|Pioneers Nip Cougars, 3-2|
|Written by Mike Kelly|
|Wednesday, 17 April 2013 08:15|
The Watauga High baseball team continued its winning ways Tuesday night with a 3-2 win over Alexander Central in a Northwestsern 3A/4A Conference game at Smith Stadium/Beaver Field on the
campus of Appalachian State University.
The Pioneers (8-10 overall; 3-5 in the NW3A/4A) won the game with a two-out, two-run rally in the sixth inning. Trailing 2-1, Tyler Sturgill reached on a one-out double that he slapped just fair down the third-base line. The ball hit the bag and ricocheted into foul territory. Carson Isaacs advanced Tripp Taylor, who came in as a courtesy runner for Sturgill, to third on a ground ball to second base, and Mason Illich walked to keep the inning alive.
A wild pitch scored Taylor with the tying run. A throwing error by catcher Riley Smith on the play allowed Mason Illich to reach third base. Utah Jones, who was hitless on the night, following with an RBI single into left field that plated Illich with the eventual winning run.
"This is a great win for us," said WHS coach Pete Hardee. "we battled, and we never gave up. I really believed we had a rally in us just like we did on Saturday (against Providence). (Sturgill) got us going with that double, and we took advantage of a couple of mistakes."
The Pioneers also got a huge effort from Hunter Isaacs on the mound. The right hander went six innings, gave up two earned runs on nine hits, but he didn't walk anybody. Ryder Jones came on in the seventh and picked up his first save.
"What I like about that (Hunter) is that he throws strikes," Hardee said. "He's not afraid to challenge hitters. Yeah, he gave up nine hits, but he throws strikes, and he did a great job for us tonight. I was thinking of throwing him against Alexander Central after he came in and threw strikes against North Davidson last week.
"That was our plan. We just wanted to throw him against Providence for two or three innings on Saturday, depending on his pitch count, to prepare him for tonight. I had a lot of confidence in him, and I wanted Alexander Central to see someone different. I'm going to use Ryder against South Caldwell (Friday), and let's see what we can do there."
Isaacs (1-0) has given up two earned runs in 9.1 innings for a 1.54 earned-run-average in three appearances. And thanks to Isaacs and WHS' six-inning rally, the Pioneers moved into sole possession of fifth place in the NW3A/4A Conference standings. The Pioneers trail Hickory and St. Stephens (who are both 4-5 in league play) by one-half game for third place.
Luke Watts (2-2 with 2 saves) suffered the loss for Alexander Central. The right hander, who will walk on at ASU next fall, coughed up a lead-off single to Jesse Illich and a run-scoring double to Tyler Jones to start the game. But from that point on, Watts was in control.
He retired eight in a row during one stretch, and 12 of the next 13 men he faced. Tyler Jones snapped his streak with a two-out single in the third.
"I really thought we were going to pound (Watts) out of there in the first inning," Hardee said. "But he really settled down after that. I've seen him pitch a lot. He pitched for me in showcase ball. He's got a power sinker. He throws pretty hard. He battled us all night. We were fortunate to win."
Junior Josh McClain, who has made a verbal committment to attend North Carolina State, paced the Cougars offensively with a pair of triples, an RBI and a run scored. His run-scoring triple tied game in the third; he scored the go-ahead run in the fourth on Ethan Deal's RBI single. That gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
The loss leaves Alexander Central (15-4; 7-3), which has lost two in a row and three of four, in second place, one game behind first-place South Caldwell. The Spartans grabbed sole possession of first place by knocking off Hickory 10-1 Tuesday night. Ethan James paced the Spartans going 3-3 with six RBI. The Pioneers are scheduled to play South Caldwell Friday night.
"What I like, is that we've gone from a team that was finding ways to lose, to a team that expects to win," Hardee said. "I told them, pride in the program comes from hard work. And once we got outside, and we put the work in, this team has come around. They believe in themselves now, and it's a lot of fun."
WHS plays Fred T. Foard at Pioneer Field tonight. Jesse Illich is the scheduled starter. The Tigers knocked off Hibriten 1-0 Tuesday night snapping the Panthers five-game winning streak. Coverage of tonight's game begins at 6 p.m., on Classic Hits 100.7 FM.
NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE
WATAUGA 3, ALEXANDER CENTRAL 2
SOUTH CALDWELL 10, HICKORY 1
FRED T. FOARD 1, HIBRITEN 0
ST. STEPHENS - BYE
FRED T. FOARD @ WATAUGA
MAIDEN @ ST. STEPHENS
ALEXANDER CENTRAL @ STATESVILLE
SOUTH CALDWELL 8-2; 11-7
ALEXANDER CENTRAL 7-3; 15-4
HICKORY 4-5; 9-7
ST. STEPHENS 4-5; 10-5
WATAUGA 3-5; 8-10
HIBRITEN 3-6; 10-7
FRED T. FOARD 3-6; 7-9
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