BOONE — Both of Watauga’s instructional league teams collected victories over visiting Hickory May 29.
Watauga’s team that includes players who played on the varsity and junior varsity teams during the 2019 Watauga High School season rallied for six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to beat Hickory 8-5.
Watauga’s team that includes several rising ninth-graders and some players who played for the Pioneers JV team in 2019 captured a 4-0 win over Hickory in the first game of the doubleheader. Both games lasted five innings.
Watauga’s veteran players trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the fourth inning, but sent 11 batters to the plate and rallied for six runs. Watauga accepted four walks, three who scored runs.
Andrew Freeman walked and Calvin Greene singled to start the rally. Both moved up a base on a Hunter Norris sacrifice bunt, leaving the Pioneers with runners on third and second base.
One batter later, Carson Warren laid down a safety squeeze bunt, which drove in Freeman. Warren also reached base when Freeman beat the throw on Warren’s bunt. Greene said he called for Norris to bunt to see how Hickory would react. Warren bunted on his own, which paid off with a Watauga run.
“In that fourth, we were able to get some people on and put a little pressure on them,” Watauga coach Ethan Greene said. “We scored some runs and put a little pressure on their arms. It’s always more difficult on a pitcher when things get fast around you and guys start running and you can’t get anybody out.”
Greene, who moved to third base, scored on a wild pitch. Rivers Gore reached base when Hickory pitcher Davis McNeeley dropped Gore’s pop fly. Warren eventually scored on a wild pitch and Gore scored on a double steal with Jacob McInturff when McInturff, who reached base via a walk, stole second base.
Austin Idol received Watauga’s fourth walk of the inning and scored on Tyler Ward’s single.
Norris and Warren also scored runs in the first inning, which gave Watauga a 2-0 lead. The Pioneers fell behind in the third inning when Hickory rallied for five runs.
“We had a pretty good first inning and in the next two we kind of struggled,” Greene said. “As far as the at-bats we had, we didn’t have some great at-bats and kind of made it easy on their arms and defense.”
Watauga finished with five hits, including two from McInturff. Hickory settled for five hits, four of them in the third inning. Ward started on the mound for Watauga and was followed by Ryan Fox, Freeman, Gore and Ryan Beach-Verhey.
Watauga won the first game by scoring two runs in the first inning and two more in the second. Cooper Riddle walked in both innings and scored each time. Thomas Clements drove in three of the runs, Jacob Dilley in the first inning and Riddle and Tristan Salinas in the second inning.
Riddle also scored in the first inning.
Watauga received six walks in the four innings it batted. Salinas singled in the first inning and Dilley singled in the second.
Salinas pitched the first inning for Watauga. Riddle pitched the second inning, Flood pitched the third inning, Whit Shellman pitched the fourth and Dilley pitched the fifth.
Watauga’s pitching struggled in its last outing, a 13-3 loss to McDowell in a seven-inning game that involved both of Watauga’s teams, but the junior varsity pitchers had much better control against Hickory.
Greene liked how Watauga’s pitchers threw in both games.
“Everybody that we threw, 10 different guys in 10 innings total combined in the two games was able to command the ball,” Greene said. “If we can do that we can compete with anybody and be successful.”