BOONE — Watauga’s instructional league season returns to the diamond May 29 when it hosts Hickory in a doubleheader that involves two five-inning games.
It’s Watauga’s final baseball game scheduled before the Pioneers, and the rest of the Watauga student body, takes their final exams. Watauga returns to the field June 13 to host Maiden.
Watauga, which used 21 players in a 13-3 loss to visiting McDowell May 23, will play a split-squad game against Hickory. One of the games will feature older players who played either on the varsity or saw significant playing time on the junior varsity, while the second game will feature rising ninth-graders with some rising 10th-graders.
Watauga coach Ethan Greene, a former Watauga and Pfeiffer College standout pitcher, hopes the Pioneers will pitch with more accuracy than they did against McDowell. Watauga’s seven pitchers — one used each inning — combined to walk 13 McDowell batters and hit five by pitches.
A group of younger players made one of the better defensive plays against McDowell when one of the Titans hit the ball deep to right field. Watauga right fielder Noah Flood chased the ball down and hit shortstop Jacob Dilley with a good throw. Dilley relayed the throw to third baseman Cooper Riddle who applied the tag on a McDowell runner trying to advance from first base on the play.
Greene was impressed with how the three rising freshmen handled the play.
“The cut guy was in the right spot,” Greene said. “The right fielder made a good throw and the third baseman did what he was supposed to do — don’t attack the ball, let it travel and put the tag on him.”
Greene said the play is one that isn’t necessarily routine, but should not be a complete surprise either.
“It was well executed, but it’s got to a point where we need to expect those plays to happen and not be surprised when we make one.”
Greene did not say whether the older group of players or the younger group would play first. Two of the Pioneers with varsity experience, Jake McIntruff and Rivers Gore, scored two of the Pioneers’ runs against McDowell, which happened in the first inning and tied the game 2-2.
Another varsity veteran, Ryan Beech-Verhey, doubled and scored on an Austin Idol single in the second inning. Flood also doubled in the inning, but did not drive in Idol.