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Road to district crown goes West

July 12, 2006|by ANDREW MASON

CHEWSVILLE - Perhaps the only thing more mighty than West End All-Star Aaron Stoner's bat is his pitching arm.

Valley is in the unenviable position of having to hope it will get the chance to find out.

Stoner went 2-for-2 with a monstrous two-run homer, a double and a walk as West End beat defending champion Valley 5-3 in the District 1 11-12 All-Star Tournament winners' bracket final Tuesday.

"We're playing tremendous and working as a team," said Stoner, who played shortstop after pitching a no-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts Monday. "We're not a one-man team."

Valley will host the losers' bracket final Friday against a team to be determined. The winner of that game earns the right to play at West End on Saturday with Stoner on the mound. If West End wins Saturday, it's the District 1 champ. If West End loses, the teams will meet again Monday for the title.

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"One game at time," West End manager Michael Houser said. "Yesterday's gone and tomorrow ain't here. We play for today."

Ryne Willard, whose three-run homer in the seventh inning lifted Valley past Clear Spring on Monday, starred again Tuesday with a home run, a double and a single. He also had the chance to be the hero again.

With Valley down 5-3 with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, Willard, whom West End had yet to retire, stepped to the plate. But he grounded back to pitcher Brandon Hess, who threw home for the forceout to end the game.

Hess pitched three scoreless innings of relief, taking over a 4-3 lead from starter Nathan Murray in the fourth.

"I haven't used Brandon all playoffs," Houser said. "He hasn't thrown a lot, but he came in and just shut the door."

After Valley took a 1-0 lead in the first as Willard doubled and eventually scored on an error, West End immediately answered in the bottom half. Michael Offutt led off with a double and scored on Stoner's one-out homer - a towering shot that ricocheted back onto the playing field after hitting the top of a tree beyond the right-field fence.

"I just got into one," Stoner said. "It was amazing."

"That's the longest shot I've ever seen here," Valley manager Greg Spickler said. "It's probably still flying. I bet it would have gone 350 feet at least."

After Valley tied the game at 2-2 in the second on Tyler McKenzie's two-out solo homer to left-center, West End retook the lead in the bottom half on Cordell Davis' RBI double.

Willard's solo shot to center tied the game at 3-3 in the third, and West End again answered in the bottom half as Stoner doubled and eventually scored on Hess' fielder's-choice RBI to make it 4-3.

West End added an insurance run in the fifth as Hess reached third on a pair of errors and scored on a single by Aaron Rowland.

"We have 12 good ball players, and they'll be back," Spickler said. "One defeat won't get them down."

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