Woolard propels Pungo to first-round winPublished 12:02am Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Critics have called him overrated. Some have even condemned the level of competition he faces, but the Pungo ace isn’t listening. Because in the end, call him whatever you like. Cole Austin Woolard is letting his game speak for itself.
On Tuesday, the Raiders knocked off Wayne Country Day in the first round of the NCISAA Class 1-A State Championships, 2-1. Woolard went the distance for the sixth time this season and came through with the game-winning hit.
Yet, this didn’t look like a signature Pungo win out of the gate. Woolard administered a leadoff walk to sophomore Parker Smith and the defense followed with an error. The result was a quick run, but Woolard worked his way out of a jam to prevent further damage.
Against freshman pitcher Mitch Turnage, the Pungo bats were silent until they threatened with two runners on and one out in the third. Turnage escaped by picking off leadoff man Dalton Etheridge at first and forcing a groundout from Woolard.
The following inning, however, the Raiders evened the contest in unusual fashion. Junior Ryan Tooley led off the inning by connecting with a fastball and depositing it over the head of the right fielder for a stand-up triple. As the Pungo faithful erupted, the young freshman pitcher got raddled and moved ever so slightly on the rubber. The result was a balk and the umpire awarded Tooley home.
Woolard gained strength with each pitch and began racking up strikeouts. In the fifth, he would get all the run support he needed.
After Etheridge smashed a single to left field, he managed to swipe second base, putting himself in scoring position for sophomore Will Respess with one out. Respess swung late and recorded the second out on a pop fly to the pitcher. Woolard followed with a chance to put his team on top.
The senior came through and smashed an RBI-double to the gap in right-center, scoring Etheridge.
On the mound, Woolard retired six out of the final seven batters of the game, striking out the final two with a runner on second to send the Raiders to the next round. He finished with nine Ks and allowed just that one unearned run.
“I’m hoping the bats start to come alive in the next round,” said head coach John Scott Cutler. “We don’t get a lot of hits, but here lately we’ve been getting timely hits. Just enough to get us by.”
Pungo will face Oakwood in Greenville on Friday in the second round of the state tournament. The Raiders suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Oakwood in early March. Will Respess, who boasts a 2.03 ERA in 20.2 innings this season, is the probable pitcher, according to Cutler.