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Sproles, defense send Wolfpack past Blue Devils

By PAT KENNEY, Sports Correspondent • May 23, 2018 at 2:32 AM

GATE CITY — Stout pitching and a stellar defense led to Ridgeview’s 4-3 win over Gate City on Tuesday at Grogan Park in the opening round of the Mountain 7 baseball tournament.

The Wolfpack (6-13) advanced to take on John Battle in the semifinals Thursday at Battle.

McKenzie Sproles pitched six innings, struck out five and scored the winning run. His defense came up with a spectacular triple play in the second inning to snuff out a Blue Devils rally.

After Ridgeview had scored a run in the top half of the inning, Gate City’s Tyler Gardner led off with a double and scored on a single from Andrew Williams. Williams moved to second when Andrew Hensley drew a walk.

View the photo gallery from the game

Jake Taylor then hit a soft liner that appeared to be over the head of Ridgeview second baseman Carson Sykes, but Sykes made a spectacular catch and threw to second base, forcing out Williams. The relay to first beat Hensley back to the bag for the third out.

Ridgeview scored twice in the third to take a 3-1 lead.

The Blue Devils (7-13) added a run in the bottom half of the inning and tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Gardner scored his second run.

Sproles stroked a double off the left-field fence in the top of the seventh. He eventually came around to score on a Griffin Counts single.

“When Griffin hit that ball, all I was thinking about was getting to home plate,” Sproles said.

The Blue Devils’ lack of offense proved costly.

Gate City loaded the bases in the fifth with one out and failed to score. In the crucial seventh, the Blue Devils opened with a pair of walks, but a groundball to Mullins resulted in a double play.

But the tying run was still on third base. Inexplicably, the runner darted down the third-base line as if he were attempting to steal home. Relief pitcher Tyler O’Quinn would have none of that, racing over and tagging him for the final out of the game.

“That’s baseball,” said Gate City coach Terry Fields. “They just outplayed us.

“We put people in position to score and couldn’t get it done.”

Ridgeview coach Brad Counts could not have been happier for his team.

“We made the plays when we needed them,” the coach said. “I’m ecstatic about the way we played.”

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