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After jumping on Patrick Henry for five first-inning runs in a 10-0 Conference 46 baseball quarterfinal win Saturday, Galax never looked back. After a discouraging and sometimes heartbreaking school year for the boys from Glade Spring, the youthful Rebels can only look forward.
Experience went a long way Saturday at Felts Park for the Maroon Tide (11-9), which has eight returning starters, including a couple holdovers from a 2012 Division 1 state title team. The third-seeded Tide threw strikes, hit strikes and made the plays in the field, and advanced to the conference semifinals Tuesday in Glade Spring, where it faced No. 2 George Wythe.
Experience can only make the Rebels (4-17) stronger. Patrick Henry’s football and boys’ basketball teams managed three wins between them and the student body tragically lost two male classmates during the school year. The extremely young team committed four errors and issued nine walks.
“We lost a couple of balls in the sun, but I think the nerves got to us today,” Rebels coach Tommy Thomas said. “We’ve got 13 players, and seven of them are freshmen.”
Sophomore Craig Eisert started on the mound and labored through the five-run Maroon Tide first, giving up three walks, three hits and incurring a run-scoring error.
“We had more mistakes in this game than we’ve had in a long time,” Thomas said. “Craig was pretty nervous. He normally is really solid. He walked more in the first inning than he’d probably walked in an entire game all year.”
Stew Merdian’s two-run opposite-field single was the big blow in the first, which included a Caleb Spurlin RBI single, a run-scoring wild pitch and the first of two Chase Garvey sacrifice flies. Two errors factored in a second-inning Tide run, and Garvey’s second sacrifice fly made it 7-0 after three.
“We wanted to jump on them and get out to an early lead,” Galax coach Bobby Parnell said. “We did that and we were relaxed, which takes away the pressure of being in the conference, where it could be your last game.”
The Maroon Tide stayed disciplined at the plate and consistently worked itself into a favorable count.
“One of our focus points today was to make sure they threw us a strike,” Parnell said. “We took until we got a strike, and some of the kids took two strikes. We just did a real good job at the plate today.”
Galax starter Caleb Pack struck out six and allowed no hits until a Ben Reynolds flair over shortstop in the top of the fourth. It was the first of two straight innings in which the Rebels filled the basepaths but came up empty.
“We just didn’t put the bat on the ball enough,” Thomas said. “Twice we had the bases loaded and several times we left runners stranded. You’ve got to have hits when you have runners in scoring position, and we just didn’t do it.”
The Tide’s No. 3 starter, Pack got his curve over the plate consistently and finished with a two-hitter, striking out nine. Most importantly, he allowed Galax to enter the semifinals with its Nos. 1 and 2 arms fresh.
“He can always go four or five innings for us, and that’s what we needed for him to do today,” said Parnell. “He likes that curveball. He’s got a lot of confidence in it.”
Galax tacked on two runs in the fourth on an error and another Spurlin RBI single before Jacob Stuart’s base hit with none out in the fifth drove in Chandler Quesenberry for the 10-run margin. Merdian had three of the Tide’s nine hits, with two each from Stuart, Garvey and Caleb Spurlin.
Patrick Henry......000 00–– 0 2 4
Galax...................511 21––10 9 1
Eisert, Taylor (4) and Rhea. Pack and Quesenberry. W – Pack. L – Eisert.