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Applemen make playoff upset annual event

May 09, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - The similarities between Thursday's West Virginia Class AAA Region II softball semifinal between Hedgesville and Musselman, and last year's regional semifinal between the same two teams, are nothing short of eerie.

Last year, The Eagles were upset 2-1 by the Applemen, leaving Hedgesville 29-5 to end the season and Musselman 24-8 entering the regional final.

This year, the Eagles were upset 7-1 by the Applemen, leaving Hedgesville 29-4 to end the season and Musselman 24-8 entering the regional final.

"It's Musselman. They've been the hump we can't get over in regional play," Eagles coach Larry Laing said.

The Applemen's bats came alive in the last four innings as Musselman racked up 13 total hits against Eagles ace Jess Shirley, who was bothered by a strike zone that was consistently tight for both teams.

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"If Jess doesn't get her corners, she has to throw it down the middle and they'll hit it," Laing said.

Musselman ace Jill Shawyer allowed six hits and a first-inning run, as Chelsea Oals reached on an error and later scored on a wild pitch. But otherwise, Shawyer kept working her way out of jams and struck out eight for the victory.

"I just tried to hit the glove," Shawyer said. "If I got (the call), I got it, if I didn't, I didn't. But it wasn't just me. Everyone wanted it. We all hit the ball. We all did this."

"She's our ace. We'll ride her for as long as she'll take us," Musselman coach Rick Kees said. "She has wonderful maturity for her age, she doesn't get rattled. She's not going to let the strike zone affect her."

Hedgesville left runners stranded in scoring position in five innings.

"You can't do that," Laing said. "Our girls didn't hit. They didn't hit in key times. You have to hit in clutch situations, and we didn't."

Shawyer's RBI triple in the bottom of the first tied the game at 1.

Musselman took a 3-1 lead in the fourth. Kaila Adams led off with a single to center, and with one out, Alexa Hostler was hit by a pitch and Jessica Barnes hit a bloop single to right to load the bases. Kali Miller walked on four pitches - the last two close to the outside corner - to force in a run, before Brittany Gano's groundout to second scored another.

Jenica Anders' RBI bloop single down the first-base line made it 4-1 in the fifth, and Barnes doubled leading off the sixth and came around on Kali Miller's bunt single and Morgan Harms' RBI groundout to second to make it 5-1. Musselman then put together five hits in the seventh - including singles by Shawyer, Barnes and Gano, a double by Adams and Nikki Stephenson's RBI triple to right - for two more runs.

"We've talked all week about just believing in ourselves and having confidence you can hit the ball," Kees said. "Our fielding's been good, our pitching's been good, it's just a matter of having confidence.

"We've played Hedgesville close the last two or three years, and every game is decided by one or two runs. We got the lead and our confidence level kept rising."

Musselman now has to hope history doesn't further repeat itself - the Applemen lost to Lewis County in last year's regional final. Musselman will play at Hedgesville against an opponent to be determined next Thursday at 5:30 p.m., with a trip to the state tournament on the line.

Meanwhile, Hedgesville is left to ponder what was, and what could have been.

"I'm still proud of them," Laing said. "They won 29 games, the seniors are 58-9 (the last two seasons), it's a tribute to them. They leave with four (Apple Valley League) titles and three sectional titles. I wish it had ended a little easier for them."

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