KINGSPORT — Gate City saved one of its best performances for last.
Celebrating senior night to mark their final scheduled home game at Hunter Wright Stadium, the Blue Devils took batting practice on Lebanon for a 12-1 victory Friday.
Right-handers Luke Kirk and Nathan Brown combined to fire a no-hitter. It was Kirk’s second involvement in a no-hit game as a high school pitcher. He threw blanks at Pendleton, Ky., last year.
Gate City (15-3, 5-1) kept its Clinch Mountain District championship hopes alive with the win. Games at John Battle on Tuesday and at Virginia High next Friday will wrap up the season.
The Devils are in hot pursuit of the Bearcats and hope to force a playoff for the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
Gate City rattled two Lebanon pitchers with a 15-hit attack, including a game-ending, 350-foot homer by Wes Hughes.
“It’s nice to see us hitting the ball with authority,’’ Gate City coach Darren Reed said. “Hopefully, it’s that time of year when our kids are getting honed in on these pitchers.
“We know we have a strong lineup. We just have to deliver every game. That’s the nature of sports. You have to show up every night.’’
Gate City had defeated Lebanon only 7-5 on April 29. Reed was a bit surprised by the 11-run margin this time.
“You have to be surprised when your team beats anybody in this district in a five-inning game,’’ he said. “Lebanon might have been down some with its pitching because everybody’s trying to get a rotation lined up for tournament play.’’
Kirk, who pitched four innings, didn’t have pinpoint control but his fastball resembled the flashes of lightning that brought the teams off the field for a second-inning rain delay.
“I stuck with my fastball because I was having control problems,’’ Kirk said. “I seemed to be able to get the outs when I needed them. Our guys hitting the ball the way they did took a lot of pressure off me early. It’s a good way to go out here.’’
Kirk was getting high in the pitch count when Reed switched to Brown on the mound. Lebanon had seven baserunners — six on walks and the other on a fielder’s choice.
Hughes, getting his sixth homer of the season, made it a five-inning game when he belted an Andrew Jessee pitch over the right field fence with a runner on board.
“I hit an inside curveball on the first pitch,’’ Hughes said. “It felt good coming off the bat.’’
Another long ball was hit by Dusty Clark, whose 345-foot triple highlighted a seven-run explosion in the fifth.
Aaron Stokes, one of four seniors recognized during pregame ceremonies, drove in three runs with a pair of singles.
Kirk, Brown, Seth Clark and Derick Miller each contributed a double to Gate City’s relentless attack on pitchers Bryan White and Jessee. Kirk, Dusty Clark and Hughes each had two RBIs.
Doc Adams’ Pioneers fell to 4-8, 2-5.
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