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James River finishes strong, ousts Grayson

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The Knights pounced on the Devils after pitcher Destiny Shupe was hit in the face by a line drive.

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INDEPENDENCE -- After hanging tough with a powerful James River softball team for four innings Tuesday, Grayson County eventually let the game get out of hand and dropped an 8-0 decision to the Knights in a Region C tournament first round game at home.  But despite the disappointing end to an otherwise fine season for the Mountain Empire District champions, what weighed even more heavily in the hearts of the Blue Devil players was the loss of starting pitcher Destiny Shupe, who was injured when she was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of a James River player.  With one out in the top of the third inning and Grayson trailing by only 1-0, Taylor Statone drilled a hard shot which bounced off the pitcher’s face and sailed to the third baseman, who converted the play for another out. While Shupe lay writhing in pain, surrounded by teammates and officials trying to comfort and care for her, the game was delayed for nearly 30 minutes. She was taken off the field on a stretcher and transported to Twin County Hospital in Galax, where she was reportedly diagnosed with facial fractures and other injuries. She had bleeding and swelling around one eye and little or no vision through that eye.  As of late Tuesday night, unofficially according to a family friend, Shupe showed no evidence of bleeding from the brain and was to be released from the hospital to go home.  Shaken by their teammate’s injury, the Blue Devils managed to stay in the game for only one more inning but things started to unravel in the top of the fifth when James River struck for four unearned runs to go up 5-0. The Knights added three more in the top of the sixth to put the game away.  Meanwhile, Grayson was unable to produce any offense to match its guests’ output.  James River scored what turned out to be the winning run in the top of the first as Hailey Cook led off with a bloop double to centerfield and came in as the second batter, Statone, drove a sharp single to center. Another hit followed two batters later, but Shupe then got the next girl to ground out, preventing what could have been a rough inning.  It stayed 1-0 until the fifth.  Kayla Spurlin replaced Shupe on the mound in the third and managed to retire five of the first six batters she faced. But an error on a ground ball - which would have enabled Grayson to get out of the fifth without any runs being scored - opened the gates for James River. Visibly shaken by this turn of events and by her teammate’s injury, the usually effective Spurlin allowed five of her next six batters to collect hits, including a two-RBI lined single to center by Haley Shotwell and a two-run homerun over the leftfield fence by Jenna Sprinkle. Casey Hill and Cook then led off the sixth with back-to-back singles and Shotwell followed suit two batters later.  All three scored to wrap up the James River onslaught.  “That was a good team that beat us,” said Grayson County coach Tim Hollingsworth about James River, which took a 19-5 record into a second round game Thursday at Holston. “We had some good opportunities but they made key plays and always had the answer for us.”  One of the opportunities for the Blue Devils came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Laken Parks and Traci Crigger drilled back-to-back singles to center with only one out and Grayson still trailing by just one run. However, the next two batters struck out ending the threat. That was the only time Grayson managed to string two hits in the same inning. In fact, no Grayson batter reached base the rest of the game as the final eleven batters went down in order. The only other safeties for the Blue Devils were Spurlin’s single in the first and Crigger’s solid smash double to left in the second. Crigger went 2-for-3 at the plate.  Hollingsworth did not think the injury to his starting pitcher was a key to the defeat. “The girls seemed a little down but we played a really good team and once they got things going, it kind of snowballed against us,” he said. “Still, it was a good season and I am really proud of what they accomplished this year.”  After starting 1-4, the Blue Devils won 15 of their next 16 games before Tuesday’s setback, including the MED tournament championship. They finished with an impressive 16-6 record. 

Region C quarterfinals James River.............100  043  0––8  13  0 Grayson County......000  000  0––0   4   2

Morrow, Shotwell (6) and Falls. Shupe, Spurlin (3) and Vaughan. WP – Morrow. LP – Shupe.