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Conococheague wins Junior title

July 15, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - The Conococheague Junior League All-Stars burned Hancock on the bases, scorched them at the plate and pitcher Brennan Deener blazed them on the mound in Friday night's District 1 Tournament final.

It all added up to a blistering inferno that Hancock could not extinguish as Conococheague rolled to a 10-3 win, earning a second straight trip to the state tournament.

Deener was an important element in Conococheague's championship formula Friday, scattering seven hits and striking out six. Deener's only costly mistake came in the fifth inning, when he left a fastball over the plate to Hancock slugger Justin Berkstresser, who slammed it over the fence to left for a three-run home run.

"I just lost it," Deener said. "I didn't really follow through and I put it where he could hit it."

Deener redeemed himself in the seventh inning when he fanned Berkstresser with the bases loaded. He got out of the jam by inducing Derek Younker into a game-ending fielder's choice.

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"It felt great to strike (Berkstresser) out and then get the last out," Deener said. "I just told myself to get the next two batters and we would win it all."

Conococheague, which will travel to Hurlock, Md., for the state tournament next weekend, used smart and swift baserunning to build an early lead against Hancock pitcher Lucas Trunkle. After hitting a two-out double on a ball misjudged in the outfield, Conococheague's Ryan Wood moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error for a 1-0 lead.

Conococheague made it 2-0 without recording a hit in the second inning. Tyler Miles drew a two-out walk and stole second and third. Derek Munro followed with a walk and was caught in a rundown between first and second, during which Miles alertly scored from third.

Five stolen bases in the third inning helped jump-start Conococheague's bats, as four hits led to three runs and a 5-0 advantage. Conococheague continued to be aggressive on the bases as it stole four more bases over the final four innings.

"It's a lot different when you make the plays," said Conococheague manager Andy Smith. "We wanted to make the other team make the plays. We practice and preach getting good leads and smart baserunning."

Deener got his second hit and drove in his second and third runs with a two-run single in the fourth, and Tyler Jones followed with an RBI single as Conococheague took an 8-0 lead.

Munro increased the lead with an RBI double in the fifth before Berkstresser's home run in the bottom half cut it to 9-3.

Conococheague had all the motivation it needed, extracting revenge from Sunday's 15-2 loss to Hancock.

"We clipped the newspaper article (from the loss) and kept it in the dugout," Deener said. "Every inning, we just came in and looked at it. That was enough."

Danny Spickler's second hit and RBI of the game in the sixth made it 10-3 and Deener closed out the complete-game victory.

"There was a lot of talk about Hancock being 17-0 before the tournament," Smith said. "But they played Conococheague three times and we beat them twice."

Trunkle, who took the loss, led Hancock with three hits.

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