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May 6, 2006

Baseball goes extra mile for win

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
MAY 5, BLAZER FIELD-

By all logic, Blair should have suffered another crushing loss well before the 10th inning of a marathon game. After all, the night had followed a familiar pattern; bad infield defense equals many runs and a blown lead. The Blazers had blown two separate leads of two and four respectively. But logic forgot that the Blazers could hit in the clutch, and get a gutsy relief pitching performance.

Both Zach Hall and Alec Burns saved the game for Blair (8-9) at home tonight against the Paint Branch Panthers. After starter Tommy Dugan gave up two unearned runs in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game at eight, Hall went deep into extra innings, throwing three and a third innings of shutout ball.

Hall's relief work gave Blair the chance to win the game, and Burns capitalized. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th, Burns hit a line drive past PB (7-8) first baseman Mike Kastorf to score Lee Shields from third to win the game for Blair, 9-8. As Burns ran up the first, he cheered wildly as the Blair bench erupted to congratulate him.

Burns' hit ended a marathon game that lasted three hours and 39 minutes. It featured 17 runs, 21 hits and 12 errors.

Hall, the winning pitcher, said the win will give the team a major boost. "Getting knocked down and getting up again gave us a lot of confidence that we need," he said.

Blazers' manager John MacDonald also praised Burns' hit. "Alec gave us the hit we needed right when we needed it."

Blair's jubilation in the 10th inning overshadowed a game they should have won over an hour earlier. In the seventh inning, Dugan allowed a one-out double. Then, Jamal Gardner reached on a Zach Hall error and the other Panther reached third base. However, Gardner was ruled out because he made a turn towards second base and was apparently tagged.

Gardner yelled at the umpire, and then was ejected for kicking a water cooler in the dugout.

But Dugan couldn't get the final out. Blair first baseman Adam Kopp allowed Michael Brown to reach on an error, and the runner from first scored. Dugan then hit the next Panther square in the back to load the bases. He then got to within one strike of ending the game, but walked that batter to tie the score at eight.

At that point, Dugan's quest for a complete game was ended and manger John MacDonald pulled him in favor of Hall. The reliever then worked the rest of the game without ever getting into serious trouble.

"We made some more mistakes in the field," MacDonald said after the game. "We should have had that game won in the seventh."

Or even earlier. After just two innings, Blair led the game 6-2. After allowing two runs in the top of the first inning, the Blazers ran off six quick runs, five of which were driven in by Avi Wolfman-Arent.

Wolfman-Arent had a double in the first inning to score Hall and Dugan, and another in the second that scored Shields, Sam Morris and Gabe Fonte, earning the praise of his manager.

"Avi really kept us in the game early," MacDonald said. "He hit great; he did everything we asked him to."

But slowly the lead began to chip away. In the fourth inning, Dugan allowed two doubles, both of which came around to score. The next inning, with a Panthers on first and second, Dugan made an errant pick-off throw to Kopp at first base.

The throw was so wild that the runners each moved up two bases. The lead runner, Drew Bergeris, scored to cut the Paint Branch deficit to one. The other runner, J.D. Hood, would score off a base hit from Gardner.

MacDonald said Blair's twelve hits were enough to overcome the shoddy defense, but that a performance like that isn't a given. "We can't keep doing this," referring to making mistakes.

He did mention that Blair only averages three errors a game, and plays exponentially better defense on the road. "We play terribly at home because this field is all chopped up," MacDonald stated.

Nonetheless, the victory did help continue Blair's post-Spring Break hot streak. They are now 5-2 following the break, and have a legitimate chance of finish with a .500 record with three games to play in the season. "I'd love for us not to finish with a losing record," MacDonald said.

Dugan also felt good about tonight's victory, saying he thinks the momentum from Burns' hit will carry over to next week's games. "This win was great," he said. "It puts us right where we want to be headed towards the end of the regular season."





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