WALNUT COVE — The North Surry and South Stokes baseball teams met on the diamond for the fourth time in two weeks on Tuesday, but the final showdown between the two WPAC rivals carried the highest stakes of all.
The No. 15 Sauras hosted the No. 18 Greyhounds in the first round of the NCHSAA 2A playoffs, but North Surry (17-9) pulled off the upset with a 7-4 road win. It was a revenge victory as South Stokes (15-12) bested the Hounds 4-2 on Friday night in the semifinals of the WPAC tournament, then went on to win the event and steal a first-round home game from North Surry.
Kendal Tucker carried the Hounds to victory, going 1-2 with a home run and driving in four. Tucker also pitched the final inning to earn the save after Brady Watts battled through the first six innings on the mound.
“We competed and found a way to win,” North Surry coach Tony Martin said. “Brady didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled and fought. Kendal hasn’t pitched much this year. We’ve been bitten a little by the injury bug, but I appreciate their effort and mentality tonight.”
After striking out the side in the top of the first, South Stokes’ Jake Carter got into trouble right away in the second inning. The first two batters reached base and South Stokes went to Mason Hutton out of the bullpen.
Hutton got one out, but North Surry struck first when Jacob McHone doubled down the right-field line and Kobe Slate followed with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead. One batter later, Tucker drove a 2-1 fastball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer and North Surry led 5-0.
“(South Stokes) hasn’t given me a lot of pitches to hit this year, but I saw the fastball on the inner-half and got my hands through it. Somehow poked it out to right field,” Tucker said.
North Surry added a run in the third when Chase Chandler, who reached base with a leadoff walk, crossed home plate on a wild pitch. The 6-0 lead seemed like it would be more than enough for Watts, who was cruising along through two innings.
“Great start. That’s something we haven’t been doing a lot of this year,” Coach Martin said. “It relaxes you a little bit and puts the kids in the right frame of mind early on.”
However, South Stokes started to find success off the senior lefty in the bottom of the third and got runners into scoring position every inning thereafter. The Sauras scored two runs in the third and two runs in the fifth to trim the deficit to 6-4. Watts totaled six innings pitched with three earned runs and seven strikeouts. He walked four Sauras and hit two, but for the most part, worked around his lack of control.
Tucker came through again in the top of the sixth with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Slate from third. North Surry led 7-4 heading into the seventh after a shutdown inning from Watts.
In the bottom of the seventh, Tucker walked the first batter he faced, but settled down to close the ballgame with two flyouts and a strikeout. It was just his third pitching appearance of the season, but it was by far the most intense atmosphere he’s faced on the mound this season.
“That was the first time I had to come in for a real close-game situation,” Tucker said. “I knew I had to throw strikes. I’m not that much of a pitcher. I got to keep working, but tonight I just had to trust my defense and live with the fastball.”
North Surry now awaits its opponent in the second round of the playoffs. No. 2 Reidsville will host No. 31 Hendersonville Wednesday with the winner facing the Greyhounds on Friday night.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16