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Koontz's best is too good for American

July 12, 2007|By TRAVIS KING / Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - Hancock starting pitcher Nathan Koontz called his two-hit, 13-strikeout performance Wednesday night in the Maryland District 1 11-12 All-Star Tournament "the best game I've ever pitched."

It would be hard to disagree.

Koontz and Hancock, aided by a home run from Levi Mellott, withstood a late rally for a 7-5 victory that eliminated American in a losers' bracket game.

"Koontz was on his game tonight," said Hancock manager Dennis Douglas. "He was relaxed and mixed his pitches up. We rely on him. He's our big-game pitcher."

Hancock took an early lead with a run in the top of the first inning when Tanner Manning singled and scored on a Koontz single. Hancock added two more runs in the second, when Mellott took a Darian Hampton offering deep over the center-field fence for a 3-0 lead.

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American got on the board in the second when Hampton scored on a wild pitch. Trey Jesse added a solo homer, American's first hit of the game, in the third to pull within 3-2.

Despite allowing the two runs, Koontz remained calm. He struck out the side in the first, second and fourth innings, and left in the fifth after reaching the 85-pitch count.

"I got in trouble a little in the beginning by moving around on the mound, so I just went at them down the middle. I felt comfortable mixing up my pitches," said Koontz.

Hancock threatened to break the game open in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs. Reliever Jimmy Rice came in, however, and struck out the next three Hancock hitters to end the inning.

Hancock's four-run sixth inning gave it the insurance runs it needed. Vinnie Foreman's two-run single scored Mellott and pinch runner Tanner Faith. Foreman and Koontz scored when the throw home on a Jordan Leach single sailed over the catcher's head for an error, giving Hancock a 7-2 lead.

American began a rally of its own in the sixth. Hampton and Tyler Maust each walked with one out and scored on an Anthony Morton single. A wild pitch and a dropped pop fly with two outs scored Morton and kept American alive.

Reliever Ben True put the winning run on base when he intentionally walked Jesse to load the bases, but Ahmere Ware lined sharply to Foreman at second to end the game.

"We had a little more pressure on us than I wanted," said Douglas. "But Ben pitched in the same circumstances against Valley and we made the plays we had to at the end."

"When they walked Trey to load the bases, I thought the game was over," said American manager Rod Wilson. "We just couldn't find the holes. It's nothing to hang our heads over."

Morton had two hits and Jesse reached base four times with his homer and three walks for American. Hampton scattered eight hits and two walks over his four-plus innings, striking out seven.

Hancock travels to Conococheague today to play at 6 p.m.

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