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WARDELL –– The law of averages had to even things out sometime. After six losses to district teams by two runs or less, including a heartbreaking 3-2 loss the day before to undefeated Richlands, fate had to be on Carroll County’s side at least once.
Saturday, it was. Fate, plus great defense, solid pitching and a little timely hitting.
Carroll County turned a pair of double plays, got a couple of great plays from third baseman Michael Kelly and received a big break from a Tazewell baserunning blunder in the seventh inning, edging the Bulldogs 2-1 in the third-place game of the Southwest District tournament at Southwestern Virginia Community College.
“It’s about time we came out on top of one of these things,” said Cavalier coach Joe Tompkins. “I’m proud of how the kids responded, coming back after the way we lost yesterday.”
Carroll (13-10) became Richlands’ 21st straight victim thanks to a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh in Friday’s semifinals. And after the Cavs had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh Saturday, Tazewell was poised to deal them yet another heartache, but came up empty despite getting a single, two walks and a hit batsman in its final turn at bat.
Dustin Dean led off the inning with a single, prompting Tompkins to lift starting pitcher Brett Anauo in favor of Drew Webb. A diving stop by third baseman Michael Kelly resulted in a force at second, but Mike Ascue took a base on balls. J.J. Jones had just been inserted at second base as a pinch runner when a curveball in the dirt momentarily escaped Carroll catcher Cody Robinson. Robinson has thrown out his share of potential base-stealers, but what ensued was the most laborious assist of his career. Ascue broke for second but Jones stayed put, hanging Ascue in between. Robinson, now in possession of the ball, ran toward Ascue until he was on the path between first and second. Jones then broke for third, and Robinson abandoned Ascue in favor of the lead runner, starting a rundown between second and third. He flipped to Kelly, who chased down Jones for the second out, leaving Tazewell a run down with one on and two out.
But Webb was far from out of the inning. Tyler Kitts walked and Cody Lockhart was drilled in the back to load the bases, and Webb went to a full count on Taylor Herald before finally striking out the big cleanup hitter to end it.
“Drew had gone six innings Tuesday and wasn’t sharp coming in, but you could tell a big difference between the first four guys he faced and the last one,” Tompkins said. “He really battled there.”
Webb saved the win for Anauo, who held Tazewell to one run on five hits through six-plus innings despite allowing the leadoff batter to reach in five of seven innings.
Carroll had taken the lead in the third when Jarrod McCombs singled and scored on Kelly’s two-out looper into right. Lockhart singled home the tying run in the bottom of the fifth, but Chris Lineberry’s two-out single in the top of the seventh drove in pinch runner Erick Cox with the eventual game-winner.
Lineberry and Kelly each had two hits and an RBI for the Cavaliers, who will travel to either Blacksburg or Pulaski County today for their Region IV first-round game.
Richlands 3, Carroll County 2
Christian Hearl ripped a two-out home run in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Blue Tornado over the Cavaliers in the SWD semifinals Friday at SWVCC.
The win was Richlands’ 21st straight without a loss, and its second straight one-run win over Carroll County.
Michael Kelly singled home T.J. Martin in the top of the first, but Richlands tied it in their half on back-to-back doubles by Hearl and Jordan Barnett.
Ethain Keene retired 16 straight Cavaliers until Chris Lineberry walked to start the seventh. An error scored Lineberry for a 2-2 score, but Barnett ended it with his homer.