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MAX MEADOWS -- WWE, meet MED.
In a game that only Vince McMahon could love, Tuesday’s key Mountain Empire District match-up between Fort Chiswell and Galax was marred by a benches-clearing brawl in the middle of the third inning, resulting in some tense moments, some frazzled nerves, a lot of pushing and shoving and four ejections. Order was restored and the game continued without incident, and without Kyle Schaeffer and Jacob Woodel of Galax and Fort Chiswell’s Mike Dunford and Gabe Ayers, all of whom were ejected. Whether by coincidence or not, Fort Chiswell scored six runs immediately following the fracas, five more the next inning, and left the field with a 12-7 win to become the last remaining unbeaten in the district. “It would have definitely been nice for us to be the last undefeated team instead of them, but that’s the hand we were dealt,” Galax coach Ronald Mankins said. “We’ll just have to go with it. The last time we lost we reeled off about eight straight wins, so we’ll just have to see if this loss can make us a better team.” Galax (8-3 overall, 2-1 MED) led 2-0 with two out in the top of the third when Brock Cox, facing Fort Chiswell reliever Dunford, chopped a slow roller between the mound and first base. Dunford fielded the ball, continued to the basepath and applied a shoving tag to Cox, who was knocked off balance. Woodel was soon in Dunford’s face, followed closely by Fort infielders Ayers and Hody Viars, and bedlam ensued. Though there were reports of punches being thrown, the melee, as is the case with almost all baseball ‘fights,’ consisted mostly of full-contact slamdancing, with players pulling and pushing one another, some of them ending up on their backsides. The ejections also bring with them automatic two-game suspensions. Fort Chiswell was due to face Marion Thursday and Bland County on Friday. Galax has a Coppinger Tournament semifinal game Saturday in Bluefield. Should the Tide win that one, it will play in the finals Saturday night. If not, the suspensions would stretch into Tuesday’s MED clash with Grayson County. “You hate to point fingers but I don’t think there is a person at this game who doesn’t think the pitcher was out of line and started the whole thing,” Mankins said. “We had some kids leave the bench, and by rule you have to be thrown out. I’m not condoning fighting by any means, but I’m glad we showed we’re not going to let ourselves get pushed around.” Almost overshadowed by the showdown-turned-smackdown, a pivotal baseball game was played, and the aftereffects of the extracurriculars were readily apparent as seven straight Pioneers reached base once play resumed, turning a two-run Tide lead into a four-run deficit. Josh Underwood stroked a two-run double and scored the go-ahead run on a throwing error. Fort (9-2, 3-0) took a 4-2 lead on Colton Ayers’ ground-rule double and two more runs scored on groundouts, putting the Pioneers up 6-2. “I think it rattled us a little bit,” Mankins said. “It took us a couple of innings to get our focus and composure back, and by that time we were in too deep a hole to climb out of.” Fort Chiswell coupled two hits with three free passes and three Tide errors for a five-run fourth. An error and a walk set up Colton Ayers, who singled home both runners. Consecutive loopers into shallow center fell safely, one for a two-run error and one for a Dakota Hunter RBI single. Galax recovered and pushed four runs across in the top of the fifth against Pioneer pitcher Ty Kirby, who was chased after two innings but returned to the mound when Dunford was tossed. Michael Bond scored on a bases-loaded ground-out before Greg Williams and Shane Cummings came through with RBI singles. Kirby issued back-to-back walks to force in a run, trimming the gap to 11-7. Viars capped the scoring in the bottom of the fifth, hustling to third on a misplayed fly ball and completing the circuit when the throw from the outfield went astray. After laboring mightily in the fifth, Kirby left two stranded in a scoreless top of the sixth, after which the contest was called due to darkness. Galax loaded the bases with none out in the first but came up empty after a double play and a leaping catch by Pioneer rightfielder Parker Mabe. The Tide took an early lead in the second on Cummings’ fielder’s choice and led 2-0 in the third on a Bond double followed by a Travis Garvey RBI single. Bond, Williams and Cummings each had two hits for the Maroon Tide, Cummings driving in three runs, and Ayers had two Pioneer hits as Galax outhit the Fort 9-6. Dunford was the pitcher of record when he was shown the door and picked up the win on one inning of work. Kirby gave up six earned runs on seven hits, walking four and hitting four. Bond took his first loss for Galax, allowing 11 runs, five earned, on four hits and five walks through 3 2/3 innings. Seven batters were plunked in the game – four from Galax and none having anything to do with the melee – and Bond went home with a fat lip, albeit from a bad hop and not a knuckle sandwich. And the MED race became much, much more interesting.
Galax.................011 140–– 7 9 6 Fort Chiswell......006 51x––12 6 2
Bond, Cockerham (4) and Woodel, Larrowe (3). Kirby, Dunford (3), Kirby (r.e.4) and C.Ayers. WP – Dunford. LP – Bond. 2B – Bond 2, Underwood, C.Ayers, Cummings.