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BLUEFIELD -- Some “new blood” infused into the prestigious Coppinger tournament will continue coursing into the second round, while a team of tourney “blue-bloods” had only a five-inning stay.
The Galax Maroon Tide enjoyed an 11-0 tourney debut over Bluefield on Friday evening in the first game of the 37th annual Allen D. Coppinger Jr. Invitational Tournament at a windy but sunny Bowen Field. Galax (8-2) junior Terrance Mazon tossed a three-hitter and struck out six in the game, shortened by the 10-run rule. Bluefield (3-7) senior Marcus Constantino was 2-for-3 to lead the Beavers’ offense. Galax coach Ronald Mankins said, “The kids are excited about playing up here, and playing somewhere different. They came out hitting the ground running, so to speak, today.” That certainly helped Mazon enjoy early run support. On the sixth pitch of the contest, the Tide took a 2-0 lead. Travis Cockerham, a sophomore, hammered his first pitch from Bluefield’s Matt Keczan over left field, where the ball bounced on top of the wall and on to daylight for a two-run homer. Mankins said, “He’s not a big guy, but he waits back, and he drives the ball well. I told him in the huddle after the game that that really got us started off on the right foot. Everybody fed off of that.” Five more runs scored in the second, punctuated by a two-RBI single by Eddie Hanks. An outfield error on the play let another run home. Bluefield coach Justin Gilbert said that in those two frames, “They earned just about every run they had. ... When another team’s just hitting the ball where you’re not, you just have to tip your hat to that.” After that inning, Keczan held Galax hitless in the third and fourth. “Matt Keczan settled in after that,” Gilbert said. “For the first two innings, I didn’t think he threw bad. It was just a matter of, what he was throwing, they were hitting. “It wasn’t really that we played bad the first two innings. Galax just did what they were supposed to.” Bluefield’s lack of run production was magnified as the innings started adding up. Gilbert said that in the middle of the game, “We were still confident. We still wanted it. But it was tough ... not to back ourselves up at the plate. ... We just hit the ball right at ’em tonight. We put the ball in play; we just hit it to them.” The final inning began with Keczan issuing three walks and one strikeout. All three base-runners scored, starting with an RBI single from No. 9 batter Shane Cummings, one of two Tide seniors. Jacob Woodel brought two more home with a single to center, and Hanks got the final run across on his groundout before Keczan struck out Cockerham. Mazon said about his offense, “I couldn’t have done it without my team.” Gilbert said, “You’ve got to tip your hats to them. Anybody that travels and hour-and-a-half, and gets here and just comes straight out and hits the ball the way they did, I’ve got to compliment them.” Mankins, in his fourth year in charge at Galax, said he has often told his team, “We don’t have to do anything special — just do fundamental baseball stuff. Just throw strikes, don’t make errors and put the ball in play. “We’re doing those fundamental things this year, and it’s paying off.” He noted, “We’ve got a good group of young kids, only two seniors.” Mazon gave up one base on balls, and hit one batter in his 94-pitch outing. Only one of the Beavers’ eight base-runners reached third base — Andrew Siegel, in the fifth. Mankins said, “Terrance did a very good job. (He was) getting a little tired there at the end, but (Bluefield) had some good hitters that battled really good and made him hit his spots. “But he did a very good job of working ahead on batters today and making them put his pitches in play.” The coach said, “This is only the second game he’s started. He had a little bit of trouble with grades, and we just (invoked) a self-imposed rule and wouldn’t let him play for three weeks. So this is the first game he’s started since the first week of the season.” Mazon said, “I’ve just been waiting on the chance (for the coaches) to give it to me again.” Mazon said he was throwing strikes “for most of the game.” Toward the end, he said, “they kind of started catching up to it, but I just kept throwing strikes.” Gilbert said, “On the high school level, if you’ve got three pitches that you can play around with, you’re going to be successful. And he was tonight. “The hits we got, we battled through to get those hits. Even the guys said, ‘He kept us off-balance.’ That was a big thing for him tonight.” The Maroon Tide earned a spot in the second round of the Coppinger, at 6 p.m. today (Monday) at Bowen Field against the winner of Saturday’s game between Graham and Oak Hill, W.Va. Bluefield will visit Princeton on Wednesday afternoon, pairing two young teams striving to learn. “We’re going through a tough stretch right now,” Gilbert said. “We’re young in spots. It’s tough because, the maturation process has to be fast at times. Sometimes, we’ve just got to grow up in certain spots. “If we have to experience a little bit of failure in the beginning of the year, I think we’ll be fine (if we) mature toward the playoffs.” Both teams, he said, “have some young kids, and some good senior leaders, but we only have a few. And they’re all working hard. ... As long as they’re working hard, I promise that we’ll be better. We’ve just got to get over this bump in the road right now.” See summary in Scoreboard. Coppinger Invitational, Bowen Field, Bluefield, W.Va.
Galax......................250 04––11 9 2 Bluefield, W.Va.......000 00–– 0 3 3
Mazon and Woodel. Keczan and Fox. WP – Mazon. LP – Keczan. HR – Cockerham (G) 1st, one on.