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Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: WED 03/18/1998
Section: Sports
Page: 7
Edition: 3 STAR

Sheffield, FB Austin handcuff Elkins 5-2


MISSOURI CITY - You know a coach has confidence in his pitcher when he instructs him to issue an intentional walk in the final inning to load the bases and bring the opponent's potential winning run to the plate.

With senior righthander Chris Sheffield on the mound, Fort Bend Austin coach Todd Moehlig elected to take such a chance, and it paid off. Sheffield struck out Elkins' Dan Tuskowski for the fourth time to squash the Knights' rally and seal eighth-ranked Fort Bend Austin's 5-2 victory over No. 7 Elkins in the District 20-5A opener Tuesday night.

Sheffield (3-1) pitched a two-hitter, striking out 13 and walking seven, including the dangerous free pass to Elkins clean-up hitter Scott Huffman when first base wasn't even open.

"I felt I could get him out," Sheffield said of Tuskowski. "He was waving at my slider all night."

Sheffield, who did indeed get the final strikeout on a slider, retired the side in order only twice. He surrendered a two-run homer to Elkins' Kevin Eddleman - his fifth of the year - in the sixth to make it 4-2.

"I had too many walks and had to work my way out of a lot of trouble," Sheffield said. "My teammates helped me out. We had some big hits."

Jonathan Stone's solo homer in the top of the seventh gave Sheffield a three-run lead, but Stone's two-out error at third base in the bottom of the seventh opened the door for Elkins. After Myron Johnson walked to put runners on first and second for Huffman, Moehlig visited the mound and elected to walk him.

"We just looked at the chart and felt we could do it," Moehlig said.

Austin jumped on Elkins starter Kevin Lawson for two runs in the top of the first when Jacob Gober singled and scored on a single by Nick Jones and Chad Pavlu walked and scored on a passed ball.

Elkins (9-5) put runners at first and third with not outs in the bottom of the first, but Sheffield struck out of the side to get out of the jam.

"I had my adrenalin going a little," Sheffield said.

Jones' single to score Nick Waligura in the second made it 3-0 Bulldogs, and Sheffield belted his first homer of the season to give himself a 4-0 cushion in the third.

"We won the game with our aggressiveness at the plate in the early innings," Moehlig said. "We had confidence we could hit Lawson."

The Bulldogs were glad to get those early runs as Lawson settled down and retired 14 of Austin's final 16 batters.

Austin (11-2) now has the early upper-hand in the district with what could turn out to be a crucial victory on Elkins' home field.

"We can't look that far ahead," Sheffield said. "We can't fall asleep. We have to stay tough and stay focused."

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