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Courtney powers Federal past Hancock

July 11, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

Move over Guerrero. It was Courtney's turn to take some licks.

Vlad Guerrero won the All-Star Home Run Derby with three blasts in the finals Monday. It only took two homers for Alex Courtney to make a difference for Federal Little League on Tuesday.

Courtney hit two home runs - including a first-inning grand slam - and drove in seven runs to help Federal power over Hancock 11-4 in a winners' bracket semifinal in the Maryland District 1 11-12 All-Star Tournament.

"I watched them on Monday," Courtney said with a sheepish grin. "I thought, 'Man, I'm never going to ever hit it that far.' But it felt good."

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And it couldn't have come at a better time for Federal - in the first inning with no outs while playing as the visitor in its home park because of a coin flip.

"It was a wonderful feeling (getting four runs in the first)," Federal manager Doug Hornbecker said. "I told them to go out and be aggressive and get the early lead. It didn't surprise me, though. They are all 12-year-olds at the top of the order and they are all experienced and have been all-stars before."

Hancock starter Hunter McKinley opened the game by hitting Federal leadoff hitter Charles Cvijanovich with a pitch before Philip Pietro and Aaron Showe each singled to load the bases.

Courtney, who had been struggling with a .167 batting average in the tournament entering the game, stepped in and connected on a 1-2 pitch. It wasn't a majestic blast like those in Monday's events, but was just good enough.

It was a high fly to left field that had Hancock's Tyler Trail standing at the 192-foot mark watching the 194-foot fly carry over the fence.

"I thought I just popped it up," said Courtney, who had 16 homers in the regular season. "I was watching it and it just got over the fence. I had been struggling in the first two games. We had been working on it. I haven't been making real good contact. I think it was because of nerves."

It was a good starting point for Showe, who was pitching while shaking the after effects of a double-ear infection. He gave up a run in the second as Tanner Faith doubled and scored on Trail's hit to right center - a single to the fence that he unsuccessfully tried to stretch into a double as he was thrown out by right fielder Max Ober.

Federal, which hosts Maugansville tonight at 6 in the winners' bracket final, nursed the 4-1 lead until the fifth inning, when the top of the order started another rally.

Cvijanovich led off with a single, moved to second when Pietro was hit by a pitch and scored on a Showe single. Courtney followed with a no-doubt, three-run shot to left that chased McKinley. Ober singled home another run against reliever Vinnie Foreman to give Federal a 9-1 lead.

"I have Alex on my team in the regular season and he spoiled us," said Hornbecker. "He had been hitting like he can, but I think he's getting in a groove now."

Hancock got a run off Showe in the fifth with runners on second and third and two outs. Donnie O'Brien hit an RBI single to the right-field fence and was gunned down by Ober at second before a second run could score.

"Not much has been said about it, but the plays our outfield has made with throws have been big," Hornbecker said.

Federal's Pietro and Hancock's Faith both hit two-run homers in the sixth to close out the scoring.

Showe got the win, going 5 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts.

"The home runs got us tonight," said Hancock manager Dennis Douglas. "We only had one error, but the long ball got us. I'll take responsibility for that because I should have called different pitches. But we hit the ball against their best pitcher. ... Maybe we'll see them again."

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