The last time East Surry and Walkertown squared off, the Cardinals needed a clutch home run late to come away with a victory.
East didn’t need any late heroics on Saturday.
Madison Chilton homered and the Cardinals pounded the Wolfpack 12-1 in five innings to capture the Northwest 1A Conference tournament championship at Mount Airy High School.
With the win, the state’s top-ranked 1A baseball team remained undefeated on the season at 24-0. East will be at home for the first four state playoff games if it keeps winning.
“I told them before the game, there’s only two more times we’ll have to crank up the bus. One is the regional finals, the other is the state finals,” said coach Barry Hall, who was named coach of the year. “If we play well, it will take a tough team to beat us.”
Tyler Marion handcuffed a solid Walkertown lineup with a perfect game through the first three innings. For the full five innings, Marion gave up one run off four hits, had no walks and fanned six.
Marion and Scott Meredith were named conference players of the year.
“That’s the best I’ve felt all year,” Marion said. “I knew if they hit the ball, my defense was behind me. Everybody played well. We came out early, and everybody hit the ball hard.”
Did they ever.
In the bottom of the first, Logan Sheets drew a leadoff walk on four straight pitches from Walkertown starter Chris Holder. He moved to second on a bunt from Weston Payne, and then scored on a base hit from Alec Wilson for the first run of the evening.
Chilton smashed a two-run shot over the fence in left field to make it 3-0 Cards.
Seth Brim singled and Cody Ashburn drew a walk before Walkertown coach Bobby Smith brought in reliever Cole Creggar. Meredith drew a walk on four straight pitches to load the bases with Blake Marion on deck.
Blake Marion got ahead in the count 3-0 and Smith changed pitchers again — this time bringing in lefty Hunter Wolfington.
His first pitch was outside the strike zone, and the walk allowed another run to score.
Tyler Marion threw just four pitches in the top of the second — getting two groundouts and a flyout on a diving catch by Joshua Sawyers in center field.
Then the Cards poured it on with an eight-run second inning.
Payne and Tyler Marion singled, Wilson was hit by a pitch, and Chilton cleared the bases with an RBI double for a 7-0 lead.
“It’s a good feeling to be a part of such an awesome team,” Chilton said. “It just shows if you work hard, the results will come. If we play East Surry baseball, we know we can do good things.”
Chilton was 2 for 2 with a walk and five RBIs.
Meanwhile, Walkertown’s pitching staff continued to have trouble throwing strikes.
Later in the second inning, Brim reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a passed ball. Sawyers drew a walk on four pitches, and Wolfington issued another walk to Meredith.
Hard-throwing right-hander Bryce McPeen entered for the Wolfpack and got a strikeout, but then allowed a two-run single to Sheets, an RBI single to Payne and a two-run double to Marion.
“We are just going to try to do what we’ve been doing,” Chilton said. “We are getting great pitching, timely hitting, and the guys work hard and hustle.”
Walkertown (17-5) got its only run in the fourth on a Cole Sell RBI sac fly.
East, the top seed from the Northwest Conference, will host a first-round playoff game this week. The Wolfpack, who lost 4-1 and 4-2 to the Cardinals during the regular season, also will be in the playoffs.
After winning the regular season and tournament crown, East has its sights set on a state title.
“We’ve set some goals. Undefeated regular season. Conference championship. We want to crank that bus two more times,” Hall said. “From day one they’ve played and practiced hard. They believe.”
After the game, the all-conference, honorable mention and tournament teams were announced.
Earning all-tournament recognition were Josh Claus (Bishop McGuinness), Brandon Sheppard (Mount Airy), Corey Cook (Walkertown), Nick Haithcox (Walkertown), Travis McCormick (Walkertown), Weston Payne (East Surry), Scott Meredith (East Surry), Tyler Marion (East Surry), and tournament Most Outstanding Player Madison Chilton (East Surry).
All-conference players were Michael Williams (Atkins), Josh Claus (Bishop McGuinness), Matt Neidert (Bishop McGuinness), Weston Payne (East Surry), Scott Meredith (East Surry), Logan Sheets (East Surry), Cody Ashburn (East Surry), Seth Brim (East Surry), Madison Chilton (East Surry), Tyler Marion (East Surry), Alec Wilson (East Surry), John Bowman (Mount Airy), Jon Cagle (Mount Airy), Mitchell Brown (Mount Airy), Justin Gravely (North Stokes), Hunter Wolfington (Walkertown), Kerry Rice (Walkertown), Travis McCormick (Walkertown), Austin Garrett (Walkertown) and Cole Sell (Walkertown).
All-conference honorable mention were Jacob Underwood (Atkins), Will Gardner (Bishop McGuinness), Nick Castellano (Bishop McGuinness), David Sparger (Mount Airy), Kenny Overfelt (Mount Airy), Matt Craddock (North Stokes), Cole Smith (North Stokes), Justin Royal (Walkertown) and Chris Holder (Walkertown).