Alexander Central sweeps Watauga
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga's varsity summer baseball team slipped back into some old habits in its doubleheader loss to Alexander Central at Watauga's field Wednesday night.
The Pioneers lost the first game 5-2 after being limited to just one hit and by making three errors. Watauga went on to lose the second game 5-4 after making three errors.
Both games were just five innings as the league rules stipulate.
Poor defense and a lack of hitting were a problem for Watauga during the spring season that saw them slip to sixth place in the Northwestern Conference standings. Better defense and timely hitting, aided by standout pitching, were the cornerstones to Watauga's NWC tournament championship and a first-round win in the state 4-A playoffs over McDowell.
Watauga pitcher Utah Jones scattered seven hits and walked two in the first game. Alexander Central used two Watauga errors in the outfield to score two runs in the second inning and another in the fifth.
Watauga's offense had no answer for Alexander Central pitcher Grayson Chapman, who limited the Pioneers to a Hunter Isaacs double in the fourth inning. Isaacs drove in Stedman Sauls, who reached base on an Alexander Central error, with two outs.
Chapman did not allow a runner until Tyler Nigro and Matt Tyndall both walked to lead off the third inning. Nigro reached third base and then scored on a pair of wild pitches, but Chapman retired the next five batters he faced until Sauls reached in the fourth.
"He was throwing fastballs right down the middle," Watauga coach Pete Hardee said of Chapman. "We're not a very good hitting team. We haven't hit the ball well all year. ... "We were not flat. We were just not swinging it well."
Alexander Central got back-to-back, two-out singles from Kyler Fairchild and Josh Hubbard in the second inning. An error in the outfield allowed Fairchild to score from first base and Hubbard to reach third. He scored on a Tyler Campbell single to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
Jacob Barnes drove in a run with a single in the third inning, and Hunter Beckham drove in two runs in the fifth. He was thrown out by Jones when trying to reach second after Jones had cut off Tyndall's throw to home from right field.
"They're scrappy," Hardee said. "They're from a town that's scrappy. They're going to get after you and they were well coached."
Watauga held a brief 2-1 lead in the second game despite not hitting the ball out of the infield on its first five at-bats of the game. Jones walked and scored on a wild pitch, while Matt Lambert reached base on an error and scored on an error.
Ian Watts scored in the second inning after reaching base on a fielder's choice, and Sauls scored in the fifth on an error on a ball hit by Colby Illich.
Watauga managed six hits off Tyler Campbell and Beckman, who came on in the third inning.
Sauls was the only Pioneer to finish with two hits in the game. Corey Williams legged out a double when his bloop fly ball to right field got away from the Cougars defense.
Watauga returns to the field for a doubleheader against Bandys at 6 p.m. today.