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Galax’s late-game offensive fireworks weren’t enough to overcome its early-game defensive implosion.
In a key early game between Mountain Empire District title hopefuls, the Maroon Tide committed seven errors in the first two innings, fell behind Fort Chiswell by nine runs in the fifth inning and rallied back to within reach before taking an 11-8 loss Tuesday at Felts Park.
A huge fifth inning had the Pioneers (8-1 overall, 2-1 district) thinking about getting out of town early with the 10-run rule after scoring five runs to take a 10-1 lead. Darrin Roberts tripled off of Galax starter Terrance Mazon to drive in two runs and came home on an Anthony Spencer double. Run-scoring singles by Cory Mabry and Coleman Thomas capped the rally with Fort leading by nine.
“I give Fort Chiswell credit because they jumped on [Terrance] in the fifth when he started getting tired, but that fifth inning should have been his seventh,” Galax coach Ronald Mankins said. “He threw well enough to give us a chance to win the game, but we didn’t play the D behind him.”
Limited to one run on four hits by Pioneer starter Tye Kirby, Galax (3-4, 0-1) finally got some life in the bottom of the fifth, starting with a leadoff double by Travis Cockerham. Michael Bond was hit by a pitch to put two runners on for Travis Garvey, who launched an impressive opposite-field home run that nearly reached Railroad Avenue, pulling Galax to within 10-4 after five.
A walk, Galax’s ninth error of the evening and an RBI single from Dakota Hunter widened the lead back to seven runs in the top of the sixth, but the Maroon Tide made it interesting in the bottom half with four runs.
“I told the kids that was a team that was 8-1, we make nine errors and put ourselves in a position to win it at the end,” said Mankins. “I don’t question their fight and their heart to not give up. We easily could have rolled over when it was 10-1. The later innings we started finding some holes, so there was something positive that we could build on.”
Cockerham drew a walk with two outs and nobody on base, and Bond doubled to the rightfield corner. Garvey was walked intentionally to load the bases for Dante Ravenell, who singled up the middle to drive in a pair of runs. Eddie Hanks followed with a bloop over first base that landed on the foul line for a two-run single, and suddenly Galax was within three.
The Pioneers went silently in the top of the seventh but then turned a line-drive double play to all but end the Tide’s comeback chances.
Just being within shouting distance at the end was remarkable for Galax, considering how the Maroon Tide’s day had started.
“We had some of your traditional errors, a couple of bad throws, but then we had things like overthrowing the pitcher and not calling pop-ups,” Mankins said. “Things like that I attribute more to being a mental error than a physical error. Those things should be routine for these kids, being upperclassmen.”
Four first-inning errors and three more in the second had Fort Chiswell sitting on a quick 5-0 lead and Mazon saddled with a high pitch count.
“He was up to about 50 pitches after two innings, where we had made seven errors,” said Mankins. “If we make those outs, he’s in the fifth inning with 50 pitches instead of going into the third with 50.”
Galax left five runners on base in the first three innings before finally getting on the board thanks to a booted two-out grounder in the fourth.
Cockerham, Bond, Ravenell and Jacob Woodel each had two hits for Galax. Hunter and Levi Mooney had three hits apiece for the Pioneers, with two more from Mabry and Spencer.