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Union, Battle reach Mountain 7 baseball final

DARRELL ELY, Sports Correspondent • May 25, 2018 at 1:28 AM

BRISTOL, Va. — The third time was the charm for third-seeded Union in Thursday’s Mountain 7 baseball tournament semifinals.

The Bears scored all of their runs with two outs in an 11-4 win over second-seeded Central that avenged a pair of regular-season losses.

The Warriors were left to root for a Union loss in the district championship game so they can keep home field for next week’s regional tournament.

“We’re playing our best baseball in late May and that’s what you play for from January on,” Union coach J.W. Salyers said following his 200th career coaching victory.

Central struck first Thursday on senior J.P. Stallard’s solo home run in the third inning, but that was the only time the Warriors led.

An inning later, Union erupted for six runs after the first two hitters in the frame struck out.

Braxton Zirkle tied the game when he lined a 3-0 pitch to the center field wall that brought home Mason Caldwell. Three consecutive walks then staked the Bears to the lead.

“Maybe it’s a new school philosophy, but I believe in letting the kids swing the bat,” Salyers said.

After an error made it a 3-1 game, Union shortstop Austin Gibson tripled home three runs for a 6-1 advantage.

The Bears tacked on a single run in the top of the fifth on a run-scoring single by Kalen Gardner before the Warriors rallied.

With one out, Noah Bolling reached on an error and moved to third on a base hit by Ben Brickey. Stallard walked to load the bases — and insanity ensued. Landon Elkins singled in a pair of runs before an error allowed a third run to score.

But Elkins was thrown out at home while attempting to score on an errant throw for the final out of the inning.

With its lead cut to 7-4, Union pushed across four more runs in the sixth — with run-scoring hits by Zirkle and Bailey Gibson — to go up 11-4.

Bears relievers Evan Hall and Levi Phipps got the final six Warriors batters out in order to seal the win.

JOHN BATTLE 10, RIDGEVIEW 0

The top-seeded Trojans used a seven-run third inning to put any thought of a Wolfpack upset to rest, ending the game in five innings.

The Trojans’ Isaac Deel lined a two-run triple and Landon Moore rapped a two-run double as part of the big frame.

Battle tallied nine hits in the win with Deel and Aaron Arnold collecting two hits each.

Catcher Brad Blankenship went 2-for-2 as part of a five-hit attack for the Wolfpack.

NEXT UP

The Trojans and Bears will face off Friday at 7 p.m. for the championship.

The Warriors and Wolfpack will play the consolation game today at 11:30 a.m. because of Ridgeview’s graduation.

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