BUNKER HILL — The start of the Little League tournament season featured all kinds of twists and turns on Saturday evening.
In the first game of the Area 1 9-11-year-old tournament, Jefferson County Little League rallied late to force extra innings and once again threatened another big rally in the seventh before ultimately falling to Martinsburg at South Berkeley.
The contest featured a wild start to the game, before settling down throughout the middle innings in preparation for a dramatic finish. Jefferson struck first in the first inning, scoring a pair of runs on errors to take a 2-0 lead.
The two teams traded leads for the next several innings. Martinsburg chased three across the plate in the top of the second to take a 4-2 lead, before Jefferson answered with back-to-back run-scoring singles by pitcher Blake Kutcher and left fielder Liam Healey in the bottom half of the inning to make it 5-4.
Spurred on by a few Jefferson miscues, Martinsburg rallied back for three in the third, bringing the score to 7-5. From there, the pitching settled down, as Martinsburg pitchers Grant Henderson and Nicolas Domenico, along with Jefferson’s Kutcher and Sven Dupree, began to take over the game.
Jefferson scratched across a run in the bottom of the fourth, making it 7-6 on an RBI groundout by third baseman Robbie Lopez Jr. In the sixth, as they tried to lock up an all-important first win, Martinsburg scored what appeared to be a crucial insurance run, as Henderson hit a one-out double and came around to score on a throwing error.
However, Jefferson rallied for a pair of runs off Domenico in the bottom of the sixth, although the Martinsburg reliever settled down to retire the next three batters and force extra innings.
In the seventh, it was Martinsburg’s turn to put Jefferson on the back foot. The first three batters reached base against Dupree, setting the stage for right fielder Bradley Butts to slap a clutch, two-run single up the middle to give Martinsburg the lead. Henderson ultimately followed by earning an RBI on a squeeze bunt.
Still, things weren’t over, as Martinsburg left the door open for Jefferson in the bottom of the seventh. After Martinsburg dropped what could have been a game-ending pop-up, Jefferson scored a run on a bases-loaded walk and had the winning run on base with two outs. However, Domenico induced a game-ending flyout to center field, securing an 11-9 win for Martinsburg.
Martinsburg is next scheduled to face the winner of the Hedgesville-South Berkeley game that ended late on Saturday night, with the winner of that game earning an Area 1 championship and moving onto the district tournament. Jefferson County will need to fight its way through the losers’ bracket, and will face the loser of the Hedgesville-South Berkeley game.
Jefferson will play first today at 5 p.m., with the Martinsburg game set for 7:30 p.m. Both games will once again by hosted by South Berkeley Little League at Appleland Park in Bunker Hill.