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Bulldogs pull state title double

June 07, 2009|By JOHN RABY

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nitro shortstop J.R. Bradley didn't envision his season ending this way. Neither did the thousands of Wildcats fans who left in disbelief Sunday and the overjoyed Martinsburg team that had just knocked off the defending West Virginia Class AAA champion.

Bradley's error with the bases loaded allowed the winning run to score in the seventh inning as Martinsburg beat Nitro 9-8 in the title game.

Bradley's pitching and hitting carried Nitro into the championship game and he came through again Sunday with a two-run homer, but he dropped the grounder off the bat of Ryan Bennett, enabling T.J. Weisenburg to cross the plate and giving Martinsburg its first baseball title since 1995.

"It's what happens. That's the way it is," Bradley said. "It's not a good feeling."

Considering that Nitro (31-5) had beaten Martinsburg 10-0 during the regular season and by the same score in last year's semifinals, most everyone, even on the Martinsburg side, figured the Wildcats were the favorites again.

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"Nine of out 10 times we wouldn't have beat them, but tonight we did," said Martinsburg coach John Lowery Jr.

Lowery joins his father, Jefferson coach John Lowery Sr., in winning state titles. The elder Lowery has a record nine championships.

Martinsburg (28-9) became the first school to win Class AAA titles in basketball and baseball in the same season. Class AAA baseball began in 1976.

"I couldn't believe it. I can't even really put it into words," John Lowery Jr. said. "I was prepared that we weren't going to win mentally, but I tried not to communicate that to my guys. I just wanted to stay even keel."

Martinsburg outhit Nitro 11-7. The 17 total runs made it the highest-scoring Class AAA title game in at least a quarter century. Scores of championship games haven't been kept before 1984.

Zach Woolcock and Zach Stolipher drove in two runs each for Martinsburg. Tyler Godbey had three RBIs for Nitro.

Nitro had outscored opponents 32-3 in its three previous state tournament games. But the Wildcats weren't used to being the victim of offensive assaults.

Martinsburg scored five times in the second and twice more in the third to jump ahead 7-3.

Nitro answered with five runs in the fourth, highlighted by Bradley's home run, to take an 8-7 lead. Martinsburg tied it in the sixth on Stolipher's RBI single off Nitro reliever Brett Kemerer.

Martinsburg's Kam Puller reached base on an infield error to lead off the seventh. Weisenburg singled to left after Nitro's Tyler Roberts couldn't come up with the line drive. Dru Sutherland's bunt single loaded the bases with none out.

Bryan LeFevre then bunted to Kemerer, who threw home for the force out. That brought up Bennett, who thought at first that Bradley would field his grounder cleanly.

Bradley didn't -- and Martinsburg's side of the field went into a wild celebration.

"I'm speechless. I can't even talk," Bennett said. "This is what we practice all season for."

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