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An atmosphere that Galax hasn’t experienced on a baseball field in a number of years led to a state of affairs Grayson County is becoming all too familiar with.
Under the lights and before a crowd numbering in the hundreds, Grayson County came from behind in the seventh inning and scratched out its third one-run district win of the year to maintain control of the Mountain Empire District race. Cody Underwood’s sacrifice fly scored Jessup Lambert for the eventual winning run in the top of the eighth as the Blue Devils held off Galax 3-2 in a thrilling MED contest Friday at Felts Park.
“They’ve won a lot of games and they’ve beat some good people, they have a lot of kids back and have good pitching, and we’re not scoring a lot of runs. I expected it to be tough,” Grayson County coach Mike Worrell said. “Coming over here and playing under the lights, I’m thrilled to get out of here with a win.”
Having gone six innings with just two hits off of Galax lefthanded starter Scott Alouf, the Blue Devils trailed 1-0 and were down to their last three outs when they managed to tie the game without putting the ball in play. Two walks preceded consecutive hit batsmen, including a bases-loaded plunking of Willie DeBord that forced in Lambert, knotting the score at 1-1. A fielder’s choice resulted in a force out at the plate before Brent Graham drew a bases-loaded walk to score Underwood for a 2-1 Grayson County lead.
Having seen Galax’s first win over the Blue Devils in these players’ lifetimes possibly plucked away, the Maroon Tide buckled down and fought back in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings. A walk by Eddie Hanks and a beanball to Jacob Woodel put runners on first and second for Todd Nichols, who laced a single into left. Hanks beat Zack Hill’s throw to the plate, but Hill possibly saved the game by smothering an overthrow back to third base.
Galax was a whisker away from ending it in regulation. With Woodel on third, a suicide squeeze bunt attempt was missed on a pitch in the dirt and Woodel was tagged out by catcher Brent Graham on a bang-bang play at the plate.
“We could have rolled over in the seventh but we battled back,” Galax coach Ronald Mankins said. “We’re getting better and we’re still young and still learning, it’s just a tough one to lose.”
Lambert got Grayson’s winning rally started with a one-out walk off of reliever Brock Cox in the eighth. Tyler Rutherford singled just inside the third base line, and Lambert took third on a wild pitch. Underwood lifted a sacrifice fly to center, easily scoring Lambert.
Lambert, who took the mound in the bottom of the seventh, recorded a 1-2-3 eighth to nail down the win.
“The guys gave it their all tonight. That’s all I ask of them,” Mankins said. “Grayson, it’s a credit to them. When they had to do it, they did. They put some runs up in the seventh and the eighth and we just fell a little short in the end.”
With Grayson County struggling against Alouf, the Maroon Tide took an early lead when Woodel scored on a misplayed two-out grounder in the bottom of the third.
As the fourth inning ended, both dugouts were warned of impending hazardous weather to the west. The top of the fifth suddenly became like the bottom of the seventh for the Blue Devils, as the game could have been called complete had it been washed out in the middle of the fifth with Galax leading.
“We talked about it with the weather coming in, if we get somebody on do we press to get a run, but as a staff we decided to just play it normal,” Worrell said.
Rutherford led off by drawing a walk, then went from first to third on an Underwood sacrifice bunt. DeBord’s fly ball to right wasn’t quite deep enough, and Rutherford was tagged out at the plate by Woodel after a strong throw from rightfielder Tyler Houk.
Grayson County starter Jared Sells faced only minor threats after the third until giving way to Lambert with a 3-1 count on Hanks to lead off the seventh. Sells got a no-decision, giving up two runs on three hits in six-plus innings.
Alouf also wound up with a no-decision, holding the Devils to two hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out eight but walked 10 and hit four.
“I think we had Alouf at 140-some pitches, somewhere in that neighborhood, and you could see him running out of steam,” said Worrell, “but he pitched a great ballgame for them. He sure did.”
“The last few starts he’s been throwing great, and he threw a heck of a game tonight,” said Mankins.
Rutherford had two of Grayson’s three hits.
Grayson County Galax ab r h bi ab r h bi
Lambert p 3 2 1 0 Woodel c 3 1 0 0
Rutherford ss 3 0 2 0 Houk 3b 3 0 0 0
Underwood 1b 1 1 0 1 Nichols 2b 3 0 1 1
DeBord dh 3 0 0 1 Robinson cf 2 0 0 0
Salts 2b 0 0 0 0 Cox p 4 0 0 0
Pugh rf 2 0 0 0 Bond rf 4 0 1 0
Hash c 1 0 0 0 Cockerhm dh 4 0 1 0
Graham c 0 0 0 1 Garvey 1b 0 0 0 0 Hill lf 3 0 0 0 Alouf lf 4 0 0 0 Sells p 3 0 0 0 Schaeffr cr 0 0 0 0 Bowen pr 0 0 0 0 Hanks ss 2 1 1 0 Blizzard ph 1 0 0 0 Whitt 3b 0 0 0 0 Osborne cf 3 0 0 0 Totals 23 3 3 3 29 2 4 1 Grayson County 000 000 21––3 3 3 Galax 001 000 10––2 4 0
E – Lambert, Salts, Sells. DP – Galax 2 (L-1-5, F-9-2). 2B – Rutherford. Sac. – Underwood 2. SB – Woodel. CS – Pugh, Woodel. LOB – Grayson County 13, Galax 9.
Grayson County ip r er h k bb Sells 6+ 2 1 3 4 4 Lambert (W) 2 0 0 1 4 1 Galax Alouf 6.1 2 2 2 8 10 Cox (L) 1.2 1 1 1 2 1
Wp – Alouf 2, Cox. Hbp – (by Alouf) Hash, Osborne, Underwood, DeBord; (by Lambert) Woodel.