PILOT MOUNTAIN — An up-and-down regular season for the East Surry baseball team finished on a high note Friday evening.
The Cardinals (14-9, 7-3) celebrated senior night with a convincing 12-1 victory over Mount Airy (3-18, 2-8). East Surry needed just five innings to clinch a second-place tie with North Stokes in the Northwest Conference.
The win marked the final regular season home game in the careers of Travis Taylor, Tyler Smith, Jared Marion, Staymon Johnson, Alex Eubanks, Blake Marion, Corbin Kiser and Wyatt Guy.
“It’s an emotional night. Just to be able to win is always nice, but being able to win in a strong fashion is a nice added touch to that,” East Surry coach Chad Freeman said. “We weren’t our sharpest tonight all across the board, but the kids played hard and that’s all you can ask for.”
East Surry jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first and got the bats going right away. John Marion reached base with a walk, and Smith followed him with a first-pitch RBI double into the left center field gap. AJ Wilson and Tyler Chilton each had RBI singles to finish off the inning.
Those three runs were more than enough for Smith, who tossed a complete game on the mound for the Cardinals. Twelve of the Bears’ 15 outs on Friday came via Smith strikeouts.
East Surry no-hit Mount Airy in the teams’ previous meeting this season, but an infield single by Cooper Orange busted Smith’s no-hit bid in the top of the third. The Bears scored their lone run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Chris Chanclor.
Tanner Dutton and Matthew Dodd joined Orange and Chanclor as the four Granite Bears to record hits on the evening.
“I think (Smith) had a ton of adrenaline flowing early in the game, and that last inning I think it was flowing as well cause he wanted the shutout,” Freeman said. “You can’t fault him. He’s given us a great effort all year long, and Mount Airy was able to scratch a run across in the last inning.”
After giving up an early lead, Orange settle down for a pair of shutout innings. Then the Cardinals opened the flood gates with a nine-run output in the bottom of the fourth. John Marion, Blake Marion, AJ Wilson, Kain Kiser, Corbin Kiser, Staymon Johnson and Bailey Johnson each drove in a run while taking advantage of three Mount Airy errors.
East Surry and North Stokes will settle their two-seed tiebreaker in the Northwest Conference tournament with a coin flip at the conference meeting on Saturday. The top two seeds each get a bye when the tournament starts on Monday, so whoever wins the coin flip would only need two wins to become champions.
But perhaps the most important game for the Vikings and Cardinals would be their potential meeting in the semifinal. The winner would clinch the Northwest’s two-seed in the NCHSAA playoffs, and potentially a first round home game via the higher seed.
“I think if we just find a way to stay focused and clean up some of our mental mistakes, we will have a chance to play our best in tournament and the playoffs,” Freeman said.
The Bears wrap up the season in fifth place and will travel to Bishop McGuinness on Monday for the first round of the tournament.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16