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Martin mows down Hancock

July 16, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

Billy Nutter didn't make up his mind until Thursday morning who would start for West End in its losers' bracket final against Hancock.

Nutter had to choose between ace right-hander Airin Martin or a committee approach heading into the key Maryland District 1 11-12 contest a hot Hancock team at Hellane Park in the elimination game.

"It really was 'no tomorrow' so I wanted to give Martin the ball," said Nutter. "It could also have been his last game on home turf."

Martin responded impressively and guided West End to a 6-2 victory over Hancock and a berth in tonight's championship game at Conococheague at 6.

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With a setup curveball backed up by a fastball that Hancock batters generally could not catch up with, Martin fashioned a two-hitter, struck out 12 and walked none before reaching his pitch count limit of 85 in 5 2/3 innings.

At one point, Martin struck out eight straight Hancock batters.

"I really had hoped to pitch against Conococheague but we needed this game," said Martin. "My fastball was working, hitting corners and I didn't want to leave (Hancock) anything to hit."

Martin blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning that gave West End a 6-1 lead, and opened the top of the sixth with two strikeouts before exiting the mound -- and things became very interesting.

Tristan Douglas greeted Cody Reeder with a double and moved to third on a an error that allowed Connor Litton to reach first. Casey Elbin doubled to score Douglas and Justin Barnard walked to load the bases.

Jesse Wolford, who doubled in the fifth inning off the fence in left off Martin, came to the plate as the potential game-tying run.

He fouled off several pitches before Reeder clipped the outside corner for a called third strike to secure the win.

"I was sweatin' bullets but I just told (Reeder) to 'Get us one out,'" said Nutter.

Hancock starter Bradley Younker matched Martin through a scoreless first two innings before West End scored four runs in the third inning.

With one out and Corbin Rowland on first, Bubba Snodderly zapped a ball past Tosten at second. The runners moved to second and third when Hunter Murray bobbled the ball in right.

After Martin walked, Christian Archie slapped a pitch to right to score Rowland and leave the bases full. Grimmie Randolph then roped a liner off the fence in left for a double that emptied the bases.

Hancock finally got to Martin for a run in the fifth when Douglas reached on an infield single, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-1.

"We tried to drive his pitch count up early but the (Martin) boy had too much heat," said Hancock manager Dennis Douglas. "He threw so many strikes. We just couldn't get to him. When you usually face 60 mph pitching, it's a whole different world when someone comes in and is probably 68 to 70."

Younker struck out seven in four-plus innings and Tristan Douglas struck out the side after relieving Douglas in the fifth.

"(Younker) pitched a good game," said Dennis Douglas. "It was one bad inning with some bad hops."

Martin and Randolph each had two of West End's seven hits. Tristan Douglas had two of Hancock's four hits.

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