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INDEPENDENCE –– With Grayson County and Fort Chiswell scheduled to play Mountain Empire District tournament championship games against each other in softball and baseball, both at 5 p.m. and just a couple hundred yards apart, tournament organizers decided to stagger the starts of the two events, with softball getting under way at 3 p.m.
Those softball fans who didn’t scramble up the hill in time to see the first two innings of the baseball final didn’t miss anything they hadn’t just witnessed.
Two hours after the Lady Blue Devils opened with eight runs in the first two innings of their win, the Grayson boys followed with nine runs in their first two frames, rolling to a five-inning, 11-1 win over the Pioneers at the GNB Baseball Complex.
The quick start put a quick end to any anxiety the Grayson faithful may have felt about the Pioneers, who entered with an 18-3 record and who had bashed their way to a 15-0 win over Galax in the semifinals.
Two batters into the game, the Devils had the lead for good. That’s how long it took for Adam Bedsaul to rip a double and score on a Chris Anders single.
Zack Jones followed with a base hit and courtesy runner Ben Osborne scored on the first of three Pioneer errors.
The lead doubled when a fielder’s choice and subsequent error brought two more runs across, but the hot start wasn’t all smiles for Grayson as starting second baseman Bo Pollard, the sixth Devil to bat in the first, was struck in the cheek by a Mark Gallimore fastball. Pollard walked from the field under his own power, but was diagnosed with a fractured nasal cavity and needed 15 stitches to close cuts to his face and mouth.
Fort Chiswell (18-4) scored its lone run in the top of the second on a two-out fielding error, but the Blue Devils more than made up for it in the bottom of the second. Jones doubled to drive in a pair of runs, and Josh Farmer followed with a three-run homer to left for a 9-1 Grayson County lead.
Grayson County (17-5) stretched its lead to 10-1 in the fourth when Tyler Rutherford singled and scored on Jessup Lambert’s base hit. The Blue Devils ended the day on the 10-run rule in the fifth. Bedsaul’s liner to left-center took a wicked hop and wound up as a triple, and Anders’ grounder to a drawn-in infield was booted, allowing Bedsaul to cross with the game-ending run.
Bedsaul finished the day 3-for-3 while Anders and Jones added two hits apiece.
Jones went the distance on the mound for Grayson County, improving to 3-0 on the year with a three-hitter, allowing one unearned run and striking out three.
Grayson County, winner of three of the past four Region C championships, will begin defense of its latest title Tuesday at home against Giles, the runner-up from the Three Rivers District.
The winner advances to Thursday’s semifinals at Patrick Henry-Glade Spring, against either George Wythe or James River. That game is slated for 8 p.m. In other first-round games, Chilhowie hosts Bath County and Fort Chiswell travels to Glenvar.