WHITE HALL — Watson Chapel pitcher Justin Pierce battled through four tough innings but finished strong to earn a win over rival White Hall.
After the Bulldogs had pulled within one run, Pierce retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced to close out a 4-3 complete-game victory on Thursday at White Hall High School.
White Hall scored single runs in the first, third and fourth innings, but the rest of the way could only manage a two-out walk by Kirk Baugh in the sixth.
Wildcats coach Chad Cope was proud of the way his southpaw responded to his early-inning struggles.
“He went up to and over 100 pitches,” Cope said. “Now, I’m really careful with my pitchers but I knew this kid could handle it.
“After the second inning, I challenged him. He said, ‘Coach, I’ve got this.’ And we kind of rode him (Thursday), because we’re a little short on arms.”
Pierce, who allowed six hits with three walks and five strikeouts, credited his defense with helping him earn the win.
“They did a great job of helping me out,” he said. “I have all the confidence in letting them back me up.”
The defense of Watson Chapel (8-4, 4-0 in 5A-South) did have two errors in the game, but Pierce was able to limit the damage.
A fielding error by shortstop Jaylan Jackson did no harm in the second inning. But a fielding error by Pierce on a two-out bunt by Baugh led to the third White Hall (6-3, 2-2) run.
Following the bunt, Pierce gave up a single to Aaron Johnston, and Turner Sparks struck out but reached when the ball got past catcher Landen Colson. With the bases loaded, a wild pitch allowed Baugh to score, but Pierce settled down and induced a groundball to Jackson to end the threat.
On the other side, White Hall starter Cade Canada had a rough outing allowing four runs (all earned) on four hits and two walks in just two innings.
“Cade threw well the first inning,” White Hall coach Skip Carr said. “That second inning we had the error and a couple of walks, and they get one base hit and score three runs.”
Canada gave up three hits in the first inning, but the sophomore escaped unscathed when Caleb Carr threw Jackson out at home plate to end the frame.
Canada was not as lucky in the second inning.
An error by Baugh allowed Kris McCullough to reach base and a one-out walk to Kirel Young put runners on first and second. A fielder’s choice to third baseman Jake Green forced out McCullough but an ill-advised throw to first allowed Young to reach third. Canada then hit Josh Dardenne and walked Jackson to force in the tying run.
Colson, who finished 2 for 2 with two walks, followed with easily the biggest hit of the game — a three-run double down the leftfield line to clear the bases and give Watson Chapel a 4-1 lead.
“We finally got the big hit,” Cope said. “Finally.
“That right there wins ballgames.”
So does allowing no hits over the final three innings of a one-run game like Pierce did.
“He just gets stronger as the game goes on,” Cope said. “Some guys have a rough inning or two and kind of fold.
“The good ones just get stronger and stronger and that’s what he does.”
Pierce, who admitted he struggled a bit in his last outing, is hoping his performance is a sign of things to come.
“They are a great club,” he said of White Hall. “Having a game like this against them is just going to push me even harder.”