Pioneers pound Panthers 12-2
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga baseball player Hunter Isaacs started the season on the junior varsity team. By the end of the season, Isaacs could be a contender to be named all-conference.
Isaacs, a sophomore turned in another standout performance by pitching a complete game and by hitting two doubles in Watauga's 12-2 victory Tuesday. The game was stopped in the fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Watauga (12-10, 6-5 NWC) won its sixth straight game, its 10th game in 11 outings and clinched third place in the Northwestern Conference standings.
"We're just concentrating on playing good baseball," Pioneers coach Pete Hardee said. "You really don't think of us as a young team, but we've got some good young players with juniors and sophomores."
Isaacs, one of three sophomores in the starting lineup Tuesday, pitched a complete game against the Panthers. Isaacs allowed just four hits and one earned run, while striking out three.
Hibriten's A.J. Watson doubled in a run in the third inning, and Andrew Robertson had an RBI single for the Panthers in the fourth.
Hibriten scrounged up little else. Isaacs set the final five Panthers he faced to the bench in picking up his third win of the season, and his second in the Northwestern Conference.
Isaacs' first NWC victory was a 3-2 win over first-place Alexander Central at Smith Stadium on the ASU campus when he pitched six innings.
"It's difficult at this level as a sophomore, but my defense really helps me out," Isaacs said. "It's so great playing with these guys. They play hard and know what to do. All I have to do is keep throwing strikes."
Isaacs struggled with the strike zone in the first inning by walking two batters and allowing a deep fly ball that Watauga center fielder Tyler Jones ran down to catch. He corrected that problem by getting the next two Hibriten batters out, and then getting the next four Panthers out.
Of those six outs, three were strikeouts and two were grounders hit to Ryder Jones, who handled each one.
"I think you rely on your defense and our defense held them out quite a bit," Hardee said. "You just keep the ball down, and the umpire was giving a low strike zone. That helped us a lot."
Isaacs said pitching coach Brad Rudisill told him his arm angle was a little low. Once Isaacs adjusted, he did not walk another batter.
"I was a little bit worried, but I knew I had to just throw strikes, trust my defense and get after it," Isaacs said.
Watauga's offense got off to a slow start, but picked up momentum in the third inning by scoring 11 runs. The Pioneers sent 16 batters to the plate, including Isaacs, who doubled twice in the inning. He also scored a run after each hit.
Watauga finished the inning with eight hits. Jesse Illich also had two hits in the inning, which included an RBI double his first time up, and an RBI single in the second. Tyler Sturgill drove in two runs with a double and another run with a single in the third, while Matt Lambert drove in two runs with a single. Mason Illich added an RBI single.
"We hit the ball as a team no matter what," Isaacs said. "We get after it and play good defense and just want to win. That's what we do."
Watauga is scheduled to at North Davidson weather permitting. The Pioneers also host St. Stephens in their final NWC game of the season.
Watauga 12, Hibriten 2
Hibriten 001 10 -- 2 4 3
Watauga 01(11) 0X
Bolick, Coffey (3) and Hamel. H. Isaacs and Sturgill. W--H. Isaacs, L--Bolick. LOB--Hibriten 3, Watauga 4. 2B--Hibriten, A.J. Watson, Hamel; WataugaJ. Illich, Sturgill, C. Isaacs, H. Isaacs 2. HBP--Watauga, T. Jones (by Bolick), R. Jones (by Coffey). DP--Hibriten 1.