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INDEPENDENCE –– In March, Grayson County was looking for ways to score a run. A couple of weeks later, the Blue Devils were trying to extend a game past five innings. Then came working on a way to pick up a win.
It’s May now, and Grayson is staring at the possibility of a very high seed in the Region C Division 2 tournament.
Barring catastrophe, the Blue Devils won the Mountain Empire District regular season title Friday, outslugging Galax 10-5 at GNB Park. Technically Grayson clinched a tie, but the Devils must lose to Graham and Narrows, plus see either Galax or Fort Chiswell beat the other twice this week to fall into a tie in the final standings.
Grayson County entered the week ranked seventh in the Region C Division 2 ratings. Teams that win both their season and tournament championships are seeded highest, followed by season-only champs, then tournament-only champs, then at-large teams.
“I was thinking about it earlier today how far these kids have come,” said Grayson County coach Mike Worrell, whose sophomore-laden team started the year 0-5. “I’m proud of the boys. They’ve overcome a lot of adversity.”
That continued against Galax. Dante Ravenell led off the game with a home run, his fourth homer in a little more than a week, and Eddie Hanks singled, scoring on Jon Alouf’s ground out for a quick 2-0 lead.
How big was Grayson’s four-run reply in its first at-bat?
“It was as big as the bottom of the second,” said Worrell of a four-run repeat in the second frame. “I told [Galax coach] Ronald [Mankins] after the first inning, that’s a good thing about playing on the road is some times you get a lead and not be starting off from behind. But it was a great answer to their start.”
The Blue Devils put four runs on the board on just one hit in the first, taking advantage of a wild streak by Galax starter Austin Pack that included three walks and three hit batsmen. Ty Cannaday had the only base knock of the inning, a two-run single.
Travis Cockerham took the mound with one out and quickly got a double play to end the inning, but the Blue Devils doubled their run total in the second on four hits. Matt Cornett laced a two-run double, scoring on Max Rodgers’ base hit, and Daniel Crawford added an RBI double for an 8-2 lead after two.
“They hit the ball well, and they hit it when they had to,” said Mankins. “They had runners on second base and they got them in. We didn’t set a good tone giving free bases away. We’ve got to make them earn every run.”
A Hanks RBI double and a run-scoring single by Alouf cut the margin to four runs in the top of the third but Grayson County added single runs in the third and fifth to go up 10-4. Lucas Rudy drove in Landon Frost in the third and Spencer Roberts singled to knock in Frost in the fifth.
Blue Devil starter Cornett cruised after the third, getting a double play to avoid trouble in the fifth and retiring eight straight until a Hanks two-out double and a throwing error allowed the last Galax run to cross.
Galax, which entered the week as the top-rated Division 1 team in the region, still has a lot of baseball to play, starting with four district games this week.
“We’ve got to move on and not let this one beat us next week,” Mankins said. “We’re still able to get a bye in the first round of the regionals so we’ve got to put this one behind us.”
Rodgers and Cannaday had two hits while Cornett, Cannaday and Crawford drove in two each. Rodgers also provided his weekly highlight-reel catch, this one a full layout to rob Trevor Quesenberry in the sixth.
Hanks was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs, and Alouf went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for Galax.