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Circle powers Devils to title

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The Grayson slugger went 7-for-7 and drove in eight runs in two MED tournament games.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

INDEPENDENCE –– A box of softballs has never been so happy to see a day come to an end.

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Grace Circle pounded, flattened and pretty much demolished one unfortunate yellow orb after another Thursday, going a combined 7-for-7 with two home runs, two doubles and eight RBIs, leading Grayson County to the Mountain Empire District softball tournament championship at the Grayson Rec. Park.

The season champion Blue Devils (15-4) caught fire late and zoomed past a gritty Galax 9-3 for the title after taking care of Bland County 11-1 in the semifinals earlier in the day. The Maroon Tide (10-9) advanced to the finals with a late rally in its semifinal, overtaking Fort Chiswell 6-4.

As a season and tournament champ, Grayson County will be one of the top seeds in this week’s Region C Division 2 tournament. Galax will have to wait to see if its semifinal win was enough to catapult it into the Division 1 field, which accepts the region’s top six small schools. The Tide began the day at No. 7.

Grace Wilson’s RBI double had just tied the game at 3-3 for Galax in the top of the fifth when the Blue Devils opened up for six runs in the home half of the inning. After a walk to Autumn Halsey to lead things off, Destiny Shupe and Taylor Hale singled, both hits compounded by Tide errors that resulted in a run. Madison Shupe beat out an infield single and Circle lined an RBI base hit for a 6-3 Grayson lead.

Brady Cassell’s ground ball plated Shupe, and Circle crossed home on an error on the play before Natasha Moore capped the big inning with an RBI double.

Harley Brewer’s two-run single gave Galax a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Grayson answered when Moore tripled to deep right, scoring on a wild pitch for a 2-1 game.

Autumn Halsey pitched five innings to earn the win, giving up three earned runs on seven hits.

Though foul balls are nothing more than strikes, Circle had a pair of towering, 300-foot strikes curl barely outside the foul pole, preventing a four-homer day. Circle pitched the last two innings against Galax after tossing a five-inning complete game in the semifinal win over Bland. She held the Bears to one run on three hits, but her mightiest contribution was at the plate, where she clubbed a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, driving in six runs in all.

Her two-run double helped Grayson break away from a 2-1 lead in the third, and she smacked her grand slam in the fourth. RBI singles from Jaime Adams and Destiny Shupe ended the game on the 10-run rule with one out in the fifth.

Galax had to rally to reach the title game, pushing three runs across in the sixth to overcome a 4-3 Fort lead. Following a leadoff walk to Grace Wilson, the Tide got doubles from Brittany Byrd, Hayley Reynolds and Taylor Cummings, the latter good for two runs and the final margin.

Morgan Neff’s two-run single in the fourth cut Fort Chiswell’s 4-1 lead to a single run.