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Weary Dogs no match for Eagles

April 04, 2007|by JOHN O'BRIEN / Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - While Hedgesville coach Larry Laing knocked on wood with hopes of seeing his team continue its early-season success, Martinsburg counterpart Dean Ballenger decided after Tuesday's game that it's time for some changes.

Jessica Shirley hurled a six-hitter, Brittany Kolb scored a pair of runs and Hedgesville ran its record to 8-1 with a 3-0 win over Martinsburg at Charlotte Prather Park.

After hosting the Gene Baker Tournament over the weekend then beating Jefferson on Monday night, Martinsburg coach Dean Ballenger said his team is simply worn out.

He added that he plans to start Jessica Russ tonight against Musselman, last year's regional champion, instead of ace Lexi Rodgers. Rodgers (9-2) took the loss Tuesday and has pitched eight games in seven days.

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"We're banged up right now," said Ballenger, whose team fell to 10-2. "Lexi's tired, she's a little banged up.

"She's got the bumps and bruises and needs a break."

Rodgers allowed only one earned run in seven innings, striking out six and allowing six hits. Shirley (6-1) also struck out six but saw her defense make all the plays behind her. Hedgesville did not commit an error, while the Bulldogs' four miscues led to a pair of runs for the Eagles.

"We're doing well. We've been doing that all year," Laing said. "We've really cut down on the errors on the defensive side.

"I don't want to jinx it. We've also given up very few walks. Hitters are only batting around .150 or .160 with our defense making all the plays."

Shirley's own defense helped her out in the fourth, when the Eagles were leading 2-0 and Rodgers singled and stole second. Shirley snared Holly Temple's liner and doubled Rodgers off second, and Elizabeth Curry's following single went wasted.

It was the only inning the Bulldogs (10-2) coupled hits.

"We hit the ball hard a little bit," Ballenger said. "We had six hits, but they were kind of spread out. We put the ball in play, but we hit a lot right at them. They played a great defensive game."

Offensively, Kolb and catcher Sam Nazelrod were the Hedgesville stars.

Kolb singled and stole second in the first, then came home on Nazelrod's single to center field for a 1-0 lead.

Chelsie Oals reached on an error in the third, then sprinted around the bases when Nazelrod doubled to center field. The lead reached 3-0 in the fifth when Kolb, who had singled, scored on another Martinsburg error.

Oals was attempting to bunt her to second, but Rodgers' throw went into right field and Kolb scored while Oals was caught in a pickle between first and second. Eventually, Oals reached second because Martinsburg did not have anyone covering the bag.

Laing could take delight in seeing his team take advantage of the mistakes while not committing any of its own.

"With a young club, you stress the fundamentals," Laing said. "These girls listen - that's the key. They want to play and they listen."

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