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Cougars one win from regional title

May 22, 2007|by TIM KOELBLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Jefferson landed a two-out left jab in the first inning and it turned out to be the knockout punch.

The Cougars stung Musselman with four runs in the first inning, added two more in the second and went on to a 7-1 victory over the Applemen at P.O. Faulkner Field on Monday night.

Jefferson (31-4) moves into the Class AAA Region II championship game on Wednesday at Sager Field against Elkins (21-11), an 8-1 winner over Bridgeport, at 6:30 p.m. with a spot in the state tournament on the line.

"Getting that lead was critical, very important," said Jefferson coach John Lowery, whose team resumed action following a 12-day layoff.

"We might have been a little rusty at the start, but nothing major," said Musselman coach Jeff Sibole, whose team was playing for the first time in two weeks. "Jefferson is a very good team and you know they're going to score runs."

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The Cougars scored four in a quick flurry after Mussleman starter Jeremy Cunningham retired the first two hitters.

Drew Stevens and Jonathan Hash each singled and Brandon Campbell walked to load the bases. Bobby O'Donnell drove a liner to right that Josh Goforth nearly flagged down to drive in two runs. Wes Kidwell then roped a double to the fence in left that scored Campbell and O'Donnell.

Looking to immediately establish its own offensive momentum, Ethan French got the Applemen (15-17) rolling with a leadoff triple against Hash. He scored on Mark Darlington's sacrifice fly.

Little did Musselman realize French's hit would be the only one against Hash until the seventh.

"I wasn't sharp in the beginning and really didn't have my control, but that's how most of my games have been," said Hash.

Matt Tiano received the first of his three walks in the second, which led to the quick hook of Cunningham from the hill. Justin Grantham followed with a single off reliever Alex Loizos, and Stevens brought in Tiano with an RBI single, with Grantham going to third and eventually scoring on a groundout by Hash.

"(Cunningham's) fastball moves a lot and he just didn't have control," said Sibole.

Musselman threatened briefly in the third when Hash issued a pair of walks before retiring the side.

Hash (6-2) sent down 12 Applemen in a row before a one-out single by Loizos in the seventh. After Hash walked Ricky Frame, he finished with a strikeout of Ryan Shade, Hash's 10th.

Hash's best stuff early came in a variety of breaking pitches, but he became more effective when his fastball started clicking.

"I stayed away from the fastball early," he said. "My slider kept them off balance early and I got stronger as the game went on."

Too strong for Musselman.

"(Hash) threw a lot of first-pitch strikes," said Lowery. "He knows what he has to do."

"Hash wasn't rusty." said Sibole. "He's a quality pitcher."

Lowery will look for some offensive improvement Wednesday.

"You're sharp when you're used to playing a lot of games in a lot of days," said Lowery. "We gave the players some time off, so we had some frustrating times at the plate."

Loizos pitched well in relief, allowing one earned run in 4 2/3 innings for the Applemen.

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