No. 8 seed Gate City sent shockwaves across the region with a stunning 5-4 win over top-seeded Virginia High.
The Bearcats (20-3) beat Gate City three times previously this season, including a 16-6 loss last Friday in the Clinch Mountain District tournament.
“We only beat them once this year, but it was the game that counted,” said jubilant Gate City coach Robbie Perry. “We got the breaks tonight. And the kids are believing what we coaches have been telling them.”
The Blue Devils (6-18) advanced to take on Wise Central (12-8) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in the semifinals at Virginia High.
“We just left too many runners on base,” said Bearcats coach Mark Daniels, who was ejected from the game in the top of the fifth inning for arguing a call. “I hate it for our guys. We had our chances and didn’t get it done.”
Virginia High sealed its fate by stranding 13 men on base.
Gate City opened the contest by scoring four runs in the first inning off Bearcats starter Chandler Daniels. Four walks and two hits did all the damage for the Blue Devils in that frame.
“That first inning really set the tone for us,” Perry said. “From there, (Chandler) Pendleton got the job done.”
Throwing mostly off-speed pitches, Pendleton kept the Virginia High batters off balance.
The Bearcats finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 4-1.
Gate City answered with what proved to be the winning run in the top of the fifth.
Cory Franklin opened with a double down the left field line and scored on another double by J.T. Starnes to stretch the Blue Devils’ advantage to 5-1.
The Bearcats added a run in the bottom half of the inning to pull within 5-2. They pushed across another in the sixth — when they left three men on base.
In the fateful seventh, Virginia High plated its fourth run and loaded the bases again.
Blue Devils reliever John Brooks, who had come on in the sixth, got the final out on a routine flyball to Franklin in center.
“I was shaking I was so nervous,” Brooks said.
“Tonight we came together as a team,” he added. “It just feels so good to win and to keep on playing.”