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Sectional playoffs start in Panhandle

May 04, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

The flip of the calendar page to May means state baseball and softball playoff games are not far away.

In fact, in West Virginia, they're already here.

The softball sectional playoffs started Wednesday, with Martinsburg upending Jefferson 5-2 in the double-elimination tournament. That earned the Bulldogs a date Thursday at Hedgesville, and the Eagles - as they've done all season - pulled out another close one, 2-0.

Hedgesville is 4-1 against Martinsburg this season. The margin of victory in each game has been two runs or less.

The Eagles are in the driver's seat. Martinsburg will travel to Jefferson today at 3 p.m. for an elimination game, with Hedgesville playing the winner on Saturday at noon.

Either the Bulldogs or the Cougars will have to beat the Eagles twice to win the section, but Hedgesville coach Larry Laing is taking nothing for granted.

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"If you look at the records of just the four Class AAA teams (including Musselman), we have almost 90 wins between us. That's phenomenal, for all of us to be that competitive at one time," Laing said. "Anything can happen (today), and anything can happen when we play Saturday.

"This was a big win for us tonight. This is most wins in school history, and it's been a phenomenal year for us."

The sectional baseball playoffs begin Monday, with third-seed Hedgesville (10-16) traveling to second-seed Martinsburg (21-7) for a 7 p.m. clash. The winner faces top-seed Jefferson (26-3) on Tuesday at 7, with the double-elimination tournament continuing through the week.

The MPSSAA baseball and softball playoff draws will be held Tuesday. First-round games start next Friday.

South Hagerstown's baseball team wrapped up the MVAL Antietam title after suffering its first two league losses early this week. The Rebels (12-3) have the best record in Washington County, but playoff success in Class 2A West is far from guaranteed, with Middletown (10-3), Liberty (9-5), South Carroll (9-5) and Frederick (10-6) all looming as threats to win the region.

The Rebels are led offensively by Tim Leather (.447), Tim Hamilton (.418) and Zeke Ricketts (.349, three homers). Kenny Feigley (3-0, 1.35 ERA) has been South's steadiest pitcher, while Spencer Cromer set a team record with his six saves this season.

In Class 1A West softball, Williamsport (11-5) appears to be the Washington County team most likely to make a deep run. It won't be easy - the region is loaded, with MVAL Antietam leaders Brunswick (12-3) and Catoctin (12-3) in the mix along with Allegany County powers Beall (10-3) and Allegany (10-6).

"I can't think of one team in this region you can just throw your glove on and beat," Wildcats coach Tom Dzur said. "I've seen most of the teams play, and the phrase 'Any Given Day' is really true."

Williamsport has split games with both Brunswick (a 10-0 victory on April 11 and a 3-1 loss on Wednesday) and Catoctin (an 8-1 win on March 30 and a 5-1 loss on April 20).

The Wildcats' biggest strength comes in their three pitchers - Jessica Bennett (3-2, 0.42 ERA), Kelly Beard (3-2, 0.66) and Emily Huff (5-1, 1.52). In 106 combined innings, the trio has given up just 14 earned runs - although 32 unearned runs have also scored.

"We have steady pitching, with three good pitchers. When we play good defense, we do very well," Dzur said. "When we give (opponents) more than three outs in an inning, we have problems."

Jess Patey (.340) is the Wildcats' biggest power threat, with five home runs. Casey Siler (.386), Bennett (.358) and Beard (.314) add depth to the lineup.

POY awards up in air

The races for The Herald-Mail's baseball and softball Player of the Year awards are anything but runaways.

In baseball, the top contenders are Waynesboro's Nathan Minnich, Mercersburg Academy's Cord Heine and Martinsburg's Brandon King.

Minnich, a junior, is hitting .642 and his eight home runs (in 42 at-bats) match the school single-season record he set as a freshman.

Heine, a senior leads the area with nine homers and also has eight doubles in 52 at-bats, compiling a .538 average

King, a sophomore, has been a beast both at the plate and on the mound for the Bulldogs. He's hitting .471 with eight doubles and eight homers in 85 at-bats. He's also 4-2 with a 1.46 ERA, allowing 29 hits and 10 walks in 48 innings while striking out 63.

In softball, two-time POY winner Sarah Signore is battling it out with Martinsburg's Lexi Rodgers again, but this time Signore will also have to fend off a familiar rival - Waynesboro's Taryn Ashway.

Signore, a senior who's hitting .444 as a slap-hitter from the leadoff spot, does most of her damage in the circle. She's 7-2 with a 0.33 ERA, allowing 21 hits and three walks in 64 innings while striking out 106. Earlier this season she eclipsed the 600-strikeout milestone.

Rodgers, also a senior, was 18-6 through Wednesday with a 0.76 ERA, allowing 96 hits and 16 walks while fanning 227 in 155 2/3 innings. She's also been a terror with a bat in her hands, hitting an area-best .651 with 12 doubles, 11 triples and four homers in 83 at-bats. She's driven in 38 runs and stolen 12 bases.

Ashway, a sophomore, is 9-6 with a 1.67 ERA. She's allowed 69 hits and 19 walks in 105 innings while striking out 160. At the plate, she's hitting .629 - second-best in the area - with six doubles, four homers and 19 RBI in 54 at-bats.

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