By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BASTIAN, Va. —
After hosting the Yo-Na Invitational baseball tournament for all of its four seasons, the Bland County Bears now have a trophy of their own to display.
After the Bears’ lead over Rural Retreat reached 14-4 on Saturday, ending the tourney’s third-place game, Bland County head coach Norman Dillow said, “I’m real happy for our seniors. They’ve played in this tournament ever since they started, and they finally got a trophy out of it.”
“We had a real good week. The only game we lost was to Northwood, and we played well in it, we just couldn’t string hits together enough to score. But I was very happy with the week, and tickled to death for the kids.”
“We finished fourth for the last two years in the Yo-Na, and just fell a little short. We’re real happy to get over that hump.”
In fact, he said it was the first trophy in the history of the Bland County baseball program.
Sophomore Zach Gwyn, who was named to the all-tournament team, said, “This is pretty amazing.”
The Bears’ other all-tourney selection, sophomore Kalub Lambert, said, “I think that they (the seniors) deserve it. They’re really solid players. ... I’m happy they finally got the trophy.”
Gwyn took the starting pitcher assignment for just the second time this season. “I was kind of nervous,” he said, “but all I was trying to do was to keep the ball low, so if they hit some ground balls it would get me out of some innings.”
Bland County started off strong, with a double-play ending the Rural Retreat first inning. In the Bears’ half, Kalub Lambert led off with a double, then put the first run on the board via Gwyn’s RBI single. Ryan Dillow singled Gwyn home for a 2-0 lead after one frame.
Bryan King singled to launch the Bears’ second inning and Tyler Faulkner’s grounder past first base got him to the plate for a 3-0 advantage.
Rural Retreat’s Ryan Chandler got the first of two RBIs in the third stanza. Bland County responded with two runs, helped by three errors by the Indians.
The Indians rounded out their scoring in the fourth. Tyler Faulkner took the hill for the Bears in the fourth, and gave up a double to W.K. Dalton and a single to Jay Linkous. Both would score, and Wyatt Sowers came home on Chandler’s sacrifice fly.
Suddenly, Rural Retreat was within a run at 5-4.
Facing a bases-loaded situation with two outs, Faulkner struck out Jackie Burton on three pitches to end the Indians’ uprising.
The Bears got going again in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Gwyn and Andy Pauley hit back-to-back doubles from Gwyn and scored some insurance runs.
Norman Dillow said, “Our defense lost its way there for one inning, but the bats came back in and put runs on the board and took the momentum back. I was real proud of the kids for doing that instead of folding over.”
Rural Retreat’s pitching and defense melted down simultaneously in the sixth. The first six Bland County batters got on base and scored.
Pinch-hitter Mason Christian tripled to drive in a pair of runs, and he ended the game when he raced to the plate on the Indian’s eighth and final error.
Lambert batted 3 for 5, while Faulkner was 2 for 3. Gwyn and Ryan Dillow were each 2 for 4.
Norman Dillow said, “Everybody came through at the plate today, the defense played real well except for one inning, and our pitchers have (thrown) great the whole tournament.”
Lambert said, “That’s what it takes to win, just contributions from everybody.” He said about Saturday’s victory, “I think it gets everybody motivated. To win, they’ve felt that winning feeling now, and I think they want more.”
Rural Retreat’s two seniors, Linkous and T.C. Caudill, each had two hits and scored runs.
The Yo-Na all-tournament team, in addition to Gwyn and Lambert, includes Tommy Lovell of Graham, Aaron Presley of Montcalm and Jeff Lee of Craig County.
The championship game between Northwood and Holston was still in progress late Saturday night.
Bland County (5-3) hosts Graham on Monday with the varsity game starting about 7 p.m.
— Contact Tom Bone at
At Skip Dillow Memorial Field
Rural Retreat...................001 300 — 4 6 8
Bland County...................212 207 — 14 14 1
Austin Akers, Jay Linkous (3), W.K. Dalton (5), Ryan Chandler (6), Jackie Buron (6) and Jordan Corvin. Zach Gwyn, Tyler Faulkner (4), John Robert Miller (5) and Jonah Miller, Andy Pauley (4). WP - Gwyn. LP - Akers.
Craig County................201 011 0 — 5 10 2
Graham........................003 301 x — 7 10 3
Logan Kirk, Jacob Simpson (3) and Corey Monninger. Josh Looney, Trevor Edwards (4) and Jeff Lee. WP -Simpson. LP - Looney.