Watauga summer JVs sweep East Burke
by Gerrit Van Genderen
Watauga sweeps East Burke behind no-hitter, walk off win
Gerrit Van Genderen
Intern Sports Reporter
Watauga's junior varsity summer baseball team swept East Burke in a doubleheader Tuesday behind an impressive pitching performance and walk off victory.
Watauga's Jonah Hodges threw a no-hitter in the Pioneers' 7-0 victory in the first game of the doubleheader. Hodges struck out nine while walking three over the course of the five-inning game.
Watauga coach, Tom Gilliam, said he had planned to take Hodges out of the game to let left-handed pitcher Justin Hollers close the game. That was before Gilliam was informed of the no-hit bid.
"[Hodges] came over and said, 'I don't think they have any hits off of me,'" Gilliam said. "I said, 'You might've just jinxed yourself but you can go back out.' I thought he did awesome."
Watauga's bats gave Hodges an early lead after Graham Gilliam led off the first inning with a triple and scored on Hamilton Castle's RBI-single two pitches later.
Pioneer right fielder Evan Suggs broke the game open in the second inning with a two-run inside-the-park home run to the right-center field gap. It scored both himself and Hodges to extend the lead to 4-0.
East Burke committed six errors in the first game, resulting in three unearned Watauga runs. The poor defensive play continued into the second game, where they committed four errors, including a game-ending mishap at second base that gave Watauga the 2-1 walk off victory.
Watauga's Hayes Henderson and Gilliam were both thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the fifth before Joey Watson scored the winning run on the East Burke second baseman's error.
The Pioneers mustered only four hits total in the second game but drew four walks as well against East Burke's pitchers.
Jonathon McClendon kept himself out of trouble on the mound for Watauga throughout most of the game, inducing a double play in the first inning and picking a runner off at second base in the second inning.
Hollers pitched the fifth inning, striking out a rare four batters in the inning. One of the strike out victims reached first base after a swinging strikeout.
Tommy Gilliam was able to play almost two entirely different lineups in both games of Tuesday's doubleheader. The lineup in the first game consisted of all rising sophomores while the lineup in the second game had almost all rising freshmen.
"Each time we've gone out, I've seen them get progressively better and that's all we're asking out of them," he said.
Gilliam said an improvement he saw was that the players were executing some of the plays that were called by the coaching staff, including a squeeze bunt attempt in the fifth inning of the second game.
"Before, we would call a play and they would be really timid about it," Gilliam said. "Tonight they went through with it and realized that certain situations require some strategy."
Watauga's junior varsity summer team is scheduled to play at home Thursday against Patton.