Tide boots shot at MED lead

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Trouble making the routine play led to a 7-4 loss in a key Mountain Empire contest.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

Both teams played nice this time around. But only one team played well. A couple of weeks after an ugly scuffle marred a meeting between Fort Chiswell and Galax, the rematch went off without incident Friday at Felts Park, but not without its unsavory moments as eight Maroon Tide errors contributed mightily to a 7-4 Fort Chiswell win in a key Mountain Empire District game. The win leaves the Pioneers (5-1 district) all alone in first place in the league standings with two games against Narrows remaining. Galax (4-2) dropped into a second-place tie with Grayson County. “It’s not often you give up one earned run and lose a ballgame,” Galax coach Ronald Mankins said. “In the middle innings we lost focus and didn’t make the plays defensively, and the timely hitting wasn’t there. We struck out too many times with runners in scoring position. Just the fundamental things of putting the bat on the ball and playing defense, things we’ve preached all year, and that’s what cost us.” The afternoon couldn’t have started any better for Galax, which jumped to a 4-0 lead in its first turn at bat. But things soon turned sour for the Tide, which coughed up the lead in the third on three hits and two errors on fairly routine plays. The Fort uprising began innocently enough with a pair of strikeouts by Galax starter Travis Cockerham, but a flair single by Mike Dunford and a base hit up the middle by Colton Ayers kept the inning alive long enough for the dropsies to set in on the Tide. Three straight Fort Chiswell batters belted drives deep into the Galax outfield. The first and third fly balls were misplayed and fell in for errors, allowing three runs across, in between which Parker Mabe roped an RBI double off the centerfield fence as the Pioneers knotted the game at 4-4. It was the beginning of a long day with the glove for Galax. Fort Chiswell came away scoreless despite three Tide errors in the fourth, and the Pioneers added three runs in the fifth on two hits and two errors. Mabe accounted for the only earned run of the day charged to Cockerham, a solo home run to left that put Fort on top to stay. Gabe Ayers singled with two outs and a fly ball to right was mishandled, setting up a two-run infield error for the final margin. “I don’t know if we lost focus, or it was one of those days where it doesn’t go your way, but nobody stepped up to make that third out,” Mankins said. “I told them the difference between [last week’s win over Grayson] and this week was that we had multiple players step up and make a big play, and this week it didn’t happen.” Cockerham left after five solid innings of work, allowing one earned run on five hits, striking out five and walking none. Terrance Mazon worked the final two innings, facing the minimum of six. “I’m really proud of how Travis is progressing,” Mankins said. “To be a sophomore and be doing what he’s doing – throwing strikes, hitting his spots, working ahead – he threw well and gave us five strong innings.” Dunford, who went the distance for Fort Chiswell, was available for the start thanks to a short day Tuesday in a loss to Grayson in which he walked four and hit one before giving up the mound after one-third of an inning. The initial inning Friday was again a tough one on Dunford, who trailed 4-0 before recording the second out. A dropped pop-up and a fielder’s choice set up No. 3 hitter Cockerham, who drove a two-run triple into the gap in right-center. Michael Bond walked and Travis Garvey dropped an RBI single into center before Kyle Schaeffer grounded out, allowing Bond to score. The Maroon Tide had runners on second and third in both the fourth and fifth innings but came away empty. Dunford stranded two Galax runners in the bottom of the seventh as well and finished the day with 14 strikeouts and four walks. “It definitely takes the wind out of our sails,” Mankins said. “We were in control of what happened to us the rest of the year and we let one get away, but Tuesday is our next game and it’s a new day, so we’ll have to regroup and go from there.”   Fort Chiswell......004  030  0––7  5  3 Galax................400  000  0––4  6  8


Dunford and C.Ayers. Cockerham, Mazon (6) and Larrowe, Woodel (3). WP – Dunford. LP – Cockerham. HR – Mabe (FC) 5th, none on. 3B – Cockerham (G). 2B – Mabe (FC).