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Grayson County keeps season alive, 11-7

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The Blue Devils won a back-and-forth MED semifinal over the Maroon Tide.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

BASTIAN -- Nobody likes having to come from behind, especially with the season on the line, but out in front was a dangerous place to be Tuesday. Galax gained and lost a three-run lead in the first inning and Grayson County did some hand-wringing after taking a late five-run lead, but the Blue Devils were able to hang on to enough of the lead to post an 11-7 win in the Mountain Empire District baseball semifinals at the Bland Sports Complex. In a game that lasted nearly three hours thanks in part to a first inning that included 17 hitters, nine runs, five hits (including a home run), three errors and three hit batsmen, Grayson County took command with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth. With the game tied 4-4, consecutive bases on balls followed by back-to-back infield errors brought home Spencer Roberts with the go-ahead run, and Jake Blizzard placed an opposite-field two-run double inches inside of the rightfield line. Dustin Leonard later singled into center, driving in two more Devils for a 9-4 lead. As quickly as Grayson (15-6) had found breathing room, the Devils were staring at the potential tying run in the batter’s box. “I’m proud of the kids for fighting back,” Galax coach Ronald Mankins said. “We had just given up a five-spot and we came in and scored three, and we refused to give up tonight. That’s something we can build off of.” An error and a Jacob Woodel bloop single ended Leonard’s time on the mound, and reliever Tyler Rutherford issued a bases-filling walk before Michael Bond grounded into a fielder’s choice, plating one run. Another Devil error allowed Woodel in, and Travis Garvey lined an RBI double into left-center. Brock Cox stepped in and represented the tying run, but his line drive was flagged down at third by Leonard to preserve a 9-7 lead. Grayson added two runs in the sixth on a walk, a Rutherford double and a two-out pop-up off the bat of Jared Salts that skied above the lights and disappeared, falling in for a 110-foot two-run double. The evening lacked nothing but expedience as Galax (11-10) batted around for a 3-0 lead but trailed 4-3 before one inning was in the books. Travis Cockerham singled to drive in Woodel and the Tide added runs on a Devil error and a bases-loaded walk as the Devil bullpen got busy without the game’s first out being recorded. “We were pretty close” to pulling Leonard, Blue Devil coach Mike Worrell said of his sophomore starter. “It was really his first big varsity start, and he’s got the stuff but not the experience. Getting the lead for him in the first was pretty big. It’s a lot easier to pitch when you’re ahead.” Grayson wasted no time bouncing back from the rough start, using a Rutherford leadoff homer to ignite a four-run response. Leonard lashed a two-run single into right, and an error there allowed a third run to score, putting Grayson on top. “That was huge,” said Worrell of not only answering Galax’s rally but also taking the lead. “Tyler’s home run really put some spark back into us. “We brought the fire and the effort and the intensity that we’ve been missing the last couple of weeks,” said Mankins, whose team had won eight straight before ending the season on a 2-8 slide. “But it’s hard to overcome those unearned runs. That’s the game we’ve been playing the last few weeks. Give [Grayson] credit. They had some timely hits and got some unearned runs. And that was the difference in the game.” After the first the two teams combined to leave eight runners stranded until Galax tied the game in the fourth on an errant pick-off attempt. Rutherford, Blizzard, Salts and Leonard each had two of Grayson’s eight hits, with six of them going for extra bases. Leonard drove in four and also settled down and lasted into the sixth to earn the pitching win, giving up six runs on four hits. Woodel had two of Galax’s five hits.   Galax........................300  103  0–– 7   5   4 Grayson County......400  052  x––11  8  5

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Cockerham, Schaeffer (2), Mazon (5) and Woodel. Leonard, Rutherford (6) and Graham. WP – Leonard. LP – Schaeffer. Sv. – Rutherford. HR – Rutherford 1st, none on. 2B – Salts 2, Blizzard 2, Garvey, Rutherford.