The Watauga High Junior American Legion baseball team saw its season come to an end Saturday afternoon. Watauga (12-10-1) was eliminated by South Caldwell, the No.1 seed in the Area 4 Western Playoffs, by a 6-4 score at Pioneer Field. South Caldwell wins the best of three series in a two-game sweep. South Caldwell defeated Watauga 8-5 Friday night
in Sawmills. Watauga rallied for a 2-1 lead in the third, and led 4-3 after five. But with the score tied 4-4 and runners on second and third in the top of the sixth with two outs, South Caldwell jumped on top for good thanks to a throwing error by third baseman Matt Lambert that allowed two runs to score.
"It's baseball," said Watauga coach Bradley Rudisill. "It's a game of failure. Some days you can do no wrong, and other days, things just do go the way you want. You've got to fight through it. You have to develop a steadiness in this game to be successful."
Jesse Illich, who got the start and had a no decision, went 4 2/3 innings before he ran out of gas. He coughed up three runs, all earned, on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. Tyler Strugill suffered the loss in relief. He walked the first two men he faced in the sixth, and both those men eventually came around to score. Adam Greene finished up. He gave up an unearned run on one hit in his one inning of work.
Despite the loss, Sturgill was Watauga's most productive hitter going 2-4 with a run scored and a run-batted-in; Justin Greer was 1-4 with two RBI; Steadman Sauls drove in a run with a sacrifice fly; Hunter Isaacs and Colby Illich each scored a run; Clay Mizner doubled; Greene had a hit; and Jesse Illich had a single, drove in a run and he got on base three times. Watauga made eight hits.
"We hit the ball real well," Rudisill said. "Our hitting has really come on late in the year. We struggled with our hitting early in the year, but of late, we've been making solid contact."
And for the second year in a row, Watauga has been eliminated in the opening round of the Area 4 playoffs. They lost to A.C. Reynolds last year. But there's still some baseball left to play for Rudisill and some of the Watauga players. Rudisill has been named the head coach of the West All-Stars in the Area 4 All-Star Game that will be played at McDowell High in Marion, July 21-22.
"I'm honored that I was chosen to do this," Rudisill said. "I don't know what I really did to deserve it, but it's nice to be recognized like this. We'll have a some of our players on the team. It will be a nice way to close things out. But we had a good year, and we got a lot of mileage out of these guys. It was a good group to work with."