The woes continued Tuesday night as the Pioneers were bested by South Caldwell 6-0 at Spartans Stadium in Sawmills, N.C. Winning pitcher, sophomore Rian Haire, handcuffed the Pioneers. The left hander went 6.1 innings, scattered five hits and struck out eight before he left the game in the seventh.
"We took him out because he felt a tweek in his (pitching shoulder)," said South Caldwell coach Jeff Parham. "We were just playing it safe. He's only a sophomore. But he spotted the ball real well tonight. And when he spots the ball like he did tonight, he can be awfully tough."
The win keeps South Caldwell (10-2; 5-2), riding a four-game winning streak, in a second-place tie with Patton, and both teams just a game behind first-place Fred T. Foard in the NW3A/4A Conference standings. The loss leaves WHS mired in sixth place. Making matters worse, the Pioneers have lost four in a row and six of their last seven games.
It's also WHS' third shutout loss of the season. And the win also gives South Caldwell the No.1 seed among the Class 4A schools in the NW3A/4A.
Losing pitcher Utah Jones really deserved a better fate. The right hander gave up six runs, but only four were earned. He also limited South Caldwell to five hits. But he walked four and he also hit two batters.
The Pioneers also committed two errors. They've now made 16 errors in their last three conference game. An error to start the third inning opened the door for South Caldwell. Jones retired the next two hitters, but a double by Brock Johnson and a two-run single by Taylor Purus gave the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
Jones (1-3), who lost his third straight decision, finally came unraveled in the sixth, when the Spartans erupted for four runs on just two hits. A pair of walks and two hit batters kept the inning alive with two outs. A bloop single by Haire and a three-run double by Johnson put the contest out of reach.
"Utah really battled us tonight," Parham said. "He spotted the ball well, and kept us off balance. He just got tired in that last inning and we were able to score some insurance runs. It's a big win for us, especially beating Watauga. They're well coached, and they always play us tough."
Jones and Carson Issacs had four of WHS' five hits. Jones was 2-3 with a pair of doubles; Isaacs, who began the night hitting .438, was 2-3 with a pair of singles.
But the Pioneers left five men on base, all in scoring position. They also lost a base runner and they hit into a double play.
"It boils down to an attitude adjustment," said WHS coach Pete Hardee. "It's all up to the players. Either they fight their way out of it and have a decent season, or they just throw in the towel. It's up to them. We'll see what type of character our players have."
The Pioneers, who are playing four games in a five-day stretch, begin a three-game homestand tonight against Hickory. Hunter Isaacs (1-1) gets the starting nod. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. on Classic Hits 100.7 FM and GoBlueridge.net.
NOTES: South Caldwell defeated WHS 5-0 in the junior varsity game.....The Spartans have beaten WHS at home four consecutive times. The last time WHS won in Sawmills was in 2009 with John Sharpe on the mound.
Fred T. Foard 10, St. Stephens 2
Hibriten 11, Hickory 5
Patton 7, Freedom 0
South Caldwell 6, Watauga 0
Patton 4, Freedom 0
St. Stephens 14, Fred T. Foard 4, 6 inn.
South Caldwell 8, Watauga 1
Freedom 1, Patton 0
Hickory 2, Hibriten 0
St. Stephens 3, Fred T. Foard 0
South Caldwell 1, Watauga 0