SHENANDOAH JUNCTION— It was a meeting of teams with past baseball success. State championship trophies rest in all corners of their respective glass-faced cases.
But both Jefferson and Martinsburg had so many 2011 seniors that their rosters and lineups are peopled by first-year starters galore.
The defending state champion Cougars have just two returning starters and none of the top three pitchers from the 2011 team. Martinsburg likewise had two starters from last year’s team. But at least the Bulldogs had the pitcher with the team’s most wins from a year ago (Brandon Cordell) ready for last Tuesday’s meeting with Jefferson.
New faces. Untested faces. Faces needing to show their wares.
Jefferson pitcher Cody Butts, who had all of six innings last season, outdueled Cordell as the Cougars made a four-run lead hold up against Martinsburg’s seventh-inning rally.
Jefferson won, 4-3.
Butts had six shutout innings. His lead was 4-0 going to the seventh. An infield error behind him was costly. And three sharp ground singles brought out Coach John Lowery with a pitching change in mind. In came Fraser Brown from second base. Brown, who had saves in two of Jefferson’s three seasonal wins, retired two of the three men he saw . . . and the Cougars had dismissed a two-game losing skid and made their overall record 4-2.
Martinsburg, which had a pair of high-scoring, one-run wins as well as three wins caused by late-inning rallies, left Sager Field with a 4-1 record.
Butts’ 6.1 innings of starting pitching was accented by his middle-innings control.
While he wasn’t notching many strikeouts, he allowed only two walks and hit one man from the second through the sixth innings. Butts induced so many soft infield pop flies that a spectator might have thought that was the object of Martinsburg’s offense. Jefferson first baseman Casey Billmyre caught five pop flies and Brown grabbed one of the easy outs.
So consistent at blunting Martinsburg was Butts that only two of the 21 outs he and Brown recorded were on outfield flies. Butts would strike out five.
Three of Jefferson’s four runs came early. Brown’s first of three hits was an RBI single. He crashed a two-run home run off Cordell in the third giving Butts a 3-0 lead to protect.
Butts, in only his second start of the season, just kept getting the Bulldogs out. Brandt Petrie made a fine stab of a liner to him at shortstop, but otherwise Martinsburg never hit the ball hard.
Brown’s leadoff double in the fifth became another run when Dennis Jackson sent an RBI double to left-center.
Butts had thrown many more pitches at the Bulldogs than he had offered in his first outing of the season. Trey Thompson led the Bulldog seventh with a single. Then came an error on a routine, big-hop grounder. Curty Miller had an opposite field single and Butts lost Nate Temple to a walk on a 3-2 pitch.
Brown replaced the Jefferson starter. A Justin Clinton hit made it a 4-3 game. Two harmless infield groundouts ended it.
It had been the first Jefferson vs. Martinsburg varsity game for most of the starters. And it was Butts who had outdueled Cordell, whose outing had only one up-and-down-in-order inning.
New faces. Untested faces. Jefferson’s first-year faces had passed a Martinsburg test.