hit an opposite-field, base-clearing double that landed on the left-field line to blow the game open.

"We got the big hits at the proper time," Boonsboro coach Max Shaffer said. "When we started the game, we said they had a lot of sophomores playing. We wanted our seniors to be aggressive and get the early lead and maybe they would fold. The kids are really focused. ... Let's see what happens."

What happens is yet to be seen. Boonsboro is waiting to see who it will play in Friday's West final. Williamsport and Northern Garrett will finish their rain-delayed game today.

Boonsboro made it 9-1 in the fourth when Poffenberger scored on Kyle Kane's groundout. Poffenberger reached base when right fielder Shane Weaver dropped an inning-opening popup along the right-field line.

Ashby caught Zac Shifler for a solo home run in the fifth inning, but the Warriors closed out the game in the sixth. The Warriors took advantage of two Rams fielding errors and walks to score three runs. Josh Anders and Ferguson drew bases-loaded walks to score the game-ending runs.

Zac Shifler allowed the two runs on five hits while walking four and striking out five. Chris Shelby retired Southern Garrett in order in the sixth.

"We've played good defense all year," Shaffer said. "This team comes to play. I don't know what it is about them ... they just believe."

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