|Better Late Than Never.....|
|Written by Mike Kelly|
|Saturday, 05 April 2014 10:37|
That was certainly the case for the Watauga High baseball team Friday night. The Pioneers (6-7 overall; 4-4 Northwestern 3A-4A Conference) rallied from a 3-1 deficit and defeated St. Stephens 10-4 at Frye Field in St. Stephens, N.C.
Junior Adam Greene sparked the WHS rally with a pair of lead-off walks. The Pioneers batted around and scored four times in the sixth inning; they sent eight men to the plate in the seventh and scored five more runs.
Greene, who began the night hitting .211, was 1-2 with a pair of walks and two runs scored.
"I'm real proud of Adam," said WHS coach Pete Hardee. "He showed me he's just not a power hitter. He worked the pitch counts, and he walked twice. Those walks really got us going offensively. Adam had a super night."
Up to that point, the Pioneers, who have won two straight, resembled their anemic ways at the plate. WHS left six men on base, five in scoring position, and the Pioneers also lost a base runner.
But the offense, thanks to an error, a hit batter and Greene's lead-off walk, finally came alive in the sixth. With runners at second and third and nobody out, Colby Illich, who had two sacrifices on the day, drove in WHS' first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly that made it 3-2; Steadman Sauls, who also had a pretty good day at the plate, going 1-1 with a sac fly, two walks and two runs-batted-in, singled to drive in the tying run.
An error by right fielder Daniel Barkley, who ironically was St. Stephens' starting and losing pitcher before he was lifted in the sixth, allowed the go-ahead runs to score when he dropped Carson Isaacs' linedrive, giving WHS a 5-3 lead.
"We had some breaks tonight," Hardee said. "But with the season we've had, so far, I'm not complaining. We took advantage of things. Our guys showed a lot of character coming back. The general bystander doesn't understand the pressure one feels when you fall behind 3-1 on the road. A lot of teams start to press and not get it done. But we kept swinging the bats, and our guys made it happen. They responded in a big way."
That late rally also saved a marvelous pitching performance by junior Matt Lambert (2-0), who tossed the first complete game of his career. The right hander gave up four runs, all unearned, on four hits, he struck out six, walked one and he hit two batters. He also pitched around four errors, two in the seventh inning.
Lambert also helped himself offensively, going 2-4 with a double.
"Matt threw a great game tonight, and I told him, 'be old school and finish your own game,'" Hardee said. "I was tempted to pull him in the seventh. He threw a little more than 100 pitches, but I wanted him to finish the game. He showed a lot of composure, especially in the seventh when we made a couple of errors behind him. He had a great game. I'm proud of him."
The win also moves WHS into a fourth-place tie with Hibriten, who the Pioneers play on the road April 15. And they're only two games out of second place behind South Caldwell and Patton.
"It's one of those things that you've just got to keep playing and hope the conference comes back to you," Hardee said. "It's fun to win. I love to win. Tonight's game wasn't pretty, but we got the job done. Hopefully, we're getting on a little bit of a roll and we can keep this going."
Jesse Illich was 3-5 with a pair of doubles, two runs scored and an RBI; Utah Jones was 2-3 with a pair of triples; Clay Mizner, who put the game out of reach, had a two-run, pinch-hit single in the seventh.
Fisher Davis paced St. Stephens, going 2-4 with a two-run triple that gave the Indians their 3-1 lead in the fifth. The Indians (3-8; 2-6) have lost three straight and six of seven. The Pioneers swept the season series with Friday's win.
Saturday's game with North Davidson has been postponed. No make up date has been announced. The Pioneers return home to play Fred T. Foard Tuesday night. Jones will get the starting nod. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. on Classic Hits 100.7 FM and GoBlueridge.net.
NOTES: Tuesday night's game with the Tigers starts a three-game homestand. Ashe County comes to town for a non-conference game Wednesday; Freedom comes to town Friday.
Fred T. Foard 7-1; 8-4
S. Caldwell (4A) 6-2; 11-2
Patton 6-2; 10-4
Hibriten 4-4; 6-7
WATAUGA 4-4; 6-7
Hickory 3-5; 5-7
St. Stephens 2-6; 3-8
Freedom 0-8; 4-9
Fred T. Foard 12, Freedom 0, 6 inn.
Patton 5, Hickory 0
Watauga 10, St. Stephens 4
South Caldwell 6, Hibriten 1
Fred T. Foard 3, Freedom 1
St. Stephens at Watauga PPD (Rescheduled for Monday)
Fred T. Foard 2, Freedom 1, OT
Hibriten 2, S. Caldwell 1
Hickory 4, Patton 0
Hickory 16, Patton 3
Watauga at St. Stephens PPD (Rescheduled for Monday)
Bishop McGinness 17, Watauga 7
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