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Swing to remember

April 29, 2007|By CHRIS CARTER

St. Maria Goretti senior David Plank was having a day to forget Saturday afternoon. That was, until he took a swing to remember.

Plank belted the winning three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning and the Gaels got a sound pitching performance from J.J. O'Neill as they topped Berkeley Springs 4-3 in the Apple Valley League.

"I was having a rough day," said Plank, who popped out and struck out looking in his first two at-bats. "I couldn't get around on the fastball and the curveball was messing me up. So, I choked up a little bit and just tried to put it in play."

Plank put it out of the park to drive in Nic Martin and O'Neill to put the Gaels (6-7, 1-5) ahead, 4-3.

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"When I hit it, I was like, 'Please go out,'" Plank said. "I wanted to get it for J.J. because he was pitching a really good game."

Except for a hiccup in the third inning, O'Neill held Berkeley Springs (9-8, 1-5) scoreless. He scattered seven hits and struck out nine to pick up his third win of the year.

"J.J. got off to a rough start," said Goretti coach John Bowen. "He had some trouble finding the strike zone, but he got it together."

O'Neill gave up a run-scoring double to Nick Campanelli and a two-run home run to Michael Twigg as the Indians pulled ahead 3-1 in the third.

"That sent me back to reality," O'Neill said. "(Berkeley Springs) is a good-hitting team. After the first three innings, I just focused more on throwing strikes and hitting my spots."

O'Neill allowed three baserunners over the final four innings, but none got past second base. After throwing 64 pitches in the first three innings, he settled in and needed just 47 over the last four.

The Gaels sophomore capped the game by inducing a deep flyout to Campanelli, who had a hit in each of his previous three at-bats.

"J.J. is learning to be a pitcher, not just a thrower," Bowen said.

But as solid as he was, O'Neill was losing the pitching matchup against Twigg through four innings. Twigg was vying for a no-hitter until O'Neill grounded through the infield with two outs. Plank followed with his blast over the center-field fence.

"I think maybe the kids needed a second or third look at (Twigg) to get a hit," Bowen said. "Dave (Plank) came through in the clutch, and we expect that from him."

Goretti plated its first run in the bottom of the first. O'Neill reached on a walk and circled the bases on three wild pitches to put the Gaels ahead, 1-0.

Twigg retired seven of the next eight batters as the Indians got the lead in the third inning. But he left a fastball over the plate to Plank.

"(Twigg) had a really nice curveball, and I'm not a very good curveball hitter," Plank said. "So, I waited for him to throw me a fastball."

Twigg gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked four in the complete-game loss.

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