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MAX MEADOWS -- 2009 is supposed to be the year. Thursday was not the day.
With Grayson County fielding seven first-year starters, the Mountain Empire District hasn’t had this good a chance in several years to catch up with the 15-time district champion Blue Devils. Fort Chiswell, a talented club returning nearly intact from a year ago, will have to wait a few weeks for another opportunity. Grayson County made the most of its one hit, riding solid defense and a superlative pitching effort by Jessup Lambert to nip the Pioneers 1-0 Thursday afternoon in a game that had an early-June feel to it. “We handled the pressure real well,” Grayson County coach Mike Worrell said. “Real well. This group has worked tremendously hard in the offseason. We preach to them that good luck and success follows hard work, and they earned it today.” The two teams combined to register just three hits, and Grayson’s was an iffy one at that. Following a leadoff walk to Brent Graham to start the second inning, Richard Pugh’s bouncer to the right side caught a pebble and hopped over second baseman Colton Ayers’ head for a single, putting runners on the corners. Zack Hill walked to load the bases, and No. 9 hitter Ben Osborne lofted a fly ball deep enough into leftfield to plate courtesy runner Ethan Hash with the game’s lone run. Grayson reloaded the bases with one out on an error but could do no further damage. It was all pitching and defense from that point on. Pioneer starter Mark Gallimore threw three more hitless innings before giving way to lefty Blake Musick, who faced the minimum of six batters in two innings, thanks to a double play in the sixth. Lambert, the starting pitcher as a sophomore in Grayson’s most recent state championship game appearance, struck out 10 and walked two, giving up two singles. Not that the Pioneers didn’t have their chances. A bobbled grounder and a walk put two on with none out in the bottom of the second, but rightfielder Richard Pugh made a nice grab of a dying line drive to help kill that rally. In the third, shortstop Tyler Rutherford turned a double play to nullify a one-out single by Hody Viars. Lambert issued a leadoff walk to the No. 9 batter in the sixth before retiring the Pioneers’ 1-2-3 hitters, two on nice plays at first by Cody Underwood. “I think the batter was White, we were behind in the count, and coach Meredith was ready to go get [Lambert],” Worrell said of Fort Chiswell’s third batter in the sixth. “We decided to give him one more pitch, and he threw a strike. He got himself out of it. He was getting tired, you know, it’s early in the year, but he was a warrior today. At times he’s had trouble the third time through the order, or giving up back-to-back walks, and he overcame both today. He only had two walks, he stayed ahead in the count for the most part, and he was strong the third time through the order.” Tiring, Lambert worked out of one final jam in the seventh. With one out, Tyler Akers drew Fort’s second free pass of the day, and Jake Underwood lined a single into right. But Lambert fielded a one-hopper off the bat of Mike Dunford, initiating a game-ending 1-6-3 double play. “We made the routine plays,” said Worrell. “The double plays were pretty, but through the whole game we made the routine plays. It’s important for us to give folks 90 feet at a time. Don’t get squirrelly with the ball and throw it away and give them 180. We made plays, and I’m proud of them.” Grayson County Fort Chiswell ab r h bi ab r h bi Rutherford ss 3 0 0 0 Viars ss 3 0 1 0 Lambert p 4 0 0 0 White 3b 3 0 0 0 Salts 2b 4 0 0 0 Gallimore 1b 3 0 0 0 CUnderwd 1b 2000 Musick p 3 0 0 0 Deboard dh 2 0 0 0 Ayers 2b 0 0 0 0 Whitt 3b 0 0 0 0 Akers 2b 1 0 0 0 Bowen pr 0 0 0 0 JUnderwd c 3 0 1 0 Graham c 1 0 0 0 Dunford cf 3 0 0 0 Hash c 1 1 0 0 Mabe rf 2 0 0 0 Pugh rf 3 0 1 0 Poole lf 1 0 0 0 Hill lf 2 0 0 0 Osborne cf 2 0 0 1 Totals 24 1 1 1 22 0 2 0 Grayson County 010 000 0––1 1 1 Fort Chiswell 000 000 0––0 2 5 E – Akers 2, Viars 2, Whitt, White. DP – Grayson County 2 (6U-3, 1-6-3), Fort Chiswell 2 (6U-3, 4-6-3). Sac. – Osborne. SB – Pugh. LOB – Grayson County 8, Fort Chiswell 4. Grayson County ip r er h k bb Lambert, W 7 0 0 2 10 3 Fort Chiswell Gallimore, L 5 1 1 1 7 4 Musick 2 0 0 0 1 0 Wp – Lambert 2, Gallimore 2. Hbp – (by Gallimore) Deboard.