By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
The Coppinger championship trophy is already the property of Richlands.
Now the Blue Tornado wants the final Southwest District title.
Chase Ray had three hits and drove in five runs, and River Michaels scattered five hits over six innings, and Richlands defeated Tazewell 10-3 in an SWD affair on Thursday night at Lou Peery Field.
Richlands (8-5, 3-1) faces another SWD test today by hosting Abingdon at Southwest Virginia Community College.
Ray led the Blues’ 11-hit attack with a double and a pair of two-run singles. Ben Brown, Zach Yates and Brandon Waldron added two hits each for Richlands. Brown and Waldron both had triples and scored two runs apiece. Jonathan Cochran reached base four times and scored twice.
Tazewell (3-9, 1-3), which will face a rematch at Richlands on Tuesday, rallied from a 3-0 second inning deficit, but could never get closer than a run at 3-2 and 4-3.
Colin Hancock led the Bulldogs with two hits. Tyler Myers had a double, and Casey Lee scored twice.
River Michaels picked up the win for Richlands, allowing five hits, striking out three and walking two in six innings. Andy Guerreiro finished up in the seventh.
Brett Jones, the first of four pitchers for the Bulldogs, was saddled with the loss despite striking out eight batters in five innings on the mound.
“It is always important to come up here to Tazewell and get a big win, it is a big game,” Richlands first-year head coach Adam Davis said. “Tazewell has got a great ball club right there.
“Coach (Lou) Peery, coach (Aaron) Buchanan and Mike Catron do an excellent job and they have done an excellent job with their young team. They do a lot of hit and runs and stuff like that and keep you on your toes.
"It feels real good to come up here and get a win.”
Tazewell had five of the nine errors in the game, including a pair by Lee at third that led to a trio of runs in the second. Brown tripled to the left field fence, and scored on a ground ball to short by Chad Lester, who was the MVP of the recent Coppinger tournament finale.
Patrick Jackson and Brandon Waldron then reached on fielding errors by Lee, and Cochran drew a walk to load the bases. Ray followed with a two-run single to center field for the 3-0 lead.
Tazewell trimmed the margin to 3-2 in the bottom of the second when Lee and Tyler Myers singled, and Lucas Parsons drew a walk. Colin Hancock followed with a shot up the middle that hit Michaels’ glove. He was able to reach first, and as Cochran grabbed the ball and threw wildly to first, a second run was able to score.
Richlands buit a 4-2 lead on fourth inning singles by Cochran, Michael Horton and Yates, whose hit to left field brought in Cochran.
That margin was cut to one once again when Tazewell scored a run in the fourth without a hit. Two runners reached on errors, and with Lee on third, Perry swiped second base and Lee came into score when Yates throw to second was not in time.
Tazewell would not score again, while the Blues added a run in the sixth on a triple by Waldron and sacrifice fly from Ray, who also had several highlight reel plays in the field at third base, including throwing a runner out trying for third base from second on a slow roller in the infield.
“Chase made an excellent play over there at third base where he faked the runner into going there, that is a senior play and it showed,” Davis said. “Chase was a leader tonight. I think he had five RBIs so Chase has done an excellent job for us.”
Richlands put it out of reach in the seventh, scoring five runs off two pitchers on just two hits, four walks and two errors, keyed by Ray’s two-run single.
“We have kind of gotten in a rhythm here now," Davis said. "We had all that bad weather at the beginning of the year and now we have gotten in a flow of playing some games and we are seeing pitching regularly other than BP, so that has helped out tremendously.”
The Bulldogs will face a rematch on Tuesday at Richlands.
Tazewell did win the junior varsity game, scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat the Blue Tornado 9-8.
— Contact Brian Woodson
At Lou Peery Field
Richlands………………030 101 5 — 10 11 4
Tazewell…………..……020 010 0 — 3 6 5
River Michaels, Andy Guerreiro (7) and Zach Yates. Brett Jones, Tyler Myers (6), Casey Lee (7), Todd Mulkey (7) and Chase Illig. W-Michaels; L-Jones. HR-none.