BOONE — When the South Caldwell baseball team loaded the bases, the Spartans scored four runs. When Watauga loaded the bases, the Pioneers scored two runs.
Watauga was certainly happy to get the runs, but South Caldwell got a grand slam from Avery Raynor in the fourth inning and used those runs to claim a 9-5 victory over the Pioneers at Watauga’s field.
Raynor’s home run was a two-out shot that capped a run of three straight runners that reached base. It also gave the Spartans (3-0) an 8-4 lead.
“It’s a tough blow,” Watauga coach Ethan Greene said. “There are some things we can do before that to erase that if we make some pitches here and there. The big thing is after something like that happens, we have to be able to bounce back the very next pitch and not let one swing dictate how we play the rest of the game.”
“Avery got a good pitch and drove it,” South Caldwell coach Jeff Parham said. “He’s capable of doing those things and I was proud of him.”
South Caldwell scored just one more run, that coming in the seventh inning, but the Pioneers also scored just one more run in the game.
“I don’t think it affected us as far as we pitched,” Greene said. “We threw the rest of the game very well. It changed our mentality at the plate a little bit. Some guys tried to do too much and got a little defensive instead of staying with what worked in the first two innings.”
Watauga (0-2) took a 4-3 lead after loading the bases in the second inning. Jackson Miller opened the second by reaching base on an infield hit to third base. Tristan Salinas reached base on an error and Jacob McInturff got on base with a bunt.
Miller scored on a Tanner Craft walk and Salinas scored on an Anderson Castle fielder’s choice. The Pioneers nearly broke the inning wide open with a Jake Watson line drive, but the ball was caught by South Caldwell’s Josh Adams. South Caldwell pitcher Garrett Hamby struck out Watauga’s Rivers Gore to end the inning.
“I thought we had some pretty good at-bats,” Greene said. “In that situation, we ended up with (runners on) second and third with one out after we scored a couple and then we get a smash-hit line drive and he catches it, so it was kind of one of those deal it didn’t work out.”
Watson ended up hitting an RBI double in the fourth inning, which drove in Castle, who singled with one out in the inning. It would be the last run and the last hit the Pioneers would get until the seventh inning.
Hamby, Isaiah Kirby and Kobe McCall kept the Watauga offense in check for most of the final five innings of the game. Watauga finished with six hits and the South Caldwell pitchers struck out eight Pioneers. Castle had just one hit, but reached base four times. He was hit by a pitch and scored on a Gore single in the first inning, drove in a run with a fielder’s choice in the second inning, had an infield hit in the fourth inning and walked in the seventh.
Watauga also used four pitchers, starting with left-hander Sterling Sauls. He yielded four runs, three hits, three walks and struck out four Spartans.
The Pioneers also turned to Ryan Beach-Verhey, Ryan Fox and Miller to slow down the South Caldwell offense, which finished with six hits.
Watauga plays at West Caldwell on March 11.