Devils win regional opener

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By Jim Clark

Williston played its comeback role to the hilt Tuesday, coming from behind twice, then whipping Union County, 13-5, in the Class 3A regional quarterfinal at Williston.

The Red Devils will play Keystone Heights, a 10-9 winner over P.K. Yonge, at home this Friday.

Following is an earlier story about last week's district final.

FORT WHITE - Williston's never-say-die baseball team had another big comeback win last Thursday, taking the district title with a 10-5 victory over P.K. Yonge.

The Devils were to play host to Lake Butler Union County on Tuesday in the regional quarterfinals. A victory there would put them up against either Keystone Heights or, again, P.K. Yonge, on Friday, May 2.

"Our kids never give up," said coach Jim Smith. "We're a big-inning team," and then he added with a smile, "I just wish it would come in the third or fourth inning."

This time, it was the bottom of the fifth, since Williston was the home team by virtue of having the higher seed (second).

Trailing 5-3, the Devils knew time was running short, and the bottom part of the order was up. But that didn't make a difference. No. 8 batter Charlie Hilton led off and dumped a single into short center. Brandon Scott followed with a double over the right-fielder's head that sent pinch-runner D.J. King to third.

Carl Gilley singled to right to drive in one run, and Tyrie Boyer was safe on an error that scored Scott, with Boyer getting the RBI since the run would have scored anyway. Danny Etheridge followed with a bouncer that took a wicked hop past the shortstop for a single that scored Gilley, and Etheridge went to second when the throw to third to get Boyer was too late.

After a groundout, Brent Stegall was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Chris Morrow, who came through with a two-run double that scored both Etheridge and C.J. James, who was running for Boyer. Damon Ming walked to load the bases again, and Hilton followed with an RBI single, his second hit of the inning, to drive in Stegall. Scott grounded into a force play but got an RBI as Lawrence Jones, running for Morrow, scored the team's 10th run.

Fugate turned in a complete game on the mound, despite a shaky start in the first. P.K. scored five times in that inning, with the big blow a grand slam by Kai Simmons to left. Gilley leaped high and was bent over the six-foot fence, but fell back into the field without the ball despite the valiant effort.

But the five runs on three hits in that first inning were just about all that the Blue Wave would get. P.K. managed only one hit the rest of the way, a single in the third, but later in the inning Gilley threw out a runner trying to go to third on an error. The Wave also had a runner safe on an error in the fourth, but two grounders and a popup ended that rally. One runner walked in the sixth but was erased on a nice around-the-horn double play.

"I settled down after the first inning, got my curve ball over," Fugate said after the game. He said he wasn't nervous, but it was "more anxiousness. I was trying too hard."

Down 5-0, Williston rallied quickly to make a game of it. In the bottom of the first Gilley walked, went to second on a wild pitch and stole third. Boyer walked, and Gilley scored as Etheridge forced Boyer. Fugate then singled, and Stegall grounded out but got an RBI. Morrow then singled to center to score Fugate, and took second on the throw, continuing to third when the throw got past the catcher. However, he was stranded there as a grounder ended the inning.

Afterward the Devils celebrated two district titles in a row.