Pioneers take 3-2 win over South Caldwell
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga's pitching staff is finding ways to win games either as individuals or by committee.
When staff ace Ryder Jones could only pitch two innings against Northwestern Conference rival South Caldwell for two innings, the Pioneers turned to their bullpen to face the Spartans by committee.
The next three pitchers gave up just two runs, and pitched the Pioneers to a 3-2 victory over South Caldwell. It was Watauga's second straight victory over an NWC 4-A archrival.
The Pioneers beat Alexander Central 3-2 on Tuesday. Even a newcomer like Utah Jones, who transferred to Watauga at the start of the school year, was briefed about the importance of beating Alexander Central and South Caldwell.
"Today, they told me we were playing South Caldwell and they said they were our biggest rivals," Jones said. "This is a huge win for us."
Jones started on the mound, but told pitching coach Brad Rudisill that his arm was bothering him and he could only pitch a couple of innings. Jones faced seven batters -- he walked one -- before moving to shortstop at the top of the third inning.
His replacement, Andrew Miller, gave up a two-run home run in the third inning to Nick Horning, and a single in the fourth before Tripp Taylor came on in relief. Taylor did not allow a run until Hunter Isaacs took over with one out in the sixth.
Isaacs retried two batters in the sixth and three in seventh to pick up a big save for the Pioneers. Isaacs was pitching on just one day's rest after pitching six innings against Alexander Central.
"My arm felt pretty good," Isaacs said. "It was a little bit tired, but I had to work through it. I knew I needed to throw strikes to get the job done to get the win."
Watauga's pitching committee gave up three hits and walked two Spartans. The Pioneers did not give up a free pass after Taylor hit the first batter he faced -- Phillip Page -- with a pitch in the fourth inning.
Jones picked up two of Watauga's four strikeouts. Taylor and Isaacs each fanned one. The Pioneers also did not commit an error the entire game.
"We struggled at the beginning of the season hitting spots," Taylor said. "Now that we're on a roll, we're hitting them left and right. We're painting the corners. We're throwing our curveballs and our sliders, change-ups exactly where they have to be. We're not missing spots."
Jones gave the Pioneers a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the first inning that got caught up in the slight wind that was blowing at the field. Tyler Jones added a solo home run, his first of the season, in the fifth inning to tie the game 2-2.
"He's just a great hitter," Hardee said of Ryder Jones. "If they pitch to him, he's going to hit it somewhere. He adds a lot to our lineup."
Ryder Jones kept the fifth inning going with a double and scored on a Mason Illich single to give the Pioneers a 3-2 lead. Three of Watauga's seven hits went for extra bases.
"When you get the tying run, it kind of takes the pressure off you," Hardee said. "Now let's go score another one."
Ryder Jones went 2-for-3, while Carson Isaacs, Utah Jones and Matt Lambert all recorded singles off South Caldwell ace Gage Parham.
Watauga faces a strange doubleheader Saturday when they host NWC foe Fred T. Foard at noon, and then nonconference rival A.C. Reynolds in the second game.