CHAPEL HILL — The Watauga baseball team received the 17th seed in the 3-A playoffs and will play at No. 16-seeded A.C. Reynolds on May 7.
Watauga (10-14) has not played A.C. Reynolds since Pioneers coach Seth Freeman took over the program. The Rockets are 12-9 overall, 11-5 in the Western Mountain Conference standings.
Watauga lost to A.C. Reynolds 5-0 in 2016 in the team’s last meeting. Watauga last beat A.C. Reynolds 7-5 in 2015.
“They came in third in their conference and they’re a solid team,” Freeman said. “They have three guys who have thrown a lot of innings for them this year. Their catcher is pretty good. He’s a junior Clemson commit. Other than that I really don’t know a lot about them.”
That catcher, Cooper Ingle, committed to play baseball at Clemson in September. Ingle is batting .571 this season with 12 doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs. He also has banged out at least two hits in 14 games this season.
A.C. Reynolds has no shortage of pitching. Parker Knaupp, a junior right-hander, has a 5-1 record with 59 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. Knaupp has an ERA of 1.88 and batters are hitting just .212 against him.
Jalen Crowder, a senior, has an ERA of 3.50 and has struck out 36 batters in 34.1 innings. Sophomore Zach Bohn has an ERA of 4.01 with a 1-2 record and one save.
Freeman said it never hurts to get a good scouting report on an opponent, especially one the Pioneers have not seen yet. But the Watauga coach is more concerned about the Pioneers limiting their mistakes and hitting the ball with consistency.
“There are some things that are good to know,” Freeman said. “But the majority is just us playing well.”
Freeman said Lenoir-Rhyne bound Andrew Dye to the mound. Dye pitched six innings in a 5-2 loss to Hickory in the first round of the Northwestern Conference Tournament.
Freeman would like the Pioneers to cut down on the errors when Dye is on the mound.
“We hope that we will play good defense behind him,” Freeman said.
Things won’t get any easier for either Watauga or A.C. Reynolds in the second round. Waiting for either team is likely to be the top seed of the bracket Carson (23-2), which is located in baseball rich Rowan County. Carson faces Central Cabarrus in the first round.
The Watauga softball team, the 29th seed of the 3-A west bracket faces an uphill battle when it plays at No. 4-seed Crest, also on May 7.
The Pioneers (10-10) goes into the tournament on a three-game losing streak capped by a 4-2 home loss to St. Stephens in the first round of the NWC tournament. St. Stephens also began that streak by beating the Pioneers 2-1 in Hickory, one game after the Pioneers blanked Freedom 11-0.
Crest (24-1) goes into the playoffs with a 22-game winning streak. The Chargers’ only loss this season was a 6-3 setback to visiting Franklin.
Crest scored at least 10 runs in 18 of its victories, including six games when the Chargers scored at least 19 runs. The Chargers are hitting .415 as a team and are led at the plate by junior Sydney Kale, who is hitting .577.
Watauga has a team batting average of .287, led by sophomores Katie Willingham (.394) Gracie Proffit, who is hitting .389. Both players have banged out five doubles.
Jada Wilson, who is hitting .317, leads the team with 21 RBIs and had hit four home runs. Marlie Stillwell leads the team with eight doubles.