South Mecklenburg blanks Watauga baseball 7-0
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
South Mecklenburg's baseball team is not quite ready to stop defending its 4-A state championship from 2013. Sabres pitcher Michael Smith would not allow it.
Watauga's baseball team's season came to a close Saturday with a 7-0 loss to visiting South Mecklenburg in the second round of the state 4-A playoffs.
The Pioneers could not solve Smith, who scattered seven hits in a complete game performance. Smith did not overpower Watauga's batters with 90-miles-per-hour fastballs, but kept the Pioneers on their toes with near pinpoint control and a good breaking ball.
"You might say he was not overpowering, but he really was with his location and his curveball by keeping it down," Pioneers coach Pete Hardee said. "He kept us off-balance and then when we got some things going in the sixth and seventh, he bared down and got us."
Watauga, which was coming off an 8-6 win in 11 innings over McDowell in the first round of the playoffs, reached third base three times, but came away empty each time. Utah Jones tripled in the first inning, but was stranded on the base.
"He did a good job of hitting his spots and working quickly," South Mecklenburg Jon Tuscan said. "They hit the ball and they're a good club, but I think (Smith) did a good job of throwing the ball in the zone."
Watauga's offense stayed quiet until the fifth inning when Colby Illich, Andy Critcher and Jesse Illich all singled, but were stranded. The Pioneers also threated in the seventh inning when Hunter Isaacs reached third and Critcher reached second but did not advance any farther.
Critcher finished with two singles for the Pioneers.
"We just weren't hitting the ball," Isaacs said. "There wasn't much we could do about it. They were making good plays -- he had a good defense behind him. It's a pitcher we've seen all year. We just couldn't get it done tonight."
South Mecklenburg (20-8) jumped Watauga starter Jeffrey Gainey with three straight hits, including a two-run single from Harris Yett. Max Basin also doubled and scored to give the Sabres a 3-0 lead.
Yett proved to be a handful for Gainey and Jones, who came on in relief to third inning. Yett doubled in a run in the third inning, and doubled and scored in the seventh to finish 3-for-4 from the plate.
Smith helped himself with an RBI double in the fourth, and Christian Umphlett had two RBI singles.
"(Yett) has been very big for us all season long," Tuscan said. "He's really good at the plate and has taken control behind the plate."
South Mecklenburg takes on a familiar foe next week in Providence. The Panthers beat South Mecklenburg 5-2, but the Sabres returned the favor with an 8-0 win.