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King gets his curve straight

Martinsburg reaches region title game

May 22, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- They say that in every life a little rain must fall.

On Wednesday, that rain helped Brandon King's curveball do the same.

King used a 20-minute rain delay to help him iron out a mechanical problem with his breaking pitch. He used the break in action to his advantage and came back after the break to pitch the Martinsburg Bulldogs to a 3-2 victory over Musselman in the West Virginia Class AAA Region II semifinals at P.O. Faulkner Park.

Martinsburg (25-11) advances to the region final Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Buckhannon, W.Va., against the winner of the Buckhannon-Upshur vs. Bridgeport game. That game was suspended in the bottom of the sixth on Wednesday with Buckhannon leading, 6-1.

King struggled with his control from the outset, falling behind early in counts and the Bulldogs trailed 2-0 early in the game, thanks to Ethan French's two-run home run in the second inning.

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But when rain halted the game with one out in the fourth inning, King took the time to go to the bullpen for a little extra work.

"Before it rained, I was on the side of my curveball," King said. "I have been working on it. I have been trying to throw it harder. I knew what was wrong. I tried to correct it. Definitely, if it weren't for the rain I wouldn't have."

King struggled finding the strike zone during the first three innings. He walked two batters and hit two others as his fastball was out of sync and his curve missed corners. Then came the liquid reprieve.

"I was dropping down on (the curveball), and I wasn't getting over the top," King said.

After the delay, King shut down the Applemen (15-15) on two hits and a hit batsman while striking out five in the last three innings to complete his 129-pitch performance. King relied heavily on his breaking pitches after the delay to ease the stress on a double hernia he has been pitching with.

"I thought (King) was strong early on," said Martinsburg coach John Lowery Jr. "He hasn't pitched with that much rest all season. He had to be excited to be in a big game with all these people here. We haven't done that with this group before."

Lost in the shuffle was an equally creditable performance by Musselman's Ricky Frame, who outdueled King before the rain and started to get hit after it.

"I thought Ricky pitched a heck of a game," said Musselman coach Jeff Sibole. "It was the best game he has or any other Musselman pitcher has thrown. They just got a couple of hits after the rain delay. They are a good hitting team."

King fell behind after issuing a leadoff walk to Jared Weatherholtz in the second. French lofted a drive to right, which could have been aided by a stiff wind blowing out to clear the fence at the 360-foot mark for the 2-0 lead.

Frame came back after the storm with one on and one out in the fourth.

He immediately hit Zach Woolcock with a pitch and Kam Puller singled to load the bases. Zach Stolipher followed with a single to left for an RBI but pinch runner Ryan LeFever was gunned down at the plate. Noon Jordan singled to center to tie the game.

Martinsburg (25-11) got the winning run in the fifth as Spike Geffert hit a one-out single to left, stole second and took third on a fielder's choice. He scored when a Frame breaking pitch bounced off of catcher Ryan LaRose's shin guard and rolled up the third-base line.

The rest was right as rain for the Bulldogs.

"The more tired I get, the better I seem to pitch," King said. "The last four games I've pitched, we've fell behind. Then, when we come back and get even, my confidence doubles."

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