WALKERTOWN — The East Surry baseball team got off to a dream start in Thursday’s conference showdown with Walkertown, but the Wolfpack bats eventually broke through.
An early 7-0 lead for East Surry (12-9, 5-3) only lasted until the bottom of the fifth inning, and Walkertown eventually earned a walk-off 9-8 victory over the Cardinals. An infield single by Brian Gatewood scored Austin Asbury with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to cap off the Wolfpack’s comeback win.
Walkertown (16-3, 8-0) also officially dethroned the Northwest Conference kings on Thursday. East Surry had won the league title every season since the conference formed in 2012, but the one-run win for the Wolfpack clinched the regular season championship.
“We’re glad we got to finish it at home,” Walkertown coach Bobby Smith said. “We’re really happy for our seniors, and to have done it against East Surry is just great because, rightfully so, they’ve been the class of the conference.”
There were moments where things looked grim for the hosts on Thursday. The Wolfpack gave up an 8-7 lead in the top of the seventh when AJ Wilson scored Tyler Smith on a single to left field. With the game tied, East Surry’s next two batters reached base with a walk.
Alex Eubanks came up to bat, but the East Surry center fielder grounded Josh Robledo’s pitch right back where it came from. Robledo fired home before his catcher whipped the ball to first for a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning and keep the score tied at 8.
In the bottom of the inning, Ashbury and Robbie Robledo led things off with back-to-back singles against Jared Marion. Robledo reached base when a harmless grounder to first resulted in an infield hit because no one covered first base. Marion settled down, though, and got two straight outs.
However, the next batter was Gatewood, whose game-winning single drove in his second run and was his third hit of the evening.
“It’s the little things,” East Surry coach Chad Freeman said. “It’s some physical errors and some mental errors. We played pretty well today at times, but against a good ball club like Walkertown, you can’t make those mistakes and expect to win.”
East Surry started the game off scorching hot. The first four batters of the game reached base with singles, and the Cards chased Walkertown starting pitcher Casey Wagoner out of the game.
Bryce McTeer came in and couldn’t limit the damage. Tyler Chilton drew a bases-loaded walk and Wyatt Guy roped a two-run double. A sacrifice fly from Eubanks was followed by a successful suicide squeeze by Kain Kiser, and East Surry led 6-0 after the top of the first.
Smith came across to score again in the next inning, but McTeer settled down from there. The senior righty logged 6 1/3 innings and didn’t give up another run before East Surry tied things in the seventh.
“We got up on (Walkertown) early but just couldn’t put them away,” Freeman said. “Bryce throws the ball really well, and he kind of got going in the middle innings. I felt like we took a good approach; he just starting finding his groove.”
Walkertown began its comeback in the bottom of the second. East Surry starting pitcher Kain Kiser struggled with command and gave up five runs in the frame. He also found a groove as the game went on, and tossed a pair of scoreless innings before a two-run fifth forced Freeman to make a pitching change.
The loss means East Surry must win out to guarantee itself at least a tie for second place. North Stokes (12-8, 4-3) sits a half-game behind the Cardinals in the conference standings, and the two teams would have to settle a deadlock in the conference tournament at Mount Airy High School.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16