By Barry Priest
STERLINGTON, Va. – Bladen County’s late rally wasn’t enough to overcome a tough start Monday night as the local team lost its second game of the day and were eliminated from the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series at the Sterlington Sports Complex.
Ozark, Alabama scored three unearned runs in the first inning and two unearned runs in the fifth, then held off Bladen County for a 5-4 win.
Bladen County lost to North Charleston, South Carolina 12-1 on Monday afternoon.
Raymond Autry and Brandon Fine each had two hits for Bladen County. Brady Hollingsworth, Zach Mears and Jacob Priest each had one hit.
Meares led off the game with a sharp single that ate up the Ozark shortstop, but Bladen County failed to capitalize when Meares was later picked off first during a failed hit and run attempt.
Ozark scored three runs in the first inning without getting a base hit. It used two walks, two hit batters and a throwing error to put Bladen County behind. Meares relieved Bladen County starter K.J. Brown with two innings in the inning and struck out the first Ozark batter he faced on three pitches.
Bladen County answered with two runs in the second. Hollingsworth led off with a sharp single to left field. Autry followed with a flare single over the shortstop’s head. Both runners advanced a base on a passed ball.
Drew Sholar’s ground out scored Hollingsworth. Brandon Fine delivered a one-out single that brought home courtesy runner Alex Brisson. Priest followed with an infield single before Tyler Hill’s sharp grounder was turned into an inning-ending double play.
Meares, who allowed only four hits, two walks, and two unearned runs in 5 1/3 innings, held Ozark at bay until the bottom half of the fifth inning. A misplayed fly ball allowed a one-out runner. After a base on balls, Ozark’s second baseman hit a double to right-center-field that scored both runners and pushed Ozark’s lead to 5-2.
Bladen County started a rally with a run in the sixth, but left two on base. Hollingsworth drew a one-out walk. Autry tagged his second single of the game, dropping the ball into left field. Brandon Fine again delivered a two-out double off the diving Ozark first baseman to score Hollingsworth that made it 5-3.
Bladen County threatened in the seventh inning. Meares drew a one-out walk. Dylan Fine advanced to first on a catcher’s interference call with two outs in the frame. The game ended when Fine was caught between first and second on a double steal attempt. Meares rounded third and crossed home plate before Fine was tagged by the Ozark first baseman to end the game.