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Originally published: 2014-05-06 13:08:52
Last modified: 2014-05-06 14:43:27

Elkin knocks Ashe out of MWC tournament

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

WEST JEFFERSON -- Elkin's Will Altemueller flirted with a perfect game against Ashe County, but settled for a three-hit, 8-0 victory over the Huskies in the first round of the Mountain Valley Conference Tournament Monday at Ashe's field.

Ashe County (9-11), which made the state 2-A playoffs for the first time since 2008 with a 14-3 win over North Wilkes on Thursday, plays at West Stokes in the first round of the playoffs on May 14.

Elkin improved to 7-14.

Altemueller did not allow an Ashe County base runner until Joseph Lowder singled with one out in the fifth inning. Joe Richardson added a single in the sixth inning and Hunter Barnes tripled in the seventh, but Ashe County could never string two hits together in the same inning.

"We played back on our heels and didn't try to get the ball," Ashe coach Ronnie Pruitt said. "The calls went their way and the plays went their way. It just didn't go our way tonight."

Altemueller suffocated the Huskies in the first four innings. Ashe did not hit anything out of the infield, and Altemueller struck out six batters before Lowder's single, a solid line drive to right field.

Elkin's defense helped Miller by not making any errors.

"Hats off to Will Altemueller. He pitched a heck of a ballgame," Pruitt said. "He kept us off-balance and he hit his spots. He just pitched a great ballgame. Our kids don't hit lefties well, obviously."

That was not the case with the Ashe defense, which committed six errors behind starter Alex Laws and Richardson, who came on to pitch in relief in the sixth inning. Elkin's offense rapped out 10 hits.

It's not like Elkin's batters were taking advantage of their good fortune -- at least not until the fifth inning when they scored four runs. Ashe County made three errors in the first four innings behind Laws, but made up for them by making plays before any runs could be scored.

"Alex pitched another good game tonight," Pruitt said. "We didn't play any defense in the fifth inning and the wheels fell off. We couldn't hit the ball and their kid pitch a gem tonight."

It all came apart on the Huskies in the fifth inning when Elkin scored four runs. Aaron Sturdivant, after leading the inning off with a double, scored on an error on a ball hit by Drew Shinkle.

Tanner Edwards drove in two more runs, and Shinkle scored on a wild pitch to cap the rally.

Eli Brown scored an unearned run in the sixth inning, and both Brown and Sturdivant each drove in a run with singles to put the Elks in front 7-0 in the seventh inning. Elkin added another unearned run on a ball hit by Jeremy Price.

Ashe County turns its attention to West Stokes, which went 17-3 overall and 10-0 in the 2-A Western Piedmont League. West Stokes gave up just 16 runs in 10 conference games.

"We'll take (Tuesday) off and come back and try to get better and get ready for the playoffs," Pruitt said.

Ashe does not have any players who have played in a baseball playoff game. A handful of Huskies have playoff experience in other sports, including designated hitter Michael Elliott, who is the 2-A state wrestling champion at 152 points.

Matthew Hamilton, Elliott, Laws, Nathaniel Johnson and Evan Walker played for Ashe County's football team in a 20-17 loss to Bunker Hill in the first round of the state 2-A playoffs in November.

"None of our kids have been in the playoffs in baseball," Pruitt said. "It's been six years for us and I think our kids are anxious. I think they want to be there and they'll be up for it. It's a new experience for them and it will be good for them."