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RADFORD — Baseball’s a funny sport sometimes. The team that hits the ball better doesn’t always win. The smarter, more patient team can often overcome an offensive deficiency.
That’s precisely what Galax did in a 5-4 upset win at Radford in the 1A West Region quarterfinals on Tuesday, managing only two hits after the first inning but scoring three runs in the final four frames to get within a win of qualifying for the state tournament.
“We had some kids that came up here pretty determined today,” Galax coach Bobby Parnell said. “We have hit the ball better than this, but that’s a great team over there. It comes down to whoever I think plays the smartest at the time.”
The Maroon Tide (13-10) advances to play Honaker on Thursday at Randolph Field in Bristol in the region semifinals at a time to be announced. A win would put Galax back in the state tournament for the first time since winning it in 2012.
The Maroon Tide needed to manufacture some runs Tuesday to advance. Galax got a two-run homer by Bryant Cox in the first inning, one of three hits in the frame.
Its bats went mostly quiet after that, but Galax still scrounged up some runs. Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, it scored twice without the benefit of a hit.
Radford starter Jacob Hobbs walked the leadoff batter and, after recording the first out, hit three straight batters, twice with two strikes. That forced in a run. Leadoff batter Daniel Larue then drew a bases-loaded walk to force in another run to make it 4-3 Maroon Tide.
“If we get them out on the basepaths, we’ve got to get them in, anyway, anyhow,” said Galax catcher Chandler Quesenberry, who was hit by a pitch to force in the first run. “We were pretty patient.”
Radford tied the game in the fifth on an RBI single by Eli Straw past a drawn-in infield.
But the Maroon Tide would get it back in the top of the sixth. Chase Garvey blooped a single to left with two strikes and took second when the left fielder misplayed it. Two wild pitches — the second on the first pitch thrown by reliever Anthony Miano — brought Garvey around to score and make it 5-4 Galax.
The Bobcats had their chances but ran out of a few rallies. With pinch runner Desmer Conner on second and two outs in the sixth, Ryan Davis beat out an infield single on a chopper near second base.
Conner rounded third a bit too far, however, and was caught in a rundown between third and home to end the rally.
“I messed up,” Radford coach Darden Freeman said. “I got caught up watching the runner at first beat it out. [Conner] had no clue the ball was behind him and got hung out to dry. That was all on me.”
Miano drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh for Radford but, after a fly out, was caught stealing on a perfect throw by Quesenberry for the second out, the only time Miano’s been thrown out in 27 stolen base attempts this year.
After a single by Straw, his third of the game, Galax reliever Stew Merdian got Luke Phillips to fly out to right to end the game.
Radford finished the season 17-5, tying the school record for wins.
“Baseball’s a cruel game sometimes,” Freeman said. “I’m proud of these guys. They have flat given everything they have to Radford high school baseball. I hate to see it end for them like this.”
Freshman Jacob Stuart earned the win for Galax, settling down after the first couple innings to last five, giving up four runs on eight hits. He struck out four.
Two members from this year’s Galax team were on the 2012 championship squad as freshmen — Quesenberry and Cox. There are six seniors on the team that have yet to experience a state tournament appearance.
“It’s a big win for this ballclub,” Quesenberry said. “There are a bunch of seniors on this team, and I wanted it for them so they can see what it feels like.”
--Andy Bitter, The Roanoke Times
Reprinted with permission
Galax..........200 201 0––5 5 3
Radford......120 010 0––4 10 2
Stuart, Merdian (6) and Quesenberry. Hobbs, Williamson (4), Miano (6) and Howard. W – Stuart. L – Hobbs. Sv – Merdian. HR – Cox (Gx), 1st, one on. 2B – Morris (R).