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Warriors oust Trojans; Bearcats bag Bears in Conference 40 baseball semis

May 28th, 2014 11:54 pm by George Thwaites

Warriors oust Trojans; Bearcats bag Bears in Conference 40 baseball semis

Union baseball players come to terms with their season-ending loss to Virginia High after Wednesday's Clinch Mountain Conference 40 tournament semifinals at Devault Stadium.

BRISTOL, Va. — The last time a high school baseball team from Wise had to make serious travel plans for the post-season, it wasn't called Wise Central.

The Warriors jumped on John Battle in the first inning and protected their lead for six innings, collecting a 3-2 win over the Trojans in Wednesday's Clinch Mountain Conference 40 tournament semifinals at Devault Stadium.

Wise Central (17-3) will face Virginia High (19-4) in tonight's 7 p.m. championship game. Austin Kiser pitched seven innings of shutout ball to give the Bearcats a 6-0 win over Union in Wednesday's nightcap.

Both finalists will advance to next week's Region 2A West bracket.

"Next week is a huge week for us," said Bearcats coach Mark Daniels.

Wednesday night was huge for the Warriors, who left bases loaded in the first after scoring three runs on Battle starter Matt Sullivan (6-4).

It looked like an avalanche in the making, but the Trojans senior right-hander shed the goat horns over his next six gut-check innings.

The Warriors left three runners stranded in the third and left two frozen in scoring position in the sixth.

"Any time you leave bases loaded it can come back to haunt you," said Central coach Brian Mills. "That was especially true in the first. A team gets out of a situation like that and the momentum switches. We could see it right there."

Warriors pitcher Nate Thompson (7-1) encountered at least one haunt, but he doesn't scare too easily. He plunked Camden Lane in the second inning, who eventually got squeezed across on Gavin Felty's sacrifice bunt.

Thompson gave up a leadoff single in the third to Austin Widner, who eventually scored on Tyler Henley's sacrifice fly to left.

Battle (15-7) got the tying run aboard in the seventh when Felty led off with a single and went to second when right fielder Alex Widener bobbled it.

Two outs later Seth Cunningham scratched out an infield single that second baseman Mark Dotson put a glove on in the hole.

The tying run was held at third, however. A groundout to Thompson later, the threat was over.

"We were going to concede third, because we knew Cunningham was going to put the ball in play somewhere. We left Mark in the hole and (Cunningham) hit it right to him. We didn't get the out but we saved that run from scoring," said Mills.

Leadoff man Jake Flanary went 3-for-4. Alex Adkins and Jake Gardner had two hits apiece.

Union (16-6) used up stud pitchers Will Hubbard and Logan Mullins in Tuesday's 15-inning first round win over Lebanon.

Against the daunting Bearcats, skipper J.W. Salyers leaned on sophomores Braxton Bishop (0-1) and Bubba Hubbard — who had a combined four innings apiece.

While veteran Virginia High didn't obliterate the youngsters, the Bristol lineup methodically attacked, pushing across runs in the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Alex Griffith's RBI double in the first frame was the Bearcats' most spectacular hit.

Most of the heavy lifting got done with singles and sacrifice flies.

"Playoff baseball, that's what you've got to do. You've got to move runners and not wait on a three-run home run. It's team baseball. Whatever it takes. Stats mean nothing," said Virginia High skipper Mark Daniels, who got three no-hit innings out of Kiser (8-1), who struck out eight and walked two.

Bishop had two of Union's six hits.

"(Virginia High) is probably the best team I've seen around here since that J.J. Kelly team in 2008," said Salyers.

"Top to bottom, they're as solid as it gets defensively. Running the bases, offensively, they will fight every at-bat. And they've got pitching. What more do you want? They're good," he said.

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