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Long Live The King..... PDF Print
Written by Mike Kelly   
Friday, 04 May 2012 22:30

Unfortunately, the king died on Friday afternoon as the Hickory High baseball team dethroned Watauga, the defending champion, 12-5 in the semifinal round of the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference Tournament at MSDeal Stadium in Granite Falls, N.C. Gavin Huffman delivered the deadly blow with a three-run double that hightlighted a six-run second inning that

gave Hickory a 7-0 lead; and with his team leading 7-5 in the top of the seventh, Huffman belted a two-run homer that gave Hickory a 9-5 advantage. That blow silenced WHS's comeback effort and basically put the game out of reach.
Huffman was 3-4 on the night with five runs-batted-in. He was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. Zach Jarrett was 2-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI. He made up for this throwing error in the fifth that handed WHS two unearned runs by smacking a two-run double in the seventh that gave the Red Tornadoes a 12-5 lead.
The win moves Hickory into the championship game Saturday night against South Caldwell. The Spartans (21-2), the No.1 seed, defeated St. Stephens 3-2 in Friday night's second semifinal game. The Spartans scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh. Indians second baseman Dylan Spencer collasped from dehydration in the bottom of the seventh inning and was taken off the field on a stretcher.
The Spartans are making their ninth straight appearance in the conference finals dating back to 2004. WHS snapped their six-year reign as champions last year by beating the Spartans 8-7 in eight innings in the title game. The Red Tornadoes are also making their second appearance in the tournament finals in three years. They lost in the championship game to South Caldwell in 2010.
Ryan Garlow (6-5), who labored at times, picked up his second win in three tries against the Pioneers (15-8) this season. It's also the second time in three years that the Red Tornadoes (18-6) have beaten WHS in the conference semifinals. They knocked off WHS 9-5 in 2010. The loss also snapped WHS's seven-game winning streak; the Red Tornadoes have won five in a row and nine of their last ten games.
"You've got to get Garlow early," said WHS coach Pete Hardee. "He's a tough pitcher, especially as the game wears on. He seems to get stronger in the later innings."
Garlow coughed up four walks and he scattered six hits; three of the five runs he allowed were unearned thanks to four Hickory errors. David Martin was WHS's most productive hitter. He went 2-3 with a pair of triples, a walk, he scored a run and he drove in a run. And like Hickory, the Pioneers made four errors on the night. It was their poorest defensive effort in nearly two months. The Pioneers made a season-high five errors in an 8-6 loss to North Davidson on March 8.
Matt Proffitt (6-2 with two saves) suffered the loss. The setback snapped a personal five-game winning streak for the right hander (his last loss came in relief against South Caldwell on March 20 in Sawmills). Proffitt left the game after hitting the lead-off man, Zach Killian, with a pitch to start the seventh inning. He coughed up eight runs, all earned, on eight hits with two walks (one intentional) and ten strikeouts. He also hit two batters.
The Pioneers, the No.2 seed among the Class 4A schools in the NW3A/4A Conference, will not wait and see who they will play in the state playoffs. Those pairings are due out next week, and WHS will play a first-round game against an opponent and a site to be determined next Friday night, May 11.
NOTES: The Pioneers have now been eliminated in the conference semifinals eight times in the last nine years, dating back to 2004....Madison Bumgarner (now with the San Francisco Giants) ended WHS's run of six straight championship game appearances by defeating the Pioneers in Boone in 2004. It was his career win against WHS. He went on to beat them eight more times and finished with a 9-1 record against the Pioneers....The last team to win the NW3A/4A Conference Tournament other than South Caldwell (2005-2010) or WHS (2011) was Alexander Central in 2004.....Tyler Jones had a stolen base in Friday's game. He now leads the team with ten stolen bases.....As of right now, there's a possibilty WHS will play the No.2 seed from MEGA 7 Conference (either East Gaston or West Mecklenburg) in the opening round of the state playoffs next Friday night......The Pioneers only made six hits on Friday. That's their lowest hit total since a 2-1 loss to West Iredell at the East Rutherford Easter Tournament on April 9. WHS only made three hits in that game. And West Iredell was the last team to beat WHS before Hickory beat the Pioneers Friday.




NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD




FRIDAY NIGHT'S GAMES
NW3A/4A BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
SEMIFINAL ROUND
MSDEAL STADIUM, GRANITE FALLS, NC




HICKORY 12, WATAUGA 5
SOUTH CALDWELL 3, ST. STEPHENS 2




NW3A/4A SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
TAYLORSVILLE, NC




ALEXANDER CENTRAL 1, ST. STEPHENS 0 (9 INNINGS)




SATURDAY NIGHT'S GAMES
NW3A/4A BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
MSDEAL STADIUM, GRANITE FALLS, NC
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME




HICKORY v. SOUTH CALDWELL, 7 P.M.

  
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