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Martinsburg keeps sectional crown in Lowery family

May 09, 2008|By JOHN O'BRIEN / Staff Correspondent

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Though the West Virginia Class AAA, Region II, Section 2 championship won't rest at its usual home at Jefferson High, it will still stay within the Lowery family.

Martinsburg coach John Lowery Jr., the son of Jefferson's legendary leader, earned his first sectional title Thursday night as the Bulldogs held off a scrappy Hedgesville team for an 8-6 win.

Lowery Sr. has nine state titles and 24 sectionals, including a streak of 12 that was snapped Wednesday. Lowery Jr.'s team will play Musselman in the regional semifinal May 20.

"Oh, I'm sure he will be a proud father, like I've always been a proud son," Lowery Jr. said.

Lowery Jr. took over the Bulldogs program four years ago and has led the team to three straight 20-win seasons. Martinsburg improved to 21-11.

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"It feels good. It's been a long four years waiting for it," Lowery Jr. said. "I told the guys at our first meeting ever, when I saw them for the first time, we needed to change the fortunes of Martinsburg at win a sectional."

It is the Bulldogs' first sectional since 1995, when coach Vic Holmes led the team to the school's third state championship.

Martinsburg's freshman starter Eli Fulk (4-1) took a no-hitter into the fifth inning with a 8-0 lead, but Hedgesville mounted a rally, just as the Eagles (16-17) did Wednesday in a 4-2 win over Jefferson.

Mike Ferrari drew a two-out walk and scored when Sean Huff's single got past center fielder T.J. Weisenberg. After beaning Tyler McCain, Fulk was pulled for Weisenberg, who got out of the inning up 8-1.

Fulk struck out eight, walked one and hit two in his 4 2/3 innings. Weisenberg didn't fare as well in the sixth, walking two and hitting one to load the bases with one out.

Hedgesville pitcher Huey Hite singled up the middle to score two, and Ferrari added a single to plate Chris Scanlan and make it 8-4.

John Weinberg singled to right off new pitcher Spike Geffert, scoring pinch runner Jeremy Ebersol, but was thrown out jogging into second. Hedgesville coach Ben Merica said Weinberg was anticipating a throw home even though heh ad held courtesy runner Kris Eichelberger at third.

"Just a bonehead baserunning mistake," Merica said.

Tyler McCain singled to score Eichelberger, but Geffert struck out Jordan Smith to keep the lead at 8-6. Geffert, who had made a diving stop early in the sixth that ultimately saved a run, had a 1-2-3 seventh inning against the heart of Hedgesville's order.

Geffert got the win Monday when the Bulldogs beat Hedgesville 5-2. The Eagles would have had to beat Martinsburg twice to earn the sectional crown.

After an easy first two innings, Hedgesville freshman starter Zack Layhew (1-1) lost his control in the third. Jordan Mason singled ahead of back-to-back walks, then Layhew beaned Zach Woolcock with the bases loaded before walking Weisenberg to force in another run, making it 2-0.

Zach Stolipher's fielder's choice scored Ryan Bennett for a 3-0 lead. Against reliever Chris Michanco, Martinsburg added another three in the fourth, aided by a pair of pop-ups that Eagle fielders lost in the night sky.

One landed in the middle of the infield to allow Bennett to reach, and another fell in left field to give Woolcock a double that plated Geffert and Bennett. Woolcock later stole home on a double-steal for a 6-0 lead.

Merica cursed the "dusk sky."

"I can remember so frequently things like that happening to us over the years, and it happening to our opponents so infrequently," he added.

More control problems hurt reliever Matt Laign in the fifth. He beaned James Jordan and walked Kam Puller, and the two scored on Bennett's single to make it 8-0.

Huey Hite, who Merica had planned to start before second-guessing the choice, shut the Bulldogs down over the final 2 2/3 innings, striking out four.

Hite walked only one, while his teammates combined to walk 10 and hit two. Lowery Jr. said while coaching at Ball State University, his staff set an NCAA record with 10 straight walks. One of the culprits was a backup quarterback from the football team that he was trying to turn into a pitcher.

"Probably the low point in my coaching career," he said.

Then Thursday might have to be the high point, even though his dad wasn't there to see it.

"The competitor my dad is, he didn't take the loss very easily," he said.

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