Watauga cruises past R.S. Central
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Two years ago, the Pioneers lost a game in the first round, but made some adjustments and won the next two. They rode the momentum into the state playoffs.
Watauga's current team would like to do the same. The Pioneers won two games in a row for the first time all season with an 8-1 victory over R.S. Central in the fifth-place game of the tournament Friday.
The two victories came on the heels of a disappointing 2-1 loss to East Rutherford junior varsity in the first round. It was the final of a five-game losing streak.
Watauga has a chance to extend its winning streak to three games Tuesday at home against Northwestern Conference rival Hickory. If Watauga's field is playable, it will be the first time the Pioneers will host a game all season.
"It was nice for us to play some good baseball for a couple of games," Pioneers coach Pete Hardee said. "Hopefully, it can give us a little momentum back home and, hopefully, we can get that game in with Hickory Tuesday."
The Pioneers (4-9) built an 8-0 lead by scoring in the first four innings. Ryder Jones finished the game going 3-for-4, which included a two-run double in the second inning and a solo home run in the fourth.
Watauga had eight hits and had several foul balls that were hit hard. Carson Isaacs had two of them.
"We started hitting the ball right off the bat," Watauga left fielder Mason Illich said. "We just kept it going, simple as that."
Watauga opened the game by scoring three runs in the first inning after the Pioneers' first four batters reached base on R.S. Central starter Jordan Hendrix. Zach Norville came on in relief and stayed in until the seventh inning.
Watauga pitcher Tripp Taylor made sure the lead stood up. The left-hander limited R.S. Central (8-5) to just three hits and no runs in four innings.
R.S. Central threatened in the first inning by loading the bases, but Taylor struck out Dustin McEntire and Alex Owens flew out to end the inning.
"It is critical that when you get up on someone you make sure you make plays," Hardee said. "We still had a few who are getting a few walks here that I don't like, but we were able to hold the lead and that's certainly an upgrade from where we were."
R.S. Central also left runners on second and third with two outs in the second inning, but did not score. The Hilltoppers did not score until Watauga's Ryder Jones walked Joel McDaniel, who eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Utah Jones pitched scoreless two innings to end the game. Taylor struck out four batters and walked one.
"We could have stayed with (Taylor), but we wanted to get Ryder and Utah a little tune-up because they hadn't pitched this week," Hardee said. "This feels good to win a couple of games and hopefully that feeling will kind of get us going."
Ryder Jones is expected to start Tuesday against Hickory.