WEST JEFFERSON — Ashe County’s varsity baseball has been gifted with a pair of stellar pitching performances to open the 2016 season.
The Huskies opened the year on Saturday facing Mount Airy in a tournament at West Wilkes High School.
Senior pitching ace Joseph Lowder tossed six innings of two-hit ball while striking out 13 Mount Airy batters. Garrett Miller pitched the seventh inning to clinch a 6-0 win over the Bears.
Lowder and Bradley Richie both collected two hits at the plate. Sophomore Tate Hudler and junior Turtle Windish each added a hit. Lowder, Windish, Miller, Richie, Hudler and Ben Brown all crossed the plate once for Ashe’s six runs.
This was Mount Airy’s fourth game of the season while it was Ashe’s season opener. The Bears fell to 1-3 overall.
On Monday, the Huskies were back on the diamond for the home opener against Avery County.
Junior pitcher Pierce Cox followed up Lowder’s performance by pitching all seven innings and allowing just one run, which came with two outs in the top of the seventh. Cox struck out 10 Viking batters and surrendered three hits and two walks as Ashe scored a 2-1 victory.
The game started out as a real pitcher’s duel between Cox and Avery’s starter, Jordan Lecka.
The game remained scoreless until the fifth inning when a one-out walk to Brown got things started for Ashe. Gabe Elliott followed that up with a double to center. With runners on second and third, Brown scampered home on a wild pitch to give the Huskies a 1-0 advantage.
Cox drew a walk to keep the inning alive for Hudler. Cox took off for second base and the throw from the catcher sailed into center field. Elliott scored from third to push the lead to 2-0.
In the top of the sixth, Avery was able to get a two-out walk, but Cox pitched out of it to send the game to the bottom of the sixth.
Richie led the sixth off with a walk, but Lecka clamped down and got two straight groundouts and a pop up to first to end the winning.
Avery opened the seventh with two straight singles to keep their hopes alive with three outs remaining.
Cox got a groundout for the first out and nearly rolled a perfect double play ball, but the throw from second to first pulled Kendall Richardson off the bag, allowing a run to score.
With the tying run on first, Cox got a ground ball hit right to Windish for the final out of the game.
Ashe County head coach Mike Windish was pleased with how both of his starters looked on the mound in the first two contests.
“They did a good job for us working first pitch strikes and did a good job getting hitters off balance,” said Windish. “We’ll be looking for that all season, that’s just something we’re going to have to have.”
The bats have been a little slow to start off the season, but that’s something the coaches are not too concerned with.
“I think that’s common for most teams across the state. Pitching is always going to be ahead of the bats,” said Windish. “I think you’ll see the swings starting to come around as temperatures warm up and as players get use to hitting off of live arms.”
On Wednesday night, Ashe will travel to Hibriten looking to start off 3-0.
“Turtle is going to pitch tonight, he’s a hard thrower,” Windish said. “We’re hoping to get at least four or five innings out of Turtle and come back with Garrett Miller and Ben Brown towards the end of the game.”
Next up, Ashe will be at North Surry on Monday, March 14 before jumping into conference play on Tuesday at Starmount.
The junior varsity squad opened the season with a 12-2 win in five innings at home against Avery.
“The JV kids came out and pounded the ball. They’ve got some good pitching too and some kids that will come up to varsity at the tail end of the season to help out,” said Windish.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87