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PULASKI –– Galax won the one that matters. In the case of a season-ending double header against Fort Chiswell at venerable Calfee Park, the one that mattered was whichever game happened to go its way.
With a higher preseason tiebreaker number than the Pioneers, the Maroon Tide needed only to split the double header to earn the No. 2 seed in this week’s Mountain Empire District tournament. That they did, taking a 4-2 win in the opener before falling 4-3 in the nightcap.
Technically the two finished deadlocked in second place, but the tiebreaker draw, conducted in the fall, goes Galax’s way. Good thing, too. The Maroon Tide ended its regular season with four games in six days and will now get a first-round bye, along with season champion Grayson County.
Fort Chiswell had to play its way into the semifinals with a first-rounder Tuesday against last-place Bland County, while Graham and Narrows met in the other quarterfinal game.
Galax will face the Fort-Bland County winner at 5:15 pm today, after Grayson takes on the Graham-Narrows winner in the first semifinal at 3 pm. Both semifinal games and Thursday’s 5 pm championship game will be at Fort Chiswell.
Playing the first game as the home team, the Maroon Tide trailed the Pioneers 2-0 at the middle of the third inning before pushing two runs across in each of its next two at-bats. Dante Ravenell and Bryant Cox each had a hand in both rallies.
Cox reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the third, moved up on Austin Pack’s single and reached home when Ravenell singled. The speedy Galax centerfielder easily scored on a wild pitch later in the inning to knot the game at 2-2.
Travis Garvey led off the fourth with a single and pinch runner Nick Davis stole second, scoring on a Cox single up the middle. Ravenell added an insurance run with a double to right-center for the final 4-2 margin.
Fort Chiswell came up empty despite seeing seven batters reach base the final two innings. A double play erased a leadoff walk in the fourth, but three more free passes necessitated Travis Cockerham taking the mound in relief of Jon Alouf. Cockerham stranded all three inherited runners by getting a ground out from Cory Mabry, but his work wasn’t done. A hit batter, an error and a walk loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth before a fielder’s choice and a soft liner back to the mound ended the threat.
The second game went into the bottom of the fourth tied at 3-3, but Fort Chiswell, the home team in the nightcap, got a one-out Darren Roberts single to score Edmonds with the go-ahead run.
Galax got runners on first and second with one out in the top of the fifth but lanky right-hander Roberts escaped with a strikeout and a ground ball to salvage the split.
Station-to-station baseball gave Galax an early 1-0 lead as Ravenell led off the game with a single and a stolen base, went to third on an Eddie Hanks ground out and scored on Cockerham’s fly out to right.
The Pioneers got to Hanks, Galax’s starter, for three runs in the third, all with two outs. Roberts led off with a walk and a steal, scoring on Mabry’s two-out base hit. Josh Underwood beat out in infield single before Coleman Thomas singled to right, plating Mabry. Underwood came all the way around when the ball was misplayed, giving Fort 3-1 lead.
Ravenell was a combined 3-for-5 with two runs, Alouf went 2-for-3 and Garvey was 2-for-4.