BIG STONE GAP — The dream is still alive for Gate City’s softball team, but the road to a Group A, Division 2 state championship got a little longer for the Lady Blue Devils on Thursday.
Gate City gave up a pair of unearned runs early and never recovered as John Battle rolled to a 5-0 victory and the Region D, Division 2 championship.
The Lady Devils now will hit the road for a state quarterfinal game against the winner of the Region C tournament. The Lady Trojans will host the Region C runner-up.
Gate City, which won just four games during the 2012 season, shocked nearly everyone by advancing to the regional title game. But an error on a routine grounder with two outs in the bottom of the first inning allowed the Lady Trojans to jump out to a 1-0 lead.
The same thing happened in the second, allowing Battle to go up 2-0.
“This week has been an emotional week for us. I think maybe we were a little drained,” said Gate City coach Cara Noe, whose team knocked off Virginia High and Wise Central in the tournament. “We had a couple plays we didn’t make that the last two nights we’ve been making flawlessly.
“Obviously I would have loved to have gotten the other trophy, but I told these girls I’m proud of them,” she said.
Two runs proved to be plenty for Battle pitcher Abby Hensley (17-4), who scattered four hits across seven scoreless innings of work.
Hensley helped her cause in the third with an RBI single that kicked off a three-run frame. Taylor Haworth tacked on a two-run single moments later.
While Gate City (11-13) struggled to make plays in the field early in the game, Battle (19-6) was dazzling in an error-free performance.
“We came in with a lot of confidence today and they played like it,” Battle coach Ike Anderson said of his team. “We got off to a pretty good start and just kept it rolling.
“Abby pitched another heck of a game today and our defense backed her up.”
Kendra Dougherty had two of Gate City’s four hits. Kasey Repass added a double and Caitlin McConnell singled.
Repass (7-7) picked up the loss for the Lady Devils, giving up three earned runs on six hits in three innings of work. McConnell came on in relief and threw three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits.