Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 6, 2014

Honaker stops Galax 1-0 in semifinals

BRISTOL, Va. — A Honaker team that came into Friday’s game averaging almost 12 runs in their prior 22 games only put one run on the scoreboard, but junior ace Austin Ray made it stand up.

The undefeated Tigers (23-0) are in the final four after a 1-0 win over Galax in the 1A West baseball semifinals. Ray had a complete game one-hit shutout after 125 pitches, by far the most he has thrown this season.

“They usually cut me off at 100 (pitches), Ray said. “But with this 80 degree weather I was feeling good, I just kept on going. I think the adrenaline kicked in.”

Ray finished with 13 strikeouts, but walked five and hit one batter. Galax left eight runners stranded.

“This was different,” Ray said. “I’m used to having 11 or 12 runs a game. But we knew they were a good team and I knew the defense would have my back, they always do.”

Thrilling doesn’t describe the ending. With one out, Jacob Stuart flied out to right field for the second out.

Daniel Larrowe had walked and moved off base with the fly out, Tiger right fielder Tyler Hale threw behind him. The ball glanced off first baseman Chandler Miller but catcher Jacob Mitchell backed the play up.

Larrowe was eventually tagged out by second baseman Derek Gilbert on a 9-3-2-6-4 play culminating a double play to end the game.

“We were very lucky to win this game,” said veteran mentor Tom Harding in his 44th season of directing the Tigers. “When we tagged the guy out on first base, I almost jumped up and down.”

Ray said, “I thought that ball was thrown away but Jake (Mitchell) was there to back it up like he always is.”

Honaker scored their run in the second inning. Avin Parrott walked to start the inning on four straight pitches and quickly stole second to get in scoring position.

“I didn’t think a run would be enough,” commented Parrot. “But A-Ray pulled us through. Our bats weren’t really there today. Galax has a good team. We didn’t underestimate them at all. We just didn’t hit like we normally do. I think we were all a little anxious at the plate.” Hunter Lester then drove a sharp grounder back up the middle on a 2-1 pitch to score Parrott easily.

“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” remarked Lester. “I just wanted to put the ball in play and luckily I got my pitch and it went through and Avin was gifted enough with speed to score.

“To be honest I didn’t feel that would be our last run. I thought we would get at least three or four. They have a good team but I don’t feel we hit the ball like we’re capable of.”

Galax (13-11) pitcher Stew Merdian only had five strikeouts but limited the Tigers to the one hit.

“Merdian came out and did what we told him to do, throw strikes and not work from behind,” Galax coach Bobby Parnell said.

“Our plan coming in was to bust them inside and play defense. Merdian did everything we ask of him.”

Parnell had no problem with the final out.

“I don’t think Larrowe did anything wrong,” said Parnell. “He was being aggressive, that’s the way we’ve played the entire year.”

Three runs are the least Honaker has scored this year, in a 3-2 win at Haysi on April 22. They had scored in double digits in 16 of the 22 games they had played prior to the Galax contest.

The Tigers advance to play the winner of the Eastside-Auburn game tonight at Bristol at 6 p.m. Regardless of the outcome, Honaker will advance to the state semifinals playing at Salem next Friday at 10 a.m. against a yet to be determined opponent.

“This is a great feeling to win and go to state,” Ray said. “We want to get Coach Harding and Coach Z (Alex Zachwieja) another ring if we can.”

At DeVault Stadium

Galax........................000   000   0  —  0  1  1

Honaker....................010   000   x  —  1  1  2

Merdian and Quesenberry. Ray and Mitchell. WP — Ray (12-0). LP — Merdian (3-4). HR — none.

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