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RADFORD –– Delay after weather-related delay pushed back Grayson County’s Group A Division 2 state baseball semifinal game 24 hours, then three more hours, then three more again. It seemed to take forever to get the thing started.
The Blue Devil bat rack never did catch up.
Wilson Memorial pitcher Brandon Gochenour allowed Grayson County precious few scoring opportunities, and the Blue Devils could only capitalize on one of them, falling to the Hornets 6-1 Saturday at Radford University.
Wilson Memorial (19-5) went on to defeat Glenvar 6-4 Sunday for its fourth state championship, its first since 1990.
Gochenour limited the Blue Devils to five hits – only once giving up two of them in the same inning – in improving to 7-0 on the year. He struck out six, walked none and hit one.
“We didn’t play bad, they just played better,” said Grayson County coach Tiny Funk. “That’s the way baseball is. They were able to put some hits together and we weren’t. One through nine, they make you pitch. There was no easy outs.”
Not that the Blue Devils (19-7) did not make good contact on Gochenour, a sophomore righty. Grayson hit the ball on the screws on several occasions, only to find a Wilson Memorial glove in the way. The biggest at-em ball may have come in the bottom of the first. Lucas Rudy led off the inning by taking a Gochenour pitch in the back, later reaching second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Matthew Cornett hit a laser to left, albeit right where the Hornets’ Hunter Carr was stationed.
“A foot one way or another and we get on the board first, and you don’t know what happens then,” Funk said.
By contrast, half of Wilson Memorial’s 10 hits never reached the outfield grass. Three singles, including two of the infield variety, filled the bases with none out in the top of the third. The Blue Devils turned a 6-4-3 double play and got out of the inning with just one run scoring, but Grayson couldn’t carry momentum into the dugout and went down in order in the bottom of the inning.
The Hornets, who did have their share of well-struck base hits, tacked on two more runs in the fourth. Heath Hatfield doubled to deep center to drive in a run, later scoring on a misplayed line drive to left from Justin Leary.
Grayson County finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth when Luke Wilson tripled to right-center, scoring on Ty Cannaday’s sacrifice fly. But the Hornets made up the lost ground in their next at-bat, again with a Hatfield RBI double. He then scored on Leary’s base hit for a 5-1 lead going into the sixth inning.
Grayson County turned its third double play of the afternoon to prevent further damage, but enough had been done already as Gochenour allowed just one Grayson baserunner after the fifth.
“He’s done it for us all year,” Wilson Memorial coach Rodney Cullen said. “He really commands his pitches and mixes them well.”
Rudy didn’t disagree with Cullen’s assessment.
“That guy hit his spots,” said the four-year starting catcher. “When he got two strikes on us he put us away. That’s really all you have to do if your team’s playing good defense, which they did.”
Hatfield was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Daniel Poole had three hits and No. 9 hitter Carr added two. Landon Frost had two of Grayson’s five hits.
“Good pitching, good defense and timely hitting, that’s the recipe for winning,” Funk said. “We got two of them, but not the third.”