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Originally published: 2013-03-23 22:13:49
Last modified: 2013-03-23 22:14:36

Curtis pitches Hibriten past Watauga

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

LENOIR — Usually when great pitchers from Caldwell County are mentioned, they pitch for South Caldwell.
Hibriten’s John Curtis is making a case for not only being the top pitcher in Caldwell County, but also in the Northwestern Conference. Curtis won a classic pitcher’s duel with Watauga’s Ryder Jones 3-1 Friday at Hibriten in a game that did not have an earned run.
It was Hibriten’s first win over Watauga (1-7, 1-4 NWC) in seven tries. The Panthers had not beaten Watauga since Hibriten joined the NWC in 2010.
“You’re not going to score a lot of runs when you’re facing John Curtis,” Pioneers coach Pete Hardee said. “He’s throwing the ball well against other teams in our conference and we knew we couldn’t make mistakes, but we did and it cost us.”
Curtis allowed two hits and walked just one batter for the Panthers (4-4, 2-3). He struck out 10 Pioneers in seven innings. Watauga did not get a hit off Curtis until Jesse Illich led off the third inning with a double.
Illich was stranded at third base after Curtis struck out the last two Watauga batters of the inning.
Watauga scored its lone run in the fourth inning when Jones singled and scored on an errant throw trying to catch Tripp Taylor stealing second. Taylor, courtesy running for catcher Tyler Sturgill, ended up on third, but was stranded.
Curtis had to pitch well, since Jones was keeping the Pioneers close. Jones gave up five hits, but just two of them led to a run. Jones also struck out eight Hibriten batters and walked three.
Jones also had to overcome four Watauga errors, but also retired eight Panthers during a stretch that started with the final out in the third inning to the first out of the sixth.
Jones (1-2) has been the victim of a lack of offense in his last two starts. The Pioneers had five hits in a 3-2 loss to Alexander Central in Jones’ last start, although Jones struck out 12 batters.
“He pitched well enough to win if we had played defense behind him,” Hardee said “That’s a tough-luck loss for him,” Hardee said of Jones.  “We still have to cut down on the strikeouts when we face a good pitcher. Every time we face a good pitcher, we rack up a ton of strikeouts.”
Hibriten’s leadoff batter Colton Henthorn walked in the bottom of the first inning and scored on a throwing error. The Panthers added a run in the third inning when A.J. Watson walked and scored on an error on a ball hit by Carson Poarch.
The Panthers added an insurance run when Poarch singled, and his courtesy runner Jordan Sherrill scored on a Grayson Austin single. Sherrill reached third after stealing second and getting to third on a throwing error.
“We knew coming in it was going to take little things to win,” Hibriten coach Terry Henthorn said. “It was going to take hustle plays and a break here and there. We were lucky we had more breaks than they had.”
The Pioneers return to the field Tuesday at St. Stephens. That game was moved to Newton from Watauga because Watauga’s field is unplayable.
Watauga’s game with Providence, which was scheduled for Saturday, was postponed for the same reason.

Hibriten 3, Watauga 1
Watauga    000 100 0 — 1 2 4
Hibriten    101 001 X — 3 5 2
Jones and Sturgill. Curtis and Hamel W—Curtis (3-1), L—Jones (1-2). LOB—Watauga 2, Hibriten 3. 2B—WHS, J. Illich. SB—WHS, Taylor. DP—WHS, 1.