Pioneers bounce back with victory
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
FOREST CITY -- It didn't take long for Watauga's baseball team to put an embarrassing loss behind them.
Watauga cruised to a 10-0 victory in five innings over Gaston Christian in the second day of the East Rutherford Easter Tournament played at McNair Field Wednesday. The Pioneers took a 7-0 lead after two innings one game after not scoring a run until the seventh inning in a 2-1 loss to East Rutherford's junior varsity team in the opening round.
"It was nice to come out here and swing the bat a little bit and feel the barrel get to the baseball," Watauga coach Pete Hardee said. "Hopefully this game will get us on a little roll here."
Watauga (3-9), which was limited to six hits against East Rutherford's JV team, got three from new leadoff hitter Jesse Illich. He was moved from sixth in the order to leadoff in a batting order shakeup that also moved former leadoff hitter Tyler Jones to second and Ryder Jones back to third from second.
Tyler Jones hit the first of back-to-back triples with Ryder Jones in the second inning. Each triple drove in a run and both Joneses scored a run to help the Pioneers claim a 7-0 lead.
They were the first triples of the season for the Pioneers. Tyler Jones added a double in the fourth inning and Ryder Jones was intentionally walked in the third inning.
"It worked out good today and hopefully it's something that can help us," Hardee said.
Tyler Sturgill, who was moved from fourth to seventh, responded with two hits, including a two-run single in the first inning that gave the Pioneers a 4-0 lead.
Watauga also benefitted from six Gaston Christian errors, which led to nine unearned runs. Gaston used four pitchers, one who started each inning. After taking a 7-0 lead, Watauga did not score in the third inning, but scored three in the fourth after Sturgill and Utah Jones, who hit back-to-back singles, scored on an error on a ball hit by Alex Parsons.
Parsons, hitting ninth in the order, scored on Gaston Christian's sixth error.
"Alex Parsons gave us a lift in the bottom of the lineup," Hardee said. "He's a good athlete. He hasn't played baseball in two years, but that athleticism is still there. He gave us some good at-bats."
Watauga's Chance Richards picked up the shutout victory on the mound. Richards allowed four hits -- all singles.
He got help from Watauga's defense, which turned three double plays. Richardson struck out two batters and lowered his ERA to 2.22.
Hardee said the Pioneers went through a rigorous practice Tuesday to get back on track following their loss to East Rutherford's junior varsity.
"I probably can't tell you everything we did in practice, but we practiced pretty hard (Tuesday)," Hardee said. "It was cold in Boone, but we got a good three-hour practice. We went over a lot of things and I think some of the things we did cover carried over into today on how we got on and off the field and the pace of the game."
Watauga faces the winner of the R.S. Central-Chase game for fifth place in the tournament at noon Thursday. R.S. Central went into its game Wednesday with an 8-4 record, while Chase was 1-10.