The Watauga High baseball team ran into a quality pitcher for the second night in a row. Wednesday night, Drew Bolick nearly threw a no-hitter as Hibriten downed the Poineers 4-1 in Lenoir, N.C.; Thursday night, right hander Brock Toner of Patton took his turned and he handcuffed the Pioneers (7-11 overall; 4-8 Northwestern
3A-4A Conference) in a 3-1 win at Pioneer Field.
Toner went the distance and gave up an unearned run on four hits with six strikeouts. He didn't give up a hit after the fourth inning.
"We just seem to run into a top pitcher every night," said WHS coach Pete Hardee. "(Toner) did a good job attacking our hitters. He did the same thing (Bolick) did (Wednesday) night. But this guy had a real good curve ball, and he snapped it on us a couple of times."
Utah Jones suffered his fifth consecutive loss, despite a yeoman effort on the mound. Jones (1-5 with two saves) went the distance and gave up three runs, one earned, on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
The Pioneers victimized themselves again by making three errors. Two errors in the first inning handed Patton (12-6; 8-4) a 1-0 lead.
Wyatt Fleming was a thorn in WHS' side. He went 4-4 with three doubles, two stolen bases, a run scored and he drove in a run. He scored the game's first run thanks to a lead-off single, a stolen base, and a throwing error by WHS catcher Steadman Sauls. He drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI double in the top of the third. He was thrown out, when he tried stretching it into a triple.
"We played harder tonight," Hardee said. "It's one of our better efforts in a while. We had some guys that weren't giving it their best in practice the other day, so i had to shake things up a little bit. I think I got their attention."
One of those guys, Jesse Illich, who was among four players that Hardee benched to start the game at Hibriten Wednesday night, had a solid game defensively in center field. He made an over-the-shoulder catch, robbing Logan Pearson of an extra base hit in the third.
But the Panthers picked up an insurance run in the fifth thanks to a base hit by Luke Baker and an error by Hunter Isaacs in right field. The ball skipped by him and allowed Will Kirk, who reached on a fielder's choice, to score all the way from first base.
"(Hunter) said he lost it in the light," Hardee said. "I don;'t know. It's been one of those year. Nothing is going our way right now. But we have the Easter tournament coming up, so maybe getting out of town for a few days might help us a little bit."
The Panthers maintain their grip on third place in the NW3A-4A Conference standings, and they remain two games out of first place with two games left on the schedule. South Caldwell moved into a first-place tie with Fred T. Foard Thursday night (both team are 10-2 in the NW3A-4A).
The Spartans, who have won nine in a row, beat St. Stephens, 9-3; Hickory got by Foard, 2-1. The Spartans, at worst, have also clinched a tie for second place.
The Pioneers scored their only run in the bottom of the first. Jones walked, he advanced to second base on a fielder's choice, and he scored on Baker's throwing error when he stole third.
The Pioneers left four men on base, three in scoring position, and they also lost a base runner.
The Pioneers will play in the Tarboro Easter Classic April 22-25. The Pioneers take on Rocky Mount Prep next Thursday, April 24 at 1 p.m. They play the host school, Tarboro, next Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Coverage on AM 1450, WATA and GoBlueridge.net begins at 12:30 p.m. for the afternoon game; coverage starts at 6:50 p.m. for the night game.
NOTES: Patton coach Joel Browning missed Thursday night's game due to a death in his family. Assistant coach Curt Reed ran the team in his absence.....The Panthers sweep the season series against WHS. They beat the Pioneers 9-7 in Morganton on March 25....The WHS junior varsity team rallied from an 8-5 deficit and defeated Patton 9-8 in five innings.....the Pioneers will celebrate Senior Night against South Caldwell at Pioneer Field against Hickory on Friday, May 2.
Patton 3, Watauga 1
Hickory 2, Fred T. Foard 1
Hibriten 1, Freedom 0
South Caldwell 9, St. Stephens 3 (9 innings)
FRED T. FOARD 10-2; 12-5
SOUTH CALDWELL 10-2; 15-2
PATTON 8-4; 12-6
HIBRITEN 7-5; 11-8
HICKORY 6-6; 8-8
WATAUGA 4-8; 7-11
ST. STEPHENS 2-10; 3-13
FREEDOM 1-11; 6-13