Wilkes County Juniors take game 1 from Watauga
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Wilkes County pitcher Tanner Waddell proved to be too much for Watauga's offense in the first game of the Junior League All-Star Tournament Monday night at Optimist Park.
Waddell allowed just two hits, both singles, in Wilkes County's 10-0 victory over Watauga in a game that was shortened to six innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Watauga's Andrew Dye broke up Waddell's no-hit bid in the third inning with a single to centerfield. Holden Herzog added a single down the third baseline in the fourth inning.
Waddell also hit Alex Dye with a pitch in the first inning and walked Julien Wolf in the fourth inning, which moved Herzog to second base with two outs. Waddell got the final out of the inning to keep Herzog from getting any farther.
"He's thrown well all season for us," Wilkes coach Derek Waddell said. "He's got a real strong fastball. This (pitching) distance, 56 feet, is a little different for us since we play at 60 feet, but he just had to find it. He gave up two hits and he was strong on the mound."
Watauga had some close calls offensively. Chase Thompson laid down a bunt along the third baseline to lead off the third inning, but Wilkes third baseman Austin Abser scooped the ball up bare-handed and threw Thompson out by a step.
Tanner Waddell also benefitted from a nice play by Wilkes shortstop Ezra Baker, who went deep to the hole and robbed Andrew Dye of a single in the first inning. Wilkes did not make an error the entire game.
"We couldn't string anything together," Watauga coach Bill Dicus said. "We had Chase leading off an inning and bunted and got beat by half a step. Then the next guy up (Andrew Dye) gets a single and the next guy up gets a 3-0 count and this is a big rally. But their guy made some big pitches and unfortunately, those pitchers have a say in teams putting hits together."
Wilkes leadoff batter Zach Gregor proved to be a problem for Watauga pitcher Jonah Hodges and the rest of the Watauga defense. Gregor went 3-for-4 and also reached base on an error.
He scored three runs and drove in two others. He scored in the first inning after hitting to get on base.
Hodges scattered seven hits, six of them singles, in pitching a complete game. He struck out five and generally kept Watauga within striking distance.
Watauga trailed 6-0 going into the sixth inning until Wilkes used three Watauga errors to score four runs to close out the game.
"He did a great job and I knew he would," Dicus said. "For the most part, I thought we played well behind him. Toward the end, there the errors are. One guy makes one and everybody gets a little tentative and then we start throwing the ball around. But that's baseball."
Watauga hosts Wilkes County in the second game of the three-game series Thursday at Optimist Park.
"We'll see if their pitching drops off with the second one," Dicus said. "I know ours doesn't, really. We have another good thrower. Alex (Dye) will get the baseball and he'll battle."
Zach Huffman will throw for Wilkes County, according to Derek Waddell.