By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
There are ties in baseball.
At least there was on Thursday evening, as darkness fell with Graham and Bland County knotted in a 3-3 tie after eight innings at Graham Middle School’s Sizemore Field, which does not have lights.
Whether or not the game remains a tie or is completed at a later date is still to be determined.
“That is what I was talking to (Graham) Coach (Matt) Dixon about after the game was if it would be completed either before or after our next game at Bland,” Bland County head coach Norman Dillow said. ‘”Hopefully that is what they will do.”
That would be fine with Dixon, although he was going to leave it to the respective athletic directors to make the final decision.
“If they do, that is fine,” Dixon said. “You hate to end in a tie because it was such a good ball game, but if you don’t finish on the same day, the next day you don’t know how it is going to come out.”
Bland County (1-2-1) rallied from a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the third on three walks, three hit-batters and no hits, as the Bears finished with just four hits against Graham starter McKinley Webb.
Ninth place hitter Keith Miller led the Bears with a single, double, a run scored and was hit twice by pitches.
“Offensively, we have struggled all year, we are just not hitting the ball the way we should be,” Dillow said. “We are not taking advantage of the opportunities that we did have.
“Hopefully we will come around. We did just enough to stay in it tonight, we didn’t lose it, but we didn’t win it either.”
Graham (0-3-1) pushed across a run in the fifth and sixth to tie the score at 3-3, and then neither team could take advantage of opportunities in the final two frames.
Aaron Rose struck out Graham leadoff batter Tommy Lovell with runners on first and third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth.
Graham out-hit the Bears 7-4, led by Lovell with two singles and a run scored. Jacob Coffey had two singles and drove in two runs, and Josh Conley had a game-tying single in the sixth.
“It was a heck of a ball game for both teams, both pitchers were well up in their pitch counts and did a heck of a job,” Dixon said. “I am proud of our guys and I am sure Coach Dillow is proud of his guys.”
Coffey put Graham up 1-0 in the first. Lovell led off with a single, was forced out on a ground ball by Dacota Byrd, who moved to third on a walk and passed ball. Byrd scored on Coffey’s infield ground ball.
Webb limited the Bears to just four hits, striking out tw, walking seven and hitting four batters, including a difficult third when Bland County scored three runs without a hit.
“They made plays every time they need to make plays and Webb kept us off-balanced all night,” Dillow said. “He moved the ball around in the strike zone and he varied the speeds up a little bit.
“He lost his control at one point, but he got his composure back and he handled us. He shut us down.”
That performance definitely brought a smile to Dixon.
“Hats off to McKinley Webb, our pitcher, he didn’t have a very good game yesterday in the field and he bounced back,” Dixon said. “He had to because with these rules in Virginia I didn’t have very much to go to today so heck of a job by him stepping up and really all the kids, they played with a lot of effort.”
Graham narrowed the margin to one in the fifth on a single by Lovell, a walk to Byrd and a run-scoring single to right by Coffey. That was followed with the tying run in the sixth when Jay Boone drew a one-out walk, moved up on a passed ball and scored on a single to center by Conley.
“We got some timely hits,” Dixon said. “We had two chances in the bottom of the seventh and the bottom of the eighth, but our kids executed well and they did their best.”
Rose drew a walk for Bland County to lead off the seventh, but was promptly picked off first by Webb. Byrd led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, and wound up at third with two outs, but Webb’s fly ball to right was caught by Miller.
Graham, which had struggled on defense for much of the season, made its lone error in the eighth, allowing runners to reach second and third with no outs. The G-Men brought the defense in, and made the plays in the field, keeping the Bears off the scoreboard.
Bland County left the bases loaded twice in the game, and stranded two in the sixth. Graham left a pair of runners on base in three of the eight innings.
“I told our guys, in the first three games this year we haven’t made defensive plays and today they rose to the horizon,” Dixon said. “We have gotten a lot of reps. I think the more these guys get to play I just think they will get better and better.”
After the umpires notified both teams that the game would be called no matter what happened in the bottom of the frame, Boone led off by getting hit by a Rose pitch and moved to second on a bunt, but Rose fanned Lovell to end the game. At least for now.
“He didn’t have the pinpoint accuracy normally he has and his curveball was not exactly what he wanted, but he did what he had to do to make sure we didn’t lose the game.” Dillow said. “That is about all you can ask out of him.”
Bland County returns to action on Saturday night in the opening round of the Yo-Na Invitational at Skip Dillow Field in Bastian against Hurley.
Graham won’t be playing in the Coppinger or Yo-Na this year, but plan a return to tournament play next season.
“I tried to get in the Coppinger late and (tourney organizer) Jeff (Boyles) was full, but he said we will be back in there next year so we will be excited,” Dixon said. “It is a shame we couldn’t, but that is on us, that is a great tournament.
“In Virginia too, you only get 20 (games). We don’t get the 33 or whatever they get to play in West Virginia. Our kids are getting better and we will play a straight 20 and we will look forward to tomorrow.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Sizemore Field
Bland County............003 000 00 — 3 4 2
Graham......................100 011 00 — 3 7 1
Aaron Rose and Jonah Miller. McKinley Webb and Blake Boone. W—none; L—none. HR—none.