Ball pitches Honaker over Gate City; Clintwood claims first regional baseball title

Greg Peters • May 31, 2013 at 11:55 PM

BRISTOL, Va. — The roller-coaster ride for Gate City’s baseball team came to a sudden stop Friday evening.

For Clintwood, meanwhile, the carnival fun continued.

Honaker halted the Blue Devils’ surprising run through the Region D, Division 2 tournament by blanking Gate City 7-0 in the championship game at Boyce Cox Field.

In the first game of the day, the Greenwave grabbed their first-ever Region D, Division 1 title by slipping past J.I. Burton 6-5 in the tournament finale.

After three straight heralded playoff performances this week, the Blue Devils could not overcome six errors and a strong pitching effort from Payton Ball.

The Tigers opened the game with three straight singles. Add in a two-base throwing error, a walk and a hit batsman, and the Devils were down 3-0.

Errors haunted Gate City again in the second inning when two more mistakes allowed the Tigers’ lead to grow to 5-0.

“We told the boys to shake this one off. If you are going to have a bad game, today was the day because we still get to keep playing,” said Gate City coach Robbie Perry, whose team already had qualified for the state tournament by reaching the finals.

Two more Blue Devils errors in the sixth inning led to Honaker’s final two runs.

Ball held the Devils to three hits and struck out seven en route to the victory.

“These kids are tired and that’s not to take anything away from Honaker. They deserved to win,” Perry added.

“But we picked a good day to have a bad day.”

J.I. Burton coach Jimbo Adams had a strategy that a deep pitch count would help the Raiders against Clintwood’s Dalton Dahley.

It didn’t work. Dahley went seven innings and struck 15 batters.

“We thought that if he got the pitch count up, we would have a chance, but he had command all day,” Adams said.

The Raiders didn’t make it easy for Dahley.

With the Greenwave leading 5-0, the lanky pitcher ran into trouble in the sixth inning. He worked himself into a bases-loaded situation that ended with two runs scoring via walks. A single by the Raiders’ Landon Mullins plated two more runs to pull Burton within 5-4.

“I didn’t get tired,” Dahley said. “I just lost it for a minute and was able to get it back, but this was about teamwork and everybody played a part.”

Clintwood’s Thomas Estepp added an RBI single in the sixth for a two-run lead.

Kevin VanNess led a Burton rally in the seventh. He doubled and eventually came home on a throwing error, but the comeback fell short.

“I told the kids this was a chance to do something historical and I am super proud,” said Clintwood coach Jerry Stanley. “Last year we were happy to make (the state tournament) as runner-up, but this year we want to make some noise.”

VHSL Group A tournament action starts Tuesday. In Division 1, Clintwood hosts Covington and J.I. Burton goes on the road to Auburn.

In Division 2, Gate City goes up the road to Glenvar, and Clintwood hosts Grayson County.

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