Wise Central’s Shawn Gardner (19) leaps out of the way of a sliding Austin Johnson of J.I. Burton while attempting to turn the double play during Tuesday’s LPD tournament semifinal game. (Times-News photo by Ned Jilton II)
WISE — J.I. Burton wasn’t fated to win the last district tournament baseball game ever to be played between Norton and Wise.
The Raiders did, however, ensure it was memorable.
A lead-off double in the bottom of the seventh inning by Wise Central’s Caleb Mills was the spark that enabled the Warriors to post a 5-3 comeback victory in Tuesday night’s Lonesome Pine District tournament semifinals at Mack Shupe Field.
Central (11-7) advanced to the finals to face the eventual winner of Union’s semifinal showdown with Clintwood. That game was rescheduled for 5 p.m. today because of rain.
The Warriors trailed 4-3 when Mills doubled into the right field corner. The motoring Mills rounded second but tripped and nearly face-planted a third of the way down the basepath.
He recovered and scrambled back, beating the throw.
Coach Brian Mills, the baserunner’s father, had given his son an earful in the third inning after the youngster got picked off first base by Burton pitcher Adrian Mullins.
“If he got thrown out, I figured I’d already said enough. I wasn’t even mad that he tripped. I was just glad we’d finally got the lead-off man on. They did a good job keeping us from doing that all day long,” Coach Mills said.
The two-bagger brought out the hook for Burton’s starting left-hander, who pitched four shutout innings out of six thrown for the Raiders (11-10).
Norton coach Jimbo Adams sent out center fielder Malik Miles in relief of Mullins. A late revelation as a pitcher, Miles recently tossed two shutout innings at Union.
Not this time. Miles (0-1) put Austin Schank on base with a plunk. He then committed the throwing error that allowed Shawn Gardner to get aboard while scoring Mills to tie it at 4.
An intentional walk to Nate Thompson loaded the bases for the force-out play at home plate. It was the right move, but moot. Miles hit Tyler Mullins with a pitch to score Schank.
“If I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing. (Miles’) ball jumps everywhere at the plate. We’re going to use him as a closer in this tournament. If we get in a close ballgame in the seventh inning (of consolation play), you’ll see him again,” said Adams, whose team got its 4-3 go-ahead against reliever Jake Flanary off two hits, a walk and two wild pitches.
Thompson (7-3) picked up the win in relief. He’d pitched the fifth and sixth, returning in the seventh to keep the door open by retiring the side.
Ryan Kommes had a two-RBI double for Wise. Tyler Mullins also had a double.
Central turned two double plays.
Miles went 2-for-4 with two stolen bases and Kevin Van Ness was 2-for-3 for Norton.