PILOT MOUNTAIN — Despite the daunting presence of Tyler Smith, pitchers’ duels just haven’t resulted in victories for the East Surry baseball team this season.
Last week, the Cardinals (6-8, 1-2) lost their second straight game in the Northwest Conference by one run, this time a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Walkertown. The Wolfpack’s Robbie Robledo matched Smith inning for inning, and a small-ball approach by Walkertown (9-3, 2-0) helped Robledo earn the win with a complete-game performance.
“Robbie is incredibly poised and a great pitcher,” East Surry coach Chad Freeman said. “He made pitches when he needed to… We had some chances with runners on a couple times, but again you have to give credit to Walkertown because they made some plays.”
Robledo struck out seven batters and yielded only four base hits over his seven innings of work. Smith bettered his opponent with 15 strikeouts and two hits allowed, but the Wolfpack scratched across a run thanks to timely execution in the top of the fifth.
Sophomore catcher Jake Sell, who was the only Wolfpack batter to reach base twice on Tuesday, led off the inning with a single into left field. A sacrifice bunt quickly moved Sell over to second base. The next batter for Walkertown was Will Webster, and a first-pitch curveball in the dirt got past the East Surry catcher and Sell sprinted safely to third base.
After taking another ball in the dirt, Webster squared around for a suicide squeeze on Smith’s next pitch. It wasn’t perfect, as Webster’s bunt popped up into the air, but the ball found a hole and landed just in between Smith and the East Surry second basemen for a Wolfpack run and the decisive 1-0 lead.
Smith went on to strike out seven of the final eight batters after that squeeze, but the damage was done.
“It was ugly, but (Walkertown) executed when they needed to. It wasn’t executed the way they thought it would be executed, but it dropped in between the pitcher and second baseman and there was nothing we could do about it,” Freeman said.
East Surry’s best opportunity to find a breakthrough against Robledo came in the bottom of the fourth, just before Walkertown got its run. Smith led off the inning with a single up the middle, and AJ Wilson reached base on a hit by pitch with one out.
A passed ball advanced both runners, but Robledo fanned Tyler Chilton on a low fastball for the second out. With Wyatt Guy at the plate and facing a 1-2 count, Robledo lost control of a fastball and it skipped past his catcher. Smith tried to take home on the wild pitch, but the Wolfpack recovered in time to nail Smith out at the plate.
“We knew going into the game, it was going to take one or two runs to win,” Freeman said. “Tyler read the passed ball, and if he had to do it over again, I’m sure he would go because we had to try and score a run right there.”
“If he scores, we’re leading 1-0, and the game goes a lot different from there.”
Other East Surry players to record a hit on Tuesday were Wilson, Luke Horton and Blake Marion. The Cardinals also had a pair of batters reach base with a walk, but East Surry couldn’t muster a run and were held to one run or less for the fourth time in five games.
This was also a big game in the race for the Northwest Conference. East Surry and Walkertown finished 1-2 in the standings last season, but the Cardinals are already two games behind in the loss column after the loss.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16