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Originally published: 2014-05-10 21:00:42
Last modified: 2014-05-10 21:00:42

Behr: Pioneers go back to playing solid baseball

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

GRANITE FALLS -- Winning baseball games isn't exactly rocket science.

Pitchers have to throw strikes. Batters have to hit the ball. Fielders have to catch the ball.

Or, as Durham Bulls manager Joe Riggins said to his players in the movie "Bull Durham," "This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. YOU GOT IT?"

Watauga's baseball team seems to be grasping those concepts at the right time.

The Pioneers couldn't get out of their own way in several games this season. They committed eight errors in one game, and six in another.

The pitching was inconsistent, as was the team's hitting.

It was all why they finished 4-10 during the regular season and in sixth place in the Northwestern Conference. They seemed dead in the water entering the conference tournament.

But sometimes, things seem to work themselves out. They certainly did for Watauga and as of Friday, the Pioneers are the Northwestern Conference Tournament champions.

It didn't look like it would be that way one inning into the start of the tournament. After a rough start on the mound by Utah Jones that yielded three runs, Hunter Isaacs came on in the second inning and tossed eight scoreless innings against Patton in the opening round of the tournament.

Watauga fell behind 3-0, but rallied behind the strength of home runs from Justin Greer and Isaacs and beat the Panthers 4-3 in the ninth inning on May 5.

Watauga added a 7-0 victory over Fred T. Foard two days later on the strength of a complete game by Jeffrey Gainey. He did not strike any batters out, but the Watauga defense that was so shaky during the regular season held like Hoover Dam and carried the Pioneers to the win.

The title game against South Caldwell Friday was sort of a carbon copy of the game at Patton. This time, Jones went in for Matt Lambert to settle the pitching situation.

Jones put out a second-inning fire, and then did not allow a run the rest of the game.

Watauga's defense made just one error behind him, and the Pioneers rallied for four runs in the top of the fourth inning to give Jones a 4-3 lead he would not give back.

That's three victories over teams that all swept the Pioneers in two games each during the regular season. Watauga is 3-0 against teams in May it was 0-6 against in March and April (although technically, South Caldwell beat Watauga 6-2 on May 2).

Watauga may not be a 4-A powerhouse, but the Pioneers are not doormats either. They go into the state 4-A tournament believing that they can beat teams from around the region instead of hoping not to lose.