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HCC advances to NJCAA World Series

May 20, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

Around 10 tonight, a trip that might not have been the foremost thought of many when the college baseball season began will begin for Hagerstown Community College.

The Hawks will board a bus and begin a 1,860-mile journey to Grand Junction, Colo., site of the NJCAA Division I World Series, following their 7-3 victory over Pitt (N.C.) Community College in the second of two games Monday to claim the Eastern District title.

The Hawks, one of 14 teams in the World Series, will begin play Sunday night at 9:30 against Grayson County Community College (Texas).

Pitt (41-15) had forced a deciding third game with a 5-4 win in Game 2 of the best-of-3 series before the Hawks (40-17) composed themselves in the nightcap behind the pitching of Aerik Taylor and a five-run outburst in the seventh inning.

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"It's an unbelievable thing," said Taylor, who also won most valuable player honors with his game-clinching performance. "Being MVP, you can't ask for anything better."

Taylor (4-5) might not have been available to pitch in the series had Sunday's schedule not been wiped out by rain.

"I just wanted to hold 'em down and make it a great team effort," said Taylor, a former standout pitcher at Williamsport High School. "My curve was on and off hitting the corners. And I'm glad for the run support."

The Hawks trailed 3-2 through five innings before the runs came in bunches against a talented Pitt team.

Zach Woodley had replaced starter Kyle Musselman in the fourth and retired six straight batters, before HCC hit the Bulldogs with a big crooked number in the seventh.

Alex Stover walked, Charles Johnson singled and Kyle Chronister walked, leaving the bags juiced, and Woodley was yanked in favor of Corey Carver.

David Zaminski, the ninth man in the batting order, promptly laced a two-run double to the left-center gap to score Stover and Johnson for a 4-3 lead.

Pitt made two mistakes that helped out HCC as Carver delivered a wild pitch that scored Chronister with Zaminski moving to third.

Zaminski scored when Carver, thinking a pickoff attempt at third was on, threw to the bag that was uncovered. Still, with none out, Matt Greene roped a double, went to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Darr.

"The one big inning made a difference and gave us the lead and the momentum through," said a drenched coach Scott Jennings, who will take the school to its first World Series since 1993.

Taylor, who allowed eight hits, walked four and struck out six, wiggled out of a one-out, two-on jam in the seventh and appeared to get stronger in the final two innings, including the last out when he fielded a Lucas Martin bunt and threw to Stover to set off the glove-heaving, piling-on celebration.

"(Aerik) didn't draw any cupcake assignments this year," said Jennings. "He battles you."

Taylor aided his own cause by picking off three baserunners, including two in the second inning -- Josh Ashton off second after he doubled and Seth Austin off first following a single. He also picked off Austin Wright at second in the sixth inning.

"(Pitt) is a team with good talent, probably better athletes and I really think we played up to their level," said Jennings. "The (Southern) regional is always tough so we knew (Pitt) was."

Pitt coach Tommy Eason wasn't happy with his pitching staff, nor several of the umpiring calls.

"We had too many leadoff walks and just didn't have the pitching mentality," he said. "We came here with the idea of not having any outside distractions, but outside sources played a role today. They were outside of their league. I take nothing away from HCC, these were two hard-fought games."

In the opener, HCC jumped out to a 4-1 lead after two innings as Roland Thiele belted a two-run homer in the first and Charles Johnson followed with a two-run shot in the second inning.

Pitt battled back against Cory Livengood and jumped ahead 5-4 in the seventh on a two-run shot by Ashton. Reliever Lonnie Chisenhall held off HCC, despite a seventh-inning endeavor in which Greene doubled and was sacrificed to third before being picked off on a call that sent Jennings into a tirade.

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