Gainey tosses two-hit shutout at Fred T. Foard
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
GRANITE FALLS -- Watauga pitcher Jeffrey Gainey proved Thursday pitchers do not have to strike out batters to get them out.
Gainey limited Fred T. Foard to just two hits in a 7-0 victory over the Tigers in the semifinals of the Northwestern Conference Tournament at M.S. Deal Stadium. Watauga (10-12) reached the finals of the tournament and face either South Caldwell or Hickory at 7 p.m. Friday.
Foard slipped to 17-6.
Gainey has not allowed any Tigers to score a run in the 16 innings he's faced them. He threw six shutout innings the first time he faced them and three the second time.
Gainey did not strike out a single Foard batter in the seven innings he was on the mound. Yet, the only hits the Tigers got were a single by Matt Ward in the fourth and a Jordan Fullbright single in the sixth.
"It wouldn't be a big deal if I didn't get any strikeouts," Gainey said. "As long as I got a job done, that's all that mattered."
Ward's hit was the first base runner Gainey allowed after retiring the first 11 batters he faced. Gainey allowed four other runners on base in the fourth inning, but two reached because of errors and two others because of fielder's choices.
None of the Tigers reached third base.
"That was 16 innings of shut out ball he's thrown against Foard, so we felt confident in him," Watauga coach Pete Hardee said. "They hit some on the nose a couple of times, but his ball sinks and is going to be hit on the ground for the most part."
Gainey also benefitted from some of the best defense Watauga played all season. He was involved in one of those plays in the start of the fourth inning when a sharp ground ball was hit to first baseman Matt Lambert.
Lambert dove to get the ball, and then got it to Gainey, who had to slide into first base while catching Lambert's throw to get Fullbright out.
Watauga left fielder Colby Illich also saved two runs by making a diving catch on a line drive that closed out the fifth inning.
"We told 'Giggs' that just to rely on his defense and throw strikes and that's exactly what he did," centerfielder Jesse Illich said. "That's exactly what he did and he did a good job of it."
Pioneers third baseman Utah Jones also stayed busy by fielding nine ground balls hit to him. He turned one of them into a double play in the sixth inning.
"I was giving him credit after every play," Gainey said of Jones. "He had my back the whole time."
"They were hitting some shots at me, but I just tried to body-up most of them," Jones said. "I let one go through my legs, but that was a little scarry."
Watauga scored all the runs it needed on the top of the second inning on a sacrifice fly from Jesse Illich. The Pioneers added four runs in the third inning on two-run singles by Stedman Sauls and Matt Tyndall gave the Pioneers a solid 5-0 lead.
The Pioneers added two runs on an RBI single from Justin Greer and a fielder's choice from Sauls, who finished with three RBIs in the game.
Watauga faced one of Foard's top pitchers in starter Austin Godfrey. In the first game played between the teams, Godfrey pitched a 5-0 shutout and struck out 10 batters in the process.
Watauga chased Godfrey off the mound in the third inning on Thursday. He was replaced by Harry Hatcher, who pitched until the fifth until Josh Wike took over
Wike did not allow a Watauga runner in the three innings he pitched.
Carson Isaacs had two of the Pioneers' 10 hits. Jesse Illich had a sacrifice fly and a single.