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Jefferson claims Section 2 crown for 12th straight year

May 12, 2007|By JOHN O'BRIEN

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Martinsburg coach John Lowery Jr. has watched postseason baseball in states across the country, and he'll tell you there isn't a better site for a first-round playoff game than Jefferson's Sager Field.

He'd probably rather have a different opponent, though.

For the 12th straight year, Jefferson claimed the Class AAA Region II Section 2 championship by knocking off the Bulldogs 6-2 Friday. Five runs in the third inning and a strong performance from starting pitcher Drew Stevens, as well as four Martinsburg errors, propelled the Cougars (30-4) one night after a 1-0, nine-inning loss to Martinsburg forced the elimination game for both teams.

"I, myself, have to figure out a way to prepare our kids to play in this environment," said Lowery Jr., who defeated his father and Jefferson coach John Lowery for the first time in three years Thursday. "If we're going to beat this team and win this section, we're going to have to do it on this field."

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But Martinsburg (25-9) couldn't get it done on the field, committing two errors in Jefferson's five-run third.

"Obviously, we really had to work for this one," said Lowery, who claimed his 24th sectional title en route to what he hopes is his ninth state championship. "You saw the value of being the No. 1 seed. It really paid off. We only played the three games and they had to play all five."

Jake Wines (6-2) breezed through the first two innings for Martinsburg, but allowed Kyle Koppenhaver's leadoff triple to start the third.

Chris Kelly followed with a bouncing ball to shortstop Spike Geffert, who fired home in time to catch Koppenhaver. During the tag, though, the ball popped out of catcher Kevin Griffin's glove.

Kelly was caught in a rundown between first and second, but the Bulldogs botched that, too. Wes Kidwell was hit by an 0-2 pitch, leading Lowery Jr. to bring Geffert in to pitch.

Matt Tiano bunted the two runners over, and Justin Grantham singled them in for a 3-0 lead. Drew Stevens was intentionally walked, Jonathan Hash's grounder to Brandon King at shortstop was booted and Brandon Campbell singled in two.

The offensive outburst was especially sweet for Campbell, who endured 8 1/3 innings on the mound without his team scoring a run on Thursday.

"We kept our weight back," the junior said. "Coach (Lowery) said to wait and jump on a fastball when we got it, and we did.

"(Lack of run support) is very frustrating, but this team - I love them. They fought. I can't be mad at them. We pulled it out today, and that's all that matters."

Bobby O'Donnell singled, stole second, moved to third on Griffin's throwing error and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth for a 6-0 lead.

Stevens allowed his only two runs of the game in the bottom of the fifth on Griffin's two-out double that scored Kaylor Hedges and Ryan Bennett. Griffin was thrown out trying to reach third on the play.

Stevens pitched six innings, allowed five hits and no walks and struck out two. Though Lowery admitted he wasn't the most experienced pitcher Jefferson has, he was still comfortable with the junior in an elimination game.

Stevens even kickstarted two inning-ending 1-6-3 double plays, one of which came with the runner on first trying to steal second on the pitch.

"Drew's played a lot of ball. These kids play AAU ball from 11, 12 years old. He knows the situations of the game," Lowery said.

"He didn't get a lot of starts this year, but that's because we had a lot of kids that could start. With everything on the line, he had the most experience, the most know-how. He just has a feel for the game."

Since Stevens pitched an inning Thursday, Lowery needed a new pitcher for the seventh. Justin Carey, battling elbow inflammation this season, struck out the side to end Martinsburg's season.

"(Jake) has been great for us this year. I thought it was a pretty decent matchup," Lowery Jr. said. "If we make a couple of plays, we would've had a 2-2 or 2-0 game or something like that."

Jefferson plays Musselman on May 21 at Martinsburg in the regional semifinal.

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