LEBANON, Va. – In dramatic fashion, Lebanon won the latest edition of the great Pioneer versus Virginia High rivalry.
With a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning capped by a Logan Smith RBI single, Lebanon downed the Bearcats 11-10 for the Southwest District baseball tournament title.
Lebanon and Virginia High have been among the top teams in far Southwest Virginia this year.
After the rivals split a pair of games to force a tie for the regular-season title, Lebanon collected eight hits to stop VHS 5-2 in a playoff last Saturday.
Virginia High dropped a 5-4 thriller to Page County in last season’s VHSL Class 2 title game at Radford University.
The game’s first dramatic piece unfolded in the second inning when Jean Mulumba launched a fly ball to center field. A potential run was erased when center field Matthew Buchanan soared over the fence for the catch.
Following a line single from Nolan Hoss moments later, freshman Isaac Berry pulled a home run to give VHS a 2-0 lead.
Lebanon answered in the bottom of the third inning. Following line singles from Buchanan and Anthony Houchins, Preston Steele reached on a deftly executed bunt to load the bases with no outs.
Buchanan has made a verbal commitment to play at Virginia while Steele has made the same commitment with Virginia Tech. Both pitchers are travel-ball veterans.
Hoss struck out Lebanon’s No. 4 hitter, but Cole Stoots drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
The Bearcats added a run in the fourth inning when Berry reached on a walk and scored on a throwing error at second following an Austin Davidson single.
Jordan Dixon then gave VHS a 4-1 lead with a sacrifice fly to center, and Aaron Rose followed with a run-scoring double to give the Bearcats a 5-1 lead.
The nightmare inning continued for Lebanon when the Pioneers misplayed a John Clifton fly ball and all three VHS base runners scored. VHS led 8-1 at that point.
Houchins led off the Lebanon fifth with a ground-rule double to center and Steele reached on a fielding error. Following a Hunter Hertig single, the Pioneers were within 8-3 and the large Lebanon fan contingent was beginning to buzz.
The Pioneers loaded the bases with a walk and hit-batsman but Hoss escaped more damage by getting White to fly out to deep left field.
VHS added insurance in the top of the sixth when Berry reached on a ground ball with the bases loaded to make the score 9-3.
Steele chopped the deficit to 9-5 in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run double and Hertig followed with a run-scoring single. With a run-scoring ground-rule double by Cole Stoots, Lebanon was within 9-7.
The Pioneers completed the job in the seventh.
In Thursday’s junior varsity title game, Virginia High defeated Marion 14-7. The varsity game followed with an 8:27 start.