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Watauga rallies past Alexander Central, 5-2

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — Efficient pitching with a low pitch count allowed Watauga senior starting pitcher Jameson Hodges to go the distance on March 25, the Pioneers defeating 4A rival Alexander Central, 5-2.

What started out as a pitcher’s duel morphed into a game of threats and opportunities, with the Pioneers getting the upper hand. The visiting Cougars got on the scoreboard first in the third inning but Watauga responded with a 3-run fourth inning. When ACHS put up another run in the top of the sixth inning, the Pioneers came back with two more in the bottom half of the inning.

Watauga senior Jameson Hodges went the distance on March 25 in the Pioneers’ 5-2 win over Alexander Central. Photographic image by David Rogers

And then Hodges took care of the Cougars in the top of the 7th, retiring the side with a 3-up, 3-down performance that included a strikeout and two ground outs to save the victory.

“Hodges’ complete game tonight is the first complete game for us this season,” said Watauga head coach Mike Windish afterwards. “He was very efficient and went the distance with a fairly low pitch count.”

Senior catcher Cooper Critcher started Watauga’s scoring in the fourth inning with an RBI double that plated Evan Burroughs, who got on the bases with a one-out walk. He was followed by Maddox Greene, who singled through the left side to advance Burroughs to second base. Although it was Critcher who knocked in the Pioneers first run with his RBI double in the next at-bat, it was first baseman J T Cook who did the most damage when he ripped a worm-burner up the middle and into center field. That scored pinch runner Dillon Zaragoza as well as Greene.

ACHS junior Grayson Anderson is said to be a college D1 prospect and pitched well against the Pioneers, but dropped a 5-2 decision. Photographic image by David Rogers

Alexander Central had some early opportunities with men on base and in scoring position. They just couldn’t capitalize. They did manufacture one more run in the top of the 6th inning, taking advantage of a Hodges walk awarded to the inning’s first batter, Cougar sophomore Sawyer Chapman-Mays. Two singles later, Chapman-Mays had advanced to third base when Hodges threw a wild pitch, scoring a run. But when Hodges got Connor Braswell to ground out to Greene at shortstop, the inning was over — at least for the Cougars.

For Watauga, it was a different story. Alexander Central starting pitcher Grayson Anderson looked every bit the Division I college prospect he is said to be for most of the game. But in the bottom of the 6th, fatigue may have started to set in for the junior hurler. He walked the first batter, Greene, then hit the next batter, Critcher, to put men on first and second. Cook then rapped a short fly ball to left for his second hit of the evening, to load the bases. Jake Blanton plated the first run of the evening with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Greene with a head first slide to the plate (see cover photo). Courtesy runner Zaragoza then scored on a Cade Keller sacrifice fly to right. The inning came to an end when David Pastusic grounded into a fielder’s choice, which nabbed Cook for the third out.

Hodges on the mound, pitching to Alexander Central freshman Graham Hoke on March 25. Photographic image by David Rogers

Then came Hodges’ masterful pitching in the top of the seventh, including his fifth strikeout of the night and two groundouts. When the Cougars’ Graham Hoke rolled a grounder to shortstop Greene, who fielded it cleanly and rifled the ball to Cook at first for the final out, the Pioneer faithful who had braved the cold weather to watch breathed a sigh of relief.

After the game, the Cougars’ head coach, Pete Hardee (who previously was Watauga’s head coach for several years) was candid in speaking with High Country Sports.

“It was cold tonight, but I have been here and played here when it was worse. Tonight, we just couldn’t get that big hit at the right time,” said Hardee. “Hodges threw the ball extremely well. I thought he mixed his pitches very effectively and Watauga played excellent defense. At shortstop, Maddox (Greene) was strong. We missed a key hit here and there and, if not, maybe we could have turned this game around. Watauga is a good ball club and well-coached. We just have to try and get better.”

On March 25, Watauga played good defense vs. Alexander Central. Here, first baseman J T Cook stretches to take a throw from shortstop Maddox Greene. Photographic image by David Rogers

Watauga head coach Mike Windish compared the 7th inning situation to their previous game, a loss to South Caldwell.

“This was very similar,” he said. “Against South Caldwell, we went into the 7th inning with a 3-run lead, but let it get away from us. Tonight, we finished. Their guy, Anderson, did a heckuva job on the mound for most of the game. He held us off, but we capitalized on some timely hits and some timely mistakes by ACHS in which we scored on those. In the seventh, our guy, Hodges, pitched really well. He was very efficient tonight.”

Watauga will go on the road to Lenoir, vs. Hibriten, for another Northwestern Conference matchup on Tuesday, March 26. On the same day, Alexander Central hosts 4A conference rival, South Caldwell.

TOP PERFORMERS

  • WAT – Jameson Hodges: winning pitcher, complete game, 5 strikeouts, 2 runs on 7 hits
  • WAT – J T Cook: 2-3, 2 RBIs
  • WAT – Maddox Greene: 1-2, 2 runs scored, 1 walk
  • WAT – Cooper Critcher: 1-2, 1 RBI, 2B
  • WAT – Jake Blanton: 1-2, 1 RBI
  • WAT – Dillon Zaragoza: Courtesy runner, 2 runs scored
  • AC – Jaret Hoppes: 2-4, 1 run scored
  • AC – N. Pope: 2-3, 2B
  • AC – Grayson Anderson: 1-3

 

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