By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BASTIAN, Va. —
It is safe to say Grant Anders enjoyed the Yo-Na Invitational.
Not only did George Wythe become the fifth champion in the five years of the event, but the junior shortstop and ninth place hitter also picked up most valuable player honors.
“Obviously the lineup is working for us,” Anders said. “I think if we keep driving in those runs we won’t have a problem the rest of the season.”
They didn’t on this night. The Maroons seemingly found every hole and gap on the field, collecting 15 hits in a 17-2 five-inning victory over Bland County on a chilly Saturday night at Skip Dillow Memorial Field.
Bland County finished second in the Yo-Na, its best showing in the event, improving on last year’s third place finish.
“That is an accomplishment. We played good ball for three games in this tournament and our pitchers threw the ball well today,” Bland County head coach Norman Dillow said. “George Wythe just knocked the daylights out of the ball.
“They hit the gaps, they hit line shots. I knew it was going to be tough coming in, but I didn’t have any idea anybody would hit the ball like that. I have not seen a hitting display like that in a while.”
It continued a trend through four wins at the Yo-Na for the Maroons, led by Jon Deters, who had two hits, including a double, a walk, three runs scored and two RBI, responding positively to chants of ‘Johnny Baseball’ from the George Wythe dugout.
“We have really been messing with the lineup because up until this tournament we have kind of trying to find ourselves and we have been playing small ball, winning some games 5-1,” George Wythe head coach Kevin Dalton said. “In this tournament we have really upped our game as far as what we are capable of doing.
“Now, again, I would love to tell you we can score 17 runs every time, but this is what I expected.”
Hunter Gamble had three hits, scored three runs and drove in three more for the Maroons, while Paul Stanley added a double, two singles and four RBIs. Anders contributed a double, single, walk and two runs scored.
Coty Childers added two hits and two RBIs, while Tanner Combs contributed two hits and three runs batted in.
“We have definitely turned our hitting around (since) before this tournament,” Anders said. “Hopefully it will carry over to the rest of the season.”
George Wythe jumped on Bland County starter Kalub Lambert for three in the first on an RBI double by Deters and two-run double from Stanley. The Bears narrowed the margin to 3-1 when Tyler White walked and scored on a double by Zack Gwyn.
However, while Robert Watson was working a four-hit complete game for the Maroons, George Wythe sent 10 batters to the plate to score six runs in the second, and added eight more in the fourth with 13 men taking their turns at bat.
Watson struck out six batters to pick up the win. George Wythe not only had 15 hits, but also drew five walks and had two batters hit by pitches. Bland County also committed three errors, all of which led to runs.
“We have probably averaged about 14-15 runs a game, which is pretty solid for us for four games, Dalton said. “It is good our bats are heating up at the right time of the year.”
Bland County, which had also been struggling at the plate prior to the Yo-Na, saw that continue, but the Maroons had no success issue.
“...Tonight we did basically what we did all year offensively, but pitching-wise, they just lit us up and that is all you can say,” Dillow said. “You have to give credit to them for doing what they did.
“We had a couple of little miscues, but they were hitting gaps and they were getting hits.”
Lambert, who led the Bears with two hits, tripled in the third and scored on a balk for their final run of the game. Aaron Rose also had a double for Bland County, but this was George Wythe’s night to celebrate.
“It is a big step for our program,” Anders said. “We worked all offseason just to get to where we are and this is a stepping stone to what we are going to do the rest of the season.”
George Wythe improved to 8-3 on the season, sweeping through the Yo-Na with four wins, with an eye toward returning next year.
“Absolutely, this is our first year doing it,” Dalton said. “We have really enjoyed it, playing under the lights, there is nothing like playing under the lights. Bland has really been gracious to us having us here and we get to see some teams we don’t normally get to see. This has been a big boost for us.”
Bland County (4-3) returns to the regular season on Tuesday by hosting Grayson County.
“I am happy with what we accomplished,” Dillow said. “We wanted more of course, but we accomplished some of the things we set out to do. We just had one of those nights where everything went against us, that happens.”
Anders was joined on the all-tournament by teammates Gamble and Bryce Grimes, who scored two runs and reached base times without a hit against the Bears.
Bland County was represented on the team by Rose and Jonah Miller.
“It is a great experience,” Anders said. “It is our first time and it was well run, a lot of quality teams in it. It is a good baseball tournament.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Skip Dillow Memorial Field
George Wythe.................360 80 — 17 15 0
Bland County..................101 00 — 2 4 3
Robert Watson and Jon Deters. Kalub Lambert, Tyler Faulkner (2), Zach Gwyn (4) and Jonah Miller. W—Watson; L—Lambert. HR—none.