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INDEPENDENCE –– Winning its ninth straight game and for the 16th time in its last 17 outings, Grayson County did what pretty much everybody expected and played its way into the Region C Division 2 softball semifinals.
But it wasn’t like the Blue Devils’ first-round opponent just rolled over for them.
Fort Chiswell, which had taken five-inning losses of 12-1 and 10-0 in the regular season, and Pioneer pitcher Amber Chrisley held Grayson County to five hits as the Blue Devils scraped out a 4-0 win Tuesday at the Grayson Rec. Park.
The Blue Devils remained on their home field and faced Floyd County yesterday (Thursday) in the region semifinals. The Buffaloes had a much more enjoyable 21-0 win over PH-Glade Spring on Tuesday. Grayson and Floyd met twice in the regular season with the Buffaloes sweeping the series, including a 1-0 decision May 8 in Independence.
Grayson County (18-3) had slugged a total of nine home runs in the semifinals and finals of the Mountain Empire District tournament, but had trouble making solid and consistent contact with the high risers delivered by Chrisley.
The Blue Devils did manage to take an early 1-0 lead when Chelsie Callahan walked with one out in the bottom of the first, scoring on a Grace Circle double.
Chrisley retired six straight until Brady Cassell led off the fourth by reaching on an error. Chrisley coaxed three straight pop-ups, the first two of which were caught for outs, but the third found a hole just beyond second base for an RBI base hit by Sarah Eller.
Grayson County added two runs in the fifth inning when Chelsie Callahan singled to drive in Hayley Lawrence, and Karly Morris scored on a wild pitch.
Eller, the Blue Devil starting pitcher, allowed just three hits and struck out 12 but did have a jam or two to work through. After allowing two baserunners in the top of the first, Eller sat down 14 of the next 15 Pioneers before Fort loaded the bases in the sixth. A single and a pair of two-out walks gave the Pioneers their best scoring chance of the day, one that ended with a ground ball out.
Eller had an RBI and two of the Blue Devils’ five hits.