PILOT MOUNTAIN — Scott Meredith took the sting right out of the Hayesville Yellowjacket bats to start Game 1 of the Class 1A Western regional baseball final.
Then East Surry batted around in the bottom half of the inning.
The Cardinals (29-0) scored seven runs in the first and Meredith took a one-hit shutout into the fifth as East cruised 9-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Game 2 is Thursday night in Hayesville.
“It’s a great feeling,” Meredith said. “I felt in control the whole game, especially getting a couple of runs in the beginning.”
Meredith struck out the side in the first inning before the Cards went after Hayesville starter Davis Carter.
Logan Sheets smashed a double down the right-field line and Weston Payne was hit by a pitch. Tyler Marion drove in the first run of the game with a base hit. Alec Wilson was hit by a pitch and then Madison Chilton had an RBI single down the left field line to make it 2-0.
Seth Brim drove in two more runs with a single to left, and Meredith helped his own cause with a hard chopper to left to score another run. Joshua Sawyers walked to load the bases. Sheets, in his second at-bat of the inning, drew another walk from Carter to make it 6-0.
Carter was relieved by Connor Thompson, who gave up an RBI groundout to Payne for a seven-run Card lead.
“They drilled base hit after base hit,” Coach Barry Hall of East Surry said. “Scott threw real well. He had control of all three of his pitches. He was great all night.”
Meredith, a senior right-hander, gave up one run off four hits, had no walks and struck out nine to improve his record to 8-0 on the season.
Cody Ashburn drove in Wilson with a double in the second, and Brim added an RBI double in the fourth to score courtesy runner Preston Smith on a close play at the plate.
Thompson only gave up three hits in relief for Hayesville, but the damage had already been done. The Yellowjackets committed four errors in the game.
“(Meredith) threw an outstanding game,” Coach Jeff Vardo of Hayesville said. “You could easily tell he has been there before. He had a game plan, and he stuck with the game plan. Give East Surry credit. They put the ball in action and their pitcher played a great game.”
The series now shifts to Hayesville for Game 2 on Thursday night. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. The Yellowjackets, who beat Cherryville to reach the regional final, had a 10-game win streak snapped in the loss on Tuesday.
Hall said nothing in the scouting report suggested a 9-1 final score.
“They were 20-2 and lost to two very good teams. They never quit,” Hall said. “Scott was in the groove and I thought the kids responded well to the regional atmosphere. This is big. The fans have been great.”
Up next for East is the long trek to Hayesville — 262 miles and a four-and-a-half hour drive from Pilot Mountain. East is expected to throw junior right-hander Tyler Marion in Game 2. Marion hasn’t lost this season either; most recently pitching the Cards to a 3-1 win over Albemarle in the fourth round.
Meredith said he was shocked at the final score of the series opener.
“They are like a mirror image of us,” Meredith said. “We just have to keep playing East Surry baseball. The pressure is on them. It will be a fun bus ride. I don’t think we’ll be sluggish. I think we’ll be loose.”
Hayesville could turn to its No. 1 pitcher Tyler Leek in Game 2. The sophomore is 7-1 on the season with an ERA of 0.88.
The Yellowjackets need a win to force a decisive Game 3 on Saturday at Barry Hall Field.
“We’ll go home. You take away the first inning, and it’s a pretty good ball game,” Vardo said. “We were trying to get two hits with every at-bat trying to play catch-up.”
The unbeaten Cards can close out the series and advance to the state championship series with a win on the road Thursday. It would be the third trip to the state finals for Hall, who has more than 700 career victories.
Judging by the way East has played so far, the longtime coach has every reason to be confident in his team to get back to the championship series.
“If we hit like we did tonight, I feel like we can come off the mountain with a win,” Hall said.