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Galax won the 1C crown by taking down the reigning state champions for a second time this year.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

RINER –– Galax third baseman John Key took a fastball to the upper left arm in the fifth inning and described it as instant numbness. Maroon Tide pitcher Lucas Dalton watched his team rally into the lead an inning later, and whatever fatigue he was experiencing beforehand, “I wasn’t feeling nothing” afterward.

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Suffice it to say that success can cure what ails you.

The Maroon Tide used a four-run uprising in the sixth inning to overtake defending state champion Auburn and claim the Region 1C championship 7-4 Friday at Auburn High School. The loss was just the second of the year for the Eagles (18-2), both at the hands of the Maroon Tide (14-6), which will host Honaker in Tuesday’s Class 1 state quarterfinals.

Key and Dalton played the lead roles and got solid support throughout the lineup and in the field as Galax notched its first region crown since 2012. Shaking off one inning of wildness, Dalton confined Auburn to just three hits in a complete-game effort. Key went 3-for-3, collecting three RBIs in addition to the mashed triceps.

“That’s just who he is,” said Galax coach Bobby Parnell of Key, a senior. “He’ll battle and do whatever it takes to succeed, and that’s what I love about him.”

Parnell was also fond of the offensive production scattered throughout his lineup and the stellar defense from his middle infield, shortstop Joshua Spurlin and second baseman Matt Lundy.

Still, Auburn was just four outs away from a win, leading 4-3 with two outs and nobody on base in the top of the sixth. No. 9 hitter Lundy (2-for-3, two runs) kept the inning alive with a sharp single up the middle and Cade Ashworth followed by rocketing a game-tying triple to center. One run scored on an error and another on a wild pitch before Key capped the rally with an RBI single for a 7-4 Galax lead.

Dalton then retired Auburn in order in both the sixth and seventh innings to nail down the win.

“I know we’ve got some pitchers who can come in but I really wanted to come in and shut them down,” said the senior righty. “They were putting the ball in play and all my teammates were making amazing plays backing me up. Didn’t have any errors, just great defense behind me.”

Key singled and scored on Joseph Berry’s grounder for a 1-0 lead in the second and Key laced a two-out, 0-2 pitch to center for a two-run double and a 3-0 advantage in the third.

“I was expecting curveball, definitely,” he said. “I choked up and widened my stance, and he gave me fastball right over the plate.”

Six of the Tide’s seven runs would score with two outs.

“My kids battled, stayed with what we’d planned to do and it turned out good for us,” Parnell said. “We were going to try to get the pitch count up, see a ton of pitches, and I think we did that. That first pitcher struck our first three batters out and I thought, ‘Ooh, this could be a short game.’ But we settled in and did what we came to do.”

After Dalton loaded the bases with two beanballs and a walk, Keith Reed’s two-out double knocked in three runs in the home half of the third to tie the game at 3-all for Auburn. In rightfield, Reed robbed Galax of at least two runs with a diving catch in the fifth, and his RBI double in the bottom of the inning briefly had his team ahead 4-3. He would be Auburn’s final baserunner as Dalton retired the final seven Eagles in order.

“It was rough for a couple of innings but we rallied in the sixth inning and got us up by three, and it was all adrenaline,” Dalton said. “I wasn’t feeling nothing. I was energetic. I was feeling great. I just had to settle back down and throw strikes, not let it get in my head.”

“He got a little wild with his changeup and hit a couple but he settled down and started working it back in in the later innings and did really well,” said Parnell.

Reed had two of Auburn’s three hits and drove in all four runs for the Eagles, who travel to PH-Glade Spring for their state quarterfinal.

SEMIFINALS

Galax 13, Covington 1: Five different Maroon Tide batters had two hits each and Galax used an eight-run second inning to wallop the Cougars in the Region 1C semifinals Thursday at Auburn High School.

John Key and Kolby Barnes each singled home a run, two more scored on bases-loaded walks and the rally topped out with back-to-back two-run errors by Covington.

Lucas Dalton doubled in a run in the fourth and Daniel Huff, Key and Berry all stroked doubles in a four-run Galax seventh.

Huff, Key, Barnes, Cade Ashworth and Matt Lundy each had two hits for the Maroon Tide. Huff and Key knocked in three runs apiece while Ashworth and Joseph Berry each added two RBIs.

Jacob Stuart allowed one earned run on three hits over six innings, striking out 10 and walking two.