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INDEPENDENCE –– For four innings, Grayson County pitcher Morgan Thorne was perfect. By the time perfection had escaped her, she and the Blue Devils were too far ahead for it to matter.
Grayson County won its third straight Mountain Empire District tournament championship Thursday, jumping out to a 10-0 lead before settling for a 13-5 win in the championship game at B.A. Rhudy Fields.
Thorne, a steady senior right-hander, retired the first 12 Pioneers she faced, 10 of them on her own. Five Pioneers went down on strikes and five others grounded out to Thorne before Paige Quesenberry’s bloop leading off the fifth landed between three Devil fielders just beyond second base. Quesenberry’s hit was followed by a Brittany Pinnix single, and Kendra Viars ruined the shutout with an RBI groundout. Two more runs scored on an error before Thorne got out of the jam.
The troublesome fifth only cut three runs off what had been a double-digit lead. Grayson County played pepper with Pioneer starting pitcher Korey Mabry, batting around in each of the first two innings and scattering nine hits for eight runs. Following a leadoff groundout, the Blue Devils collected base hits from six of their next seven batters, including a run-scoring triple from Thorne and a Joyelle Combs RBI double. Tina Vaughan drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Rachel Hash capped the scoring with an RBI single.
The second inning was much like the first, with four runs scored following a leadoff groundout. Courtney Halsey got the rally started by drawing a beanball, scoring on Combs’ single. Megan Funk singled home Combs and Hash grounded out to drive in the Devils’ seventh run of the game before Annie Conklin’s bloop double to right made it 8-0.
Funk had a sacrifice fly in the third and Caitlin Anderson singled to drive in Conklin in the fourth for a 10-0 Blue Devil lead.
Fort Chiswell rallied to extend the game in the top of the fifth and added single runs in each the sixth and seventh innings, but Grayson County countered with a three-run rally in its half of the sixth. Conklin registered her fourth hit of the day, a one-out single, and Kayla Spurlin reached on an error. Both scored on Anderson’s single to left, and Anderson later scored on a wild pitch.
In addition to Conklin’s 4-for-4 day, Combs and Funk added three hits and two RBIs each. Anderson was 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Thorne finished with six strikeouts and four walks, allowing three earned runs on four hits.
The Blue Devils host Floyd County in the Region C quarterfinals Tuesday at 5 p.m. The winner advances to Thursday’s semifinal at the Harkrader Sports Complex at Christiansburg Middle School.