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by Chris Errington
(July 20) And then there were four.
Shinnston, Upshur County, Salem and Lewis County are all that remain in the West Virginia Little League District 5 12-year-old All-Star Tournament and will now battle for the right to move on to play for the state title.
In a district usually dominated by Clarksburg Central, Clarksburg National and Bridgeport teams, it is a quartet of outsiders that will finish the double-elimination tournament at the Clarksburg National field in Nutter Fort.
The tournament resumes tonight with Salem and Lewis County battling at 5:30 p.m. in an elimination game, while winner's bracket members Shinnston and Upshur County will play at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of tonight's second game will move on to the championship game while the loser will play the winner of tonight's first game on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
While Shinnston, Upshur County and Salem were all expecting to reach the semifinals, Lewis County is a complete surprise.
After dropping its opening game 8-3 to Buckhannon, Lewis County seemed destined for an early exit. Yet, with a little luck, some timely hitting and a no-hitter in its last game, the team from Weston staved off elimination three times.
Leading the way for Lewis County have been Brian Bragg, 1-1 during the tournament and tonight's starter, along with Martin Burkhammer and Drew Pinckney. Burkhammer has already blasted two home runs during the tournament.
"We know coming in that we're the underdogs, so we're just going to go out there and see what happens," Lewis coach Mike Hicks said. "Salem has always had good teams in the past, and this team will probably be no different."
Salem is no stranger to elimination games either, winning two straight after an opening-round, 10-inning loss to Shinnston. Salem has had to eliminate defending champion Bridgeport and Clarksburg National to reach the semifinals.
While Salem coach Russ Nutt contends that pitching and defense have gotten the team this far, he knows an offensive explosion is waiting to happen.
"We haven't hit the ball as well as we're capable of," Nutt said, "but if we do, we're as good as any team left in the tournament.
Josh Nutt, Derek Bowen or Greg Pigg will start on the mound for Salem.
In other Little League news:
BRIDGEPORT 10, Fairmont 2: The Bridgeport 9-10 All-Star team moved one step closer to a state title by blasting Fairmont in Weirton on Saturday.
Bridgeport scored two runs in the first and another in the third before blowing the game open by scoring seven times over the fourth and fifth innings.
WEIRTON -- Justin Trippett tossed a three-hitter and his teammates supplied plenty of offense as the Bridgeport 9&10-year-old Little League All-Stars trounced Oak Hill 13-3 on Sunday.
Bridgeport will play Barboursville at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the winner's bracket final.
Chris Enourato led Bridgeport at the plate by going 2-for-2 with a double and three RBIs. Jeremy Gum also had a double and two RBIs, while Adam Klenk had two hits, a double and two RBIs.
Trippett also helped himself with two hits including a double.
In a game on Saturday, Bridgeport beat Fairmont 10-2 as Gum dominated on the mound while Enourato was 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
Gum and Trippett also had two RBIs while Klenk, Andrew Ford and Justin McBee each had two hits.
From Staff Reports
(July 20) Add two more state championships to the Harrison County Babe Ruth League's storied tradition -- the National 13s beat Buffalo 13-6 in Elkins on Sunday while the National 14s won their second straight title with an 8-7 win over Huntington Southeastern in Weston.
Both Harrison teams advance to play in the Ohio Valley Regional. The 13s travel to Evansville, Ind., while the 14s play in Connersville, Ind. The 14s were regional runners-up as 13-year-olds last year.
"This is what we play for," Harrison National third baseman Jason Glisson said of his team's return trip to the regionals. "We're ready to be competitive again."
Glisson's two-run home run in the first inning helped the Nationals build a 6-0 lead. But, Huntington charged back to eventually tie the game in the top of the fifth.
Michael Honce's solo homer in the bottom of the fifth broke the tie and the Nationals added an insurance run when Glisson walked and eventually scored on R.J. Coleman's single.
Huntington scored once in the sixth and threatened in the seventh, but Dan Compton closed the door to earn the victory.
"I think the tendency is to let up a little when you get a lead like that," said National coach Gooch Holbert. "And Huntington has a nice team and fought back into it."
National manager Joe Honce said the key was good pitching from starter Chris Lindsey, middle reliever Coleman and closer Compton.
"We had (ace pitcher) Michael (Honce) if we needed him, but we didn't," Honce said. "The other boys did a great job for us."
In Elkins, the National 13s also had to overcome a letdown after jumping to an early 8-2 advantage.
Several mistakes helped Buffalo rally to within 8-6 before the Nationals put the game away with their bats.
"After the third inning we played good defense and tonight, unlike the past few games, we hit the ball very well," National manager Butch Sutton said.
Sutton said it didn't surprise him to see Buffalo rally, especially since the Nationals seemed a little overconfident.
"We built that lead and our kids thought it was over," Sutton said. "Buffalo is a very scrappy team and they battled right back."
Danny Sowards, who delivered key hits in both the first and second innings, said the team was nervous at first.
"But, we didn't panic," Sowards said. "And finally our hitting came through."
Outfielder Bobby Oliverio, who led the Nationals with four hits, said hitting and pitching were the keys on Sunday.
"If we can keep this up, we'll be all right in Indiana," Oliverio said.
Harrison County could accomplish a sweep of state titles when the 13-15-year-old tourney opens Tuesday in Clarksburg. Both the Harrison County Nationals and Americans have qualified for the five-team event, but they'll face each other in Tuesday's opener at 7 p.m. at Frank Loria Field.
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