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INDEPENDENCE –– Once into the second level of the softball postseason, games commonly come down to a late squeeze bunt, or one defensive miscue, or one big swing of the bat.
Hitting through the order in consecutive innings will get the job done too, if one is into that sort of thing.
Grayson County batted around in both the fourth and fifth innings, scoring all 11 of its runs in that period and rolling over Gate City 11-2 in the Region 2A West quarterfinals Tuesday at the Grayson County Recreation Park. Gate City’s Blue Devils (16-8) saw their season end while Grayson’s Blue Devils (18-4) advanced to Thursday’s semifinals against Dan River at Lee High.
With zero runs on the board and nearly that many scoring opportunities through the game’s halfway point, Grayson County pushed five runs across on eight fourth-inning hits. Karly Morris broke the tie with a two-run single, which was followed by three straight run scoring base hits.
All the trouble started with the bottom half of the Grayson order, but with a team average topping .360 and with seven different players having combined for 20 home runs, there are no breathers in the Grayson order. Eight of nine had at least one hit Tuesday, led by Rachel Burris (4-for-4) plus two hits each from Claire Circle, Grace Circle and Morris, who drove in three.
“They simply hit the ball,” said Gate City coach Cara Roe, whose team managed four hits, two from Caitlin McConnell. “There was nothing we could do about it. They put the ball where we weren’t and sometimes you meet a team and they play the absolute best that they can, and I think that’s what we ran into today.”
Grayson had but two hits and three baserunners in its first three turns at bat against Gate City starter Kasey Repass (8-5).
“It’s hard to explain,” Grayson coach Tim Hollingsworth said. “The first time through [the order] we looked pretty rough but then we got on her and started putting it in play. We’re a good-hitting team. They’ve worked hard and they all can hit it.”
Roe had seen games swing on one inning before this season.
“That’s been our Achilles heel all year,” she said. “We’ve had one inning that’s hurt us in games we’ve lost. Unfortunately it was too big of a deficit for us to overcome.
That task became all but impossible in Grayson’s next at-bat when the homestanding Blue Devils tacked on six runs by coupling four hits with a pair of Gate City errors. Chelsie Callahan drove a two-run double to the base of the fence in center to highlight the inning.
“As a team we’re very strong at hitting,” said Grayson pitcher Autumn Halsey, who improved to 8-1 on the year. “Everyone can hit. It just starts with one and we all follow.”
The outcome didn’t follow the precedent set by postseason meetings between the two schools during the volleyball and basketball seasons, which saw Gate City end Grayson’s year in both sports.
“They were very tough in basketball and volleyball,” said Halsey, “but we have a lot of confidence in softball. Our coaches are confident in us, and I was really proud of everyone.”
Gate City didn’t go away quietly, managing a pair of runs in the seventh.
“It’s 11-0 and we could have had our girls pouting and crying, and go 1-2-3 in the seventh,” Roe said. “We didn’t have that and that says a lot about these girls. We have a lot of youth and hopefully we can take this experience and build on it.”
Gate City..................000 000 2–– 2 4 5
Grayson County......000 560 x––11 14 2
Repass, McConnell (4), Repass (r.e. 5) and Compton. Halsey and Cassell. W – Halsey (8-1). L – Repass (8-5). 2B – C.Circle 2, Burris, G.Circle, Lundy.