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  • The Mount Airy News

    Mount Airy downs Cherryville, advances to 1A West Regional Championship

    By Cory Smith,


    Mount Airy defeated Cherryville 4-2 on May 17 to advance to the 1A West Regional Championship Series.

    “It’s just a surreal feeling, especially considering that a few hours ago we didn’t even know if we were going to get to play tonight with all the rain,” said Mount Airy coach Josh Wilson. “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. For four years they've had to fight through adversity, but it’s like the newspaper article a month ago said – they are a band of brothers. They’ve kind of grown up before your eyes every game.”

    No. 1 ranked Mount Airy improved to 25-1 on the season with its win over No. 5 Cherryville (19-10). The fourth-round playoff victory extended the team’s school-record for single-season wins, while also matching a school record for 25-consecutive wins that was set across the 1938-40 seasons (via Mount Airy sports historian Doug McDaniel).

    “I’m ecstatic to be heading to the western finals,” Coach Wilson said. “You know, there are only four of us left. Everybody had us written off that we wouldn’t be there even though we were the one seed. Well, we’re here.”

    Outlasting the Ironmen

    Timely hits and “big time plays,” on defense led Mount Airy to its 25th win of the season.

    The Bears went up 2-0 by scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Venable led off with a bomb to left field that was a gust of wind short of a home run. Ian Gallimore joined Venable on base after being hit by a pitch, then Cameryn Wilson moved both with a sacrifice bunt. Cherryville loaded the bases by intentionally walking Kamden Hawks.

    Cherryville picked up the inning’s second out before Brison George stepped up to the plate with bases loaded. Venable darted home to score on a wild pitch, then the catcher’s throw back to the plate missed the mark and allowed Gallimore to round third and score as well.

    The Ironmen countered with a pair of runs in the top of the second inning. Two runners were put on via bases on balls thrown by Hawks, but there were also two outs on the board. A ground ball hit to left field by Kenan Fowler scored both runners. Catcher Cameryn Wilson caught Camden Easter’s throw from the outfield and immediately threw to second base, where Landon Gallimore tagged Fowler to end the inning.

    “If he doesn’t throw that ball and get the out, all of a sudden they’ve got another runner in scoring position with momentum,” Coach Wilson said. “Then if Cherryville gets another hit and scores him it’s a different ball game.”

    The Granite Bears’ offense went three up three down in both the second and third innings. Coach Wilson told his team ahead of the game that the Ironmen’s pitching was going to be better than they’ve seen in a while and that they had to be patient.

    “You're not going to hit like you did a month ago, but you can’t let it affect you,” Coach Wilson said. “They showed a lot of maturity and discipline by playing through those tough innings and staying focused.”

    Wilson stressed that the Bears had to make the most of their opportunities, and that’s exactly what they did in the fourth inning.

    In the top of the inning, Cherryville loaded the bases after Hawks threw three-consecutive walks with two outs. After taking a moment to regain his composure, Hawks struck out Cherryville’s Brayden Reynolds with three pitches.

    Hawks then singled as the leadoff batter in the inning’s bottom half. Landon Cox was walked to move Fletcher Gallimore – Hawks’ courtesy runner – to second, then Brison George had one of the night’s longest plate appearances. The senior fouled off six pitches with an 0-2 count before sending a line drive to left field that scored Fletcher.

    Landon Gallimore followed George and hit a ground ball up the middle. The Ironmen turned a double play by tagging second and throwing to first, then attempted to make a triple play when they noticed Cox going home. Cox beat the throw to score Mount Airy’s fourth run.

    “I think that caught everybody by surprise except for me,” Coach Wilson said on his decision to send Cox home. “I saw the ball off the bat and knew that when it went up the middle they were going for a double play. For them to make two throws in that moment and have to throw around a guy that’s running at them was going to be tough.

    “It was a high risk, high reward situation, and Cox executed it perfectly.”

    Defense made the difference down the stretch as the teams combined for just one hit across the final three innings. Mount Airy maintained its advantage by making what Coach Wilson called, “big time plays in big moments.”

    Hawks entered the top of the fifth inning with just under 90 pitches on the day. Cherryville’s first batter, Brock Bumgardner, hit a pop fly that was caught by Cox in foul territory, then Eli Newsome was walked. Hawks followed by throwing his eighth strikeout of the game, but surpassed his 100th pitch in the process. Just as the umpire signaled for the third strike, catcher Cameryn Wilson darted a throw to Cox at first to tag Newsome out and end the inning. The heads up play bought Venable some time to get loose before taking the mound.

    Cherryville matched Mount Airy’s strong defense by forcing a double play in the bottom of the fifth.

    Venable struck out his first batter in the sixth inning, then Parker Anderson recorded the Ironmen’s second hit of the game with a line drive to right-center field. Unaware that Mount Airy’s right fielder was a two-time state champion quarterback, Anderson rounded first and dashed to second. Ian Gallimore rifled a throw from the outfield, and George made the tag at second for the out.

    Venable added another strikeout to end the inning. The senior went on to throw his third strikeout in the top of the seventh inning, then forced the final out of the night by fielding a short ground ball.

    “Playing in those high-pressure moments is what Rylan’s built for,” Coach Wilson said. “That’s just like last night when he kept the no-hitter alive by diving on a hit up the middle. Tonight, he didn’t even get bothered that we made an error right before that last out. It didn't faze him, or really any of our guys, a bit, and they just went back to work.

    “Everybody has been giving it their all, and it’s been a total team effort. As coaches we couldn’t be prouder.”

    Goliath vs. Goliath

    The 1A West Regional Championship Series will see top-ranked Mount Airy take on Uwharrie Charter.

    Uwharrie Charter is the defending 1A State Champion and current No. 2 seed in the 1A West. The Eagles (24-5) finished second overall and first among 1A teams in the Piedmont Athletic 1A/2A Conference. The only team to finish ahead of Uwharrie Charter in the conference was Randleman (21-6), which reached the third round of the 2A State Playoffs.

    Uwharrie reached the 1A West Regional Championship Series with the following postseason victories: 15-0 vs. No. 31 Bradford Prep, 8-1 vs. No. 18 Polk County, 15-5 vs. No. 23 Mountain Heritage and 4-3 vs. No. 3 Christ the King Catholic High School.

    Mount Airy and Uwharrie Charter had no common opponents this season.

    The winner of Mount Airy and Uwharrie will advance to the 1A State Championship Series to face the East Regional Champion – either No. 3 Northside-Pinetown (20-5) or No. 4 East Wake Academy (17-4).



    Brayden Reynolds — 7 IP, 6K, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 4H, 4R

    Mount Airy

    Kamden Hawks — 5 IP, 8K, 8 BB, 0 HBP, 1H, 2R

    Rylan Venable — 2 IP, 3K, 0 BB, 0 HBP, 1H, 0R


    (5) Cherryville — 0, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 — 2

    (1) Mount Airy — 2, 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, X — 4

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