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West End's Stoner no-hits National

July 11, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

National Little League's journey through the District 1 11-12 All-Star Tournament winners' bracket ran into a dead end against West End and unhittable ace Aaron Stoner.

Given run support - mostly in the form of four solo home runs, three in the fourth inning - Stoner locked in and locked up National, throwing a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts as West End advanced to today's winners' bracket final with a 7-0 shutout of National on Monday night.

"I just wanted to come out strong and throw strikes," said Stoner, who retired the first six he faced, including five in a row on strikeouts. "This is the best game I've pitched this year."

It's the second no-hitter in a row thrown by West End, which will travel to Valley today at 6 p.m. Nathan Murray no-hit South Mountain on Saturday.

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Stoner, pitching on two days' rest, had much better control of his overpowering fastball. He walked nine and hit a batter in West End's opening win against Federal, but walked only one Monday - one of two baserunners National had all game, the other reaching on an error.

"When he goes on short rest, he's phenomenal," West End manager Michael Houser said. "He focuses more and he's not as strong. When he's strong, he overthrows. When he's less strong, he's more accurate.

"I wasn't even sure I was going to start him. He's almost like a son to me. I've (coached) him for five years and I'm really proud."

West End took a 1-0 lead in the second when Austin Scott walked with one out and later scored on Cordell Davis' infield single. But it was the fourth inning in which West End asserted its dominance.

Scott led it off with a towering homer just over the fence in right-center field. One out later, Aaron Rowland crushed a line-drive homer to dead center, the ball landing three-fourths of the way up a tree beyond the fence. Scott Boppe - who had not hit a home run in his Little League career, according to Houser - followed with his first, off the scoreboard in center, to make it 4-0.

"The only thing we had to do was have someone open the gate, and then it was like a dam," Houser said. "Once the hole opened, it just got bigger."

Nathan Murray added a solo homer leading off the fifth, and Brandon Hess and Matt Stambaugh scored later in the inning, Stambaugh coming home on Aaron Barton's RBI groundout.

The only thing left to determine was whether or not Stoner would get his no-hitter. He did it in style, striking out the final eight he faced.

Note: West End's coaching staff dedicated the victory to Jon Breehl, a former West End All-Star and North Hagerstown High School graduate who is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq today as a member of the United States Marine Corps.

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