BOONE — On a chilly late winter evening, the Watauga Pioneers baseball team played their first home game of the season against the Weddington Warriors, falling to the visitors 5-2, but rebounded the following afternoon with two wins in a doubleheader against the Murphy Bulldogs.
The Pioneers (8-1) squad returned home after a six game unbeaten road trip to open the season, averaging over 11 runs per game. Conversely, the Warriors (5-1) are adept at limiting scoring opportunities — only allowing more than 3 runs once this season.
Watauga found success early, taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Maddox Greene (So.) and Jacob Dilley (Sr.) each hit singles to get on base before Tristan Salinas (Sr.) sent both runners in on a double.
That quick burst was the end of Watauga's scoring as Weddington pitcher Sean Katzbach started to find his groove.
"Their pitcher settled in after the first inning," said head coach Mike Windish, "and really started to locate his first pitch to the outside part of the plate — against our right-handed hitters especially — and we never could make an adjustment to that throughout the game. When he's locating that first pitch, it kind of hurt us because then we're down 0-1 in the count almost every time."
The Warriors got a run back at the top of the second and then two more in the third, to take a 3-2 margin over Watauga.
From there Katzbach's pitching prevented the Pioneers from scoring a run for the rest of the contest, as Weddington went home with the 5-2 win.
The following afternoon, Watauga played against the Murphy Bulldogs (2-4) in a double-header series hosted at Appalachian State University's baseball stadium. Due to time constraints, the games were five-inning games instead of the usual seven.
The Pioneers won the first matchup 8-0, and then downed the Bulldogs again 14-2 in the followup game.
In the opening contest with Murphy, Watauga's eight runs were scored by Jameson Hodges (2), Greene (2), Dilley (2), Johnny Ray and David Pastusic. Greene and Pastusic also each recorded an RBI, joining Cooper Critcher (2), Tristan Salinas and Hank Matthews in sending runners home.
Sticking with the first part of the doubleheader, Salinas and Critcher both tallied three putouts against the Bulldogs. From the mound, Ray pitched all five innings — notching three strikeouts across 15 batters — while only allowing an on base percentage of .067 through 60 pitches.
Watauga is now 8-1 on the season, and will look to keep their high-level of play going once they start facing in-conference opponents. Up next on Tuesday, March 21 is an away battle with the South Caldwell Spartans (4-1). Opening pitch for that game is set for 6:30 p.m.
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Thanks to modern technologies, you and more people are reading the Watauga Democrat than ever before. Freedom of the press is essential to preserving democracy: But a free press isn't free. It takes significant resources for Mountain Times Publications' 8 full-time journalists and editors to provide credible, fact-based and ethical journalism in the High Country. So, we are asking you to join our advertisers and print subscribers in supporting local journalism with your dollar. Your financial support will help sustain these services that you use to inform your decisions and engage with your community.
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