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INDEPENDENCE –– In its final regular season game last week, Grayson County unloaded for six runs in the second inning for a 7-0 lead, only to give up 10 unanswered runs in a 10-7 loss to Glenvar. It took just one game for the Blue Devils to get a second chance to make a huge inning stand up.
Grayson County scored eight runs with two outs in the second inning against Richlands in the semifinals of the Conference 39 baseball tournament at the Grayson Rec. Park, but instead of falling apart the Blue Devils cemented a spot in next week’s Region 2A West tourney with a five-inning 10-0 win over the Blue Tornadoes.
The difference, thought Grayson coach Mike Worrell, was that his kids were playing with a purpose after having dropped three of their final five regular season games.
“This year has been strange for all of us,” said Worrell after his Devils improved to 15-4, with three of the losses by one run. “All of the games matter, but this one was win or go home. We haven’t had to fight for anything as far as [district] standings, you just play for points all year. Sometimes we lost sight of that and I think that’s what happened to us at the end of the year.”
Richlands (7-15) was a dab of some sticky foreign substance away from going into the third inning down by only one run instead of nine. With two down and the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, the Blue Devils’ Will Lawrence pulled a drive deep to the left field corner, where Richlands’ Trent Davis made a diving catch, controlling the ball with his free hand. But Davis hit the ground hard and rolled, dislodging the ball from his grasp and resulting in a three-run double.
The proverbial floodgates then swung wide open for Grayson County (15-4).
Lawrence’s double was followed by a throwing error on a routine grounder, allowing a run to score. Luke Wilson, Max Rodgers and Koby Hill successively singled home a run and the eighth run crossed on the Blues’ third error of the inning, a throw that sailed down the left field line when Micah Cornett stole third.
Wilson reached on an error to lead off the home fourth, stole Grayson’s eighth base of the afternoon and Hill singled up the middle with one out to knock him in for the 10-run margin.
“When it rains, it pours,” said Richlands coach Adam Davis, who has a bit of experience with bad things snowballing on his club. The Blue Tornadoes have started four freshmen after three of their top players were lost for the season in recent weeks, two with torn ACLs. Still, the Blues had their chances in the first three innings, twice loading the bases with one out. Three straight one-out singles – two bloops and a roller to the hole at short – had Richlands looking at a decent start but Grayson starter Ty Cannaday got a pop-up and a ground ball to wriggle out of that pickle.
“I thought we hit Cannaday pretty well,” Davis said. “We just didn’t get the timely hit. After their big inning we had the bases loaded and we hit into a double play.”
Richlands filled the bases with one out in the third when the middle-infield combo of brothers Matt and Micah Cornett turned a nifty 6-4-3 twin-killing to get Cannaday off the hook.
Cannaday went three innings to get the win, giving up five hits. Matt Cornett and Hill finished with one inning each, allowing one baserunner between them over the final two innings.
Grayson’s eight-run outburst came in the second inning, just like a six-run rally just days earlier against Glenvar. The correlation wasn’t lost on the Blue Devils, who allowed six runs in Glenvar’s next at-bat.
“Before we went back into the field for the third inning we talked about how this was identical to Glenvar,” Worrell said. “We did a better job. A lot better job. They stayed focused, made the plays and finished it out.”
Grayson’s three pitchers blanked Richlands on six hits, all singles, while Wilson and Hill each had two hits and two RBIs for Grayson County. The Blue Devils will host Marion at 1 p.m. today (Friday) in the tournament title game. Marion was a 3-1 winner over Tazewell in the second semifinal game.
Richlands.................000 00–– 0 6 5
Grayson County......180 1x––10 8 0
Michaels, Harrison (4) and LaForce, Carter (4). Cannaday, Ma.Cornett (4), Hill (5) and Vaughan. W – Cannaday. L – Michaels. 2B – Lawrence.