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Leopards hustle past 'Cats in an MVAL Antietam upset

April 27, 2007|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

SMITHSBURG - Coaches at every level routinely stress the importance of hustle. The Smithsburg baseball team showed Thursday how it pays off.

Smithsburg beat out three infield singles in a five-run first inning and that grit rubbed off on the defense as the Leopards held on to upset the Williamsport Wildcats 5-4 in MVAL Antietam action.

"This team has a lot of speed," said Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes. "We beat out a number of infield hits, or at least made them close. It was big to get to turn those into hits and get off to a good start."

Smithsburg (5-9, 3-7) cashed in the hustle of Kevin Tyler and Matt Shriver - both reached on infield hits - for the power of Josh Conway and Brandon Knight in the bottom of the first.

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Conway took two pitches before slugging a Jason Hammond fastball over the left-field fence for his second home run of the season to give Smithsburg a 3-0 lead.

Three batters later, Brandon Knight homered to drive in Josh Bodine and give the Leopards a 5-0 advantage.

"It was a 3-1 count and I saw a fastball coming and jumped on it," said Knight, who hit his first home run of the year and finished with two hits. "I was just hoping for a base hit. Coach always preaches how we need to get runners around and not strand them."

But the Leopards' offense stalled against Hammond for the remainder of the game, leaving it up to starting pitcher Kevin Kocsis and his defense.

Kocsis lived dangerously at times - he faced six Williamsport runners in scoring position in the first three innings - but his resilience in front of a hustling defense kept the Leopards unscathed.

Frank Regan made a diving stop at third base to save two runs in the third inning and Steve Hines had four putouts in right field, including a diving catch in the fifth inning that prevented an extra-base hit for Williamsport's Chad Bikle.

Kocsis survived several more close calls when Williamsport hitters drove pitches deep to the outfield, but most landed harmlessly in the gloves of the Leopards' fielders.

"We hit too many popups," said Williamsport coach Larnie Vickers. "We have to put the ball on the ground if we want to get on base."

The Wildcats (8-6, 5-5) finally got to Kocsis in the sixth inning when Travis Sluger led off with a home run and Aaron Hershberger singled and scored on a hit by Tim McCartney to cut the lead to 5-2.

A.J. Jamison blasted a two-run home run in the seventh to close the gap to 5-4 and send Kocsis from the mound after 110 pitches. Tyler entered the game with no outs and promptly walked Bikle before inducing two fielder's-choice outs and a game-ending infield popout.

Jamison finished with three hits and McCartney added two for the Wildcats. Hammond suffered the complete-game loss after only 77 pitches and retired 11 of the last 12 hitters he faced.

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