PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry’s AJ Wilson turned in a pitching performance worthy of a victory against South Stokes on Thursday, but the Cardinals didn’t do enough offensively or defensively to give their freshman lefty the win.
The Sauras scored two unearned runs in the third inning and received a gem from their own pitcher, Andrew Tilley, in a 2-0 win over East Surry. Tilley tossed a complete-game shutout with nine strikeouts while only allowing three hits to propel South Stokes (7-2) to victory.
Wilson also pitched a complete game, allowing just four hits and striking out 10 Saura batters. He threw 70 strikes out of his 99 pitches, but was out-dueled by Tilley.
“AJ was phenomenal,” East Surry coach Chad Freeman said. “After having a rough outing last time against North Surry, he did a tremendous job of bouncing back to go seven innings with no earned runs.”
East Surry’s problematic defense reared its ugly head back into the picture in the top of the third. Kain Kiser couldn’t handle a leadoff grounder from Josh Green, and Mason Dutton reached safely on a hit by pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs.
After a strikeout from Wilson, Jake Carter legged out an infield single to load the bases. Next up was South Stokes’ cleanup man and best hitter, Tanner Birkholz, who rolled a slow grounder to East Surry shortstop Blake Marion. The Cardinals got the out at second, but Tyler Smith’s throw to first base was late and wide of the bag, allowing South Stokes to score two runs on the fielder’s choice.
Those two errors in the top of the third proved to be the only defensive miscues on the evening for East Surry (5-5). It was a disappointing way to lose for Freeman, but after committing four errors in a 15-7 win over Bishop McGuinness on Tuesday, the Cardinals fully believe they’re making strides.
“Gradually we’re starting to make progress and cut down the errors,” Freeman said. “We cut it down from four to two tonight, and the next step is get it to zero.”
The two runs were more than enough for Tilley. The South Stokes pitcher did a nice job commanding all three of his pitches, mixing speeds and location to keep the Cardinal bats off-balance.
However, it was also just one of those nights for East Surry. The Cardinals’ two hardest hit balls of the evening both found the inside of a South Stokes defender’s glove.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Tyler Chilton roped a line drive into the left-center gap, but Alex Owens made a great first-step and finished it off with a diving catch. Chilton could only tip his helmet in approval as he headed back to the dugout.
The following inning was perhaps East Surry’s best chance at scoring off Tilley. John Marion, who was 2-2 on the day, led things off with a walk. Smith was the next batter and sent an 0-1 fastball deep into center field, but it couldn’t get past the warning track and in the end was just a long out.
“Those two were just kind of unlucky,” Freeman said. “But we still have to do a better job of finding a way to get some runs across when we get guys in scoring position. We have to just find a big hit.”
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16