Baseball -- EW's Vinson wins battle of southpaws
By David Williams
Published in Sports on April 4, 2004 9:21 AM
Two strong, promising young pitchers put on a show Friday night as Eastern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock played another classic county-rival baseball game Friday night.
Then an unheralded pinch-hitter stole the show.
Tyler Mitchell's single to left in the bottom of the sixth inning capped a two-run surge for Eastern Wayne, which was enough to hold off the Golden Falcons 2-1 in a huge game for the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference baseball wars.
The two left-handed pitchers -- Aycock's Adam Williams and Eastern Wayne's Airlon Vinson -- dueled for five innings and played a superb game of one-upmanship with the opposition's batters. Both struck out six hitters each, and both overcame shaky defensive plays to keep the other team off the board.
Vinson pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fourth, giving up two hits through the first five innings.
"Airlon threw one heck of a ball game," said Eastern Wayne coach Jabo Fulghum. "He threw the ball well -- mixed it up, spotted, located. Of course, their pitcher did the same. He shut our bats down and Airlon pretty much shut theirs down."
"Airlon threw a heck of a ball game for them," said Aycock coach Charles Davis. "Him and Adam Williams both -- neither one really deserved to lose."
Williams did not surrender a hit through five innings and escaped a potential scoring situation in the second inning without yielding a run.
"He's thrown like that three weeks in a row and has nothing to show for it," said Davis, whose team lost its fourth straight close game.
The deciding runs came with Eastern Wayne down 1-0 after Aycock had forged a run in the top of the sixth inning.
The Falcons' Josh Kirby delivered a hit to score Nik Pappas. Pappas reached base on Eastern Wayne's fourth infield error of the night, then advanced on a balk to third base. Kirby then drive in Pappas for a 1-0 Aycock lead.
The Warriors came back when Jesse Lancaster drew a walk to lead off the inning. Matt Hemenway then reached on an infield single that resulted in a close play at first base.
Trey Johnson moved the runners up with a well-executed sacrifice bunt, but Tyler Ham grounded back to the pitcher with the next at-bat for the first out of the inning.
Lancaster scored to tie the game on a passed ball. Then Mitchell came off the bench and stroked a sharp single to left to easily plate Hemenway and take a 2-1 lead.
"Tell you what -- Tyler Mitchell came in and got a clutch hit for us," said Fulghum. "That was his first at-bat tonight, lefty on lefty, and he gets a base hit the opposite way."
Aycock fought back with their final at-bats. After Alex Raper reached base on the final error of the night to open the inning, Matthew Waddell sacrifice-bunted him over to second. But Vinson came up big with a strikeout.
After Philip Cunningham was walked intentionally, Pappas flew out to left field to close out the game.
"I cannot fault my guys' effort," said Davis. "They battled just as hard. I was proud of them. I was prouder of their attitudes and their actions tonight. Any time Aycock and Eastern Wayne gets together, it's going to be a battle."
"They played hard and it could have gone their way," said Fulghum. "We were fortunate to come out with a win. I'm proud of the kids -- they battled, but Airlon threw the ball extremely well."
Davis was encouraging about his team, which fell to 3-4 in ECC play and 5-5 overall.
"I've told these kids that they've got to continue to believe that things are going to change," Davis said. "The ball's going to bounce our way. We are going to start driving in runs with runners on third base and less than two out, which we failed to do again tonight except for one situation. Things like that (the passed ball) through this stretch are killing us.
"We just have to keep working and work our way through it -- and we will, and then eventually those calls will go our way, those balls will go our way, we're going to hit some balls that find the holes and we'll get out of this slump we're in."
The Golden Falcons are playing three games at home next week -- against Washington on Tuesday, Goldsboro on Thursday and North Lenoir on Friday.
Eastern Wayne (6-5, 5-2) will stay home as well, playing Kinston on Tuesday and South Central on Thursday.
C.B. Aycock 000 001 0 -- 1 3 2
E. Wayne 000 002 x -- 2 2 5
Leading hitters -- C.B. Aycock -- Josh Kirby RBI hit; Bennett Jeffreys hit; Will Spence hit. Eastern Wayne -- Matt Hemenway hit; Tyler Mitchell hit, RBI.
IP H R ER BB SO
Adam Williams (L) 6 2 2 1 3 6
Airlon Vinson (W) 7 3 1 0 1 6
PB -- Jeffreys.
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