BRISTOL, Va. — Last year, Virginia High’s baseball team didn’t collect any championship trophies. Now it has two.
The Bearcats (15-8) got five shutout innings of relief pitching from Josh Paolucci and scrapped to a 7-5 win over Gate City in Saturday’s Clinch Mountain District tournament title game.
“Tonight kind of resembled a game early in the season. There were some baserunning blunders and mental mistakes by both teams,” said Virginia High coach Mark Daniels. “I’d like nothing more than to do this with them again next Saturday night.”
Leadoff man Dusty Clark got things started in the first inning for the Blue Devils (18-5) with a tall solo homer over the right- field fence off side-arming right- hander Tyler Arnett.
Virginia High moved up 3-1 in the bottom of the first on an RBI double by Dylan Sullins and a two-RBI double by Clint Chafin. Two of the runners that scored were batters plunked by Gate City starter Austen Arnold.
The Bearcats suffered a reversal of fortune in the second frame when the Blue Devils scored four runs on four hits and an error. Dusty Clark and Arnold both collected doubles.
After Arnett gave up a leadoff single to Seth Clark in the third inning, Daniels rolled out a star-crossed right-hander with a losing record and a solitary save.
Paolucci (2-3) proved the man for the job, scattering three hits over five shutout innings. He struck out two and walked none.
“He was big for us tonight. Josh has kind of had an up-and-down year. But tonight he was on his game,” Daniels said. “He kept putting zeros up and gave us a chance to tie the game and win the game.”
Gate City turned some pretty plays. Highlights included Nate Brown nailing Seth Davis at the plate with a no-hop throw from left field, right fielder Wes Hughes picking off an overreaching Chafin at second, and second baseman Trey Clark turning an iconic double play while being undercut by a sliding Anthony McCoy.
The Devils were charged with three errors, also committing some key mental lapses.
Dakota Katelouzos’ RBI single with two out in the fourth plated Cody Read and put runners on the corners. When Katelouzos bolted for second, catcher Derrick Miller took the called pitchout and made a perfect throw to second. Somebody missed a signal. With second uncovered, the ball sailed into center and Dale Stine scored the tying run from third.
Chafin’s sacrifice fly in the fifth gave the Bearcats the go-ahead RBI. Gate City turned a double play, of sorts, to get out of the inning — but not before letting Josh Arnold score an insurance run while the Blue Devils chased Sullins between second and third.
Brown (5-2) took the loss in relief. Trey Clark went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Hughes was 3-for-4.
“Baseball has a million different situations and a couple of situations we didn’t handle well,” said Gate City coach Darren Reed. “It was just a lack of communication. We’ll work on those things Monday.”
The Region D tournament opens Tuesday. J.J. Kelly travels to Virginia High and Gate City goes to Powell Valley.