When the Watauga High baseball team and South Caldwell hook up, anything can happen. Take Tuesday night's game at Spartan Field in Sawmills, for instance. The Spartans staged a three-run rally in the
bottom of the seventh and defeated WHS 9-8 in a Northwestern 3A/4A Conference game. The Spartans (9-0 overall; 5-0 NW3A/4A) scored all of their runs on just one hit.
A pair of walks (one intentional), an error and two passed balls fueled the comeback. Josh Bollinger drove in the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly to end the game.
"It was a typical Watauga-South Caldwell game," said South Caldwell coach Jeff Parham. "If you come to see these teams play, don't plan on leaving early, because you'll miss something."
It was a disappointing loss for the Pioneers (4-4; 2-2), who wiped out an early 5-1 deficit. Matt Proffitt, who haS a home run, two doubles, a triple and five runs-batted-in in his last two games (for a .714 batting average during that stretch), backboned the offense. The WHS senior went 4-4 with a triple, a double, two runs scored, a stolen base and two RBI. Max Linnville had a triple, a sacrifice fly and drove in two runs. The Pioneers made 11 hits in the loss.
"Anytime you play South Caldwell, you have to take it away from them," said WHS coach Pete Hardee. "They're not going to give you anything. You've got to earn it against these guys."
And the Pioneers almost pulled it out, thanks to a yeoman effort by relief pitcher Tripp Taylor. The left-hander, who came in for starting pitcher Ehtan Greene in the third inning, carried WHS into the seventh before he ran out of gas. He coughed up three runs, but only one earned on one hit with two walks and a pair of strikeouts.
"Pete does a great job with his kids," Parham said. "I knew they would come back. They weren't going to lay down without a fight. But I'm proud of my guys. This is a close-knit group. These guys have been together through little league, travel ball and junior legion. They know how to read each other, and they have a lot of fight in them."
Proffitt, who has yet to give up an earned run this season in 12-plus innings, suffered the loss. Bryson Bowman got things started for the Spartans in the seventh as he led off with a walk. After Spencer Greer flied out, Dylan Poarch, who was 3-4 with an RBI, doubled, putting runners at second and third with one out.
Proffitt came on in relief and struck out Garrison Franklin, who reached on a passed ball-third strike. That allowed Bowman to score, making it 8-7. Then with runners at first and third, a passed ball allowed Isaac Tillman, a courtesy runner for Poarch, to score the tying run. Franklin moved all the way to third on a throwing error, and Turner Dillard was walked intentionally, setting the stage for Bollinger.
Gage Parham, who made his first appearance of the season on the mound, shut the Pioneers down as he threw went 2 2/3 innings without giving up a run.
"They were really stroking the ball," Parham said. "They really hit it hard a few times, but we were able to make some plays. But Gage just wanted the ball. This team is going to be a pitching staff by committee this season. Someone has to step up to do the job, and Gage was the guy tonight."
The win leaves South Caldwell in sole possession of first place in the NW3A/4A Conference; the loss drops WHS into fourth place, two-and-a-half games off the lead. The Pioneers return home to play Hibriten Friday night. Our coverage begins at 6 p.m. on Oldies 100.7 FM.
NOTES: The JV team had its game with South Caldwell rained out. The teams will make it up tonight at 6 p.m. in Sawmills.
TUESDAY NIGHT'S GAMES
SOUTH CALDWELL 9, WATAUGA 8
ST. STEPHENS 3, FRED T. FOARD 0
ALEXANDER CENTRAL 15, STATESVILLE 0
HIBRITEN @ HICKORY (RAINED OUT)
WEDNESDAY NIGHT'S GAMES
HIBRITEN @ HICKORY
FREEDOM @ ALEXANDER CENTRAL
NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE STANDINGS
SOUTH CALDWELL 5-0; 9-0
ST. STEPHENS 3-1; 7-2
HICKORY 2-1; 7-1
WATAUGA 2-2; 4-4
HIBRITEN 1-2; 2-6
FRED T. FOARD 1-4; 3-6
ALEXANDER CENTRAL 0-4; 2-7
Photo Courtesy: Matt Proffitt, by Bill Sheffield