04/07/04 — Baseball -- EW tops Kinston

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Baseball -- EW tops Kinston

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 7, 2004 2:03 PM

Preseason critics expected the Eastern Wayne baseball team to struggle this season after graduation took away some of its power and most of its leadership.

Look at the Warriors now.

Eastern Wayne (7-5) moved into a second-place tie in the highly-competitive Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference with a 5-2 decision against Kinston on Tuesday evening. The victory placed the Warriors and South Central at 6-2, one-half game behind league-leading West Carteret, which is 6-1.

Airlon Vinson and Antonio Whitfield.jpg

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Eastern Wayne first baseman Airlon Vinson takes a throw from the mound during a pickoff attempt in the Warriors' game against Kinston Tuesday at Eastern Wayne. Kinston baserunner Antonio Whitfield got back safely on the play. Eastern Wayne pitcher Jesse Lancaster had picked off the baserunner ahead of Whitfield.

"I think a lot of people think we wouldn't be, but I knew we had a chance to be sitting where we are right now," veteran Warriors coach Jabo Fulghum said. "I am tickled for our kids. I'm tickled for our program, but we've got another half to play.

"Any conference win is a big win."

Each team, admittedly, struggled on the New Hope diamond.

The Warriors batted 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base in the regulation seven-inning game. They committed numerous base running mistakes that almost proved costly in the middle innings.

Kinston averaged an error defensively each inning and allowed two unearned runs. Offensively, the Vikings (3-10, 3-5 ECC) collected just one hit in eight chances with runners in scoring position. They also had a runner picked off at first base in the second inning.

Reggie Dixon's first-inning home run, his third of the season, gave the visitors a 1-0 lead. They held that advantage until the Warriors knotted the game at 1-1 in the third on Matt Hemenway's sacrifice fly, which scored Airlon Vinson.

Eastern Wayne right-hander Jesse Lancaster, who is 2-1 in his last three starts, retired the side in the fourth. His teammates gave him a little breathing room in the bottom half of the inning.

Tyler Mitchell caught the Viking defense off guard with a bunt and easily beat the throw to first base. One out later, Billy McKinley laced a double into the right center field gap and Mitchell rounded third for home on the play. However, Mitchell missed third base and had to go back.

An infield error loaded the bases for Vinson, who dropped a single into shallow left field. Mitchell and McKinley scored for a 3-1 advantage. Lancaster drove home Garrett Sutton, who reached on an error, to make it 4-1.

"They got some big hits and I give them credit for that," Kinston coach Eddie Loesner said. "We've just got to do a better job defensively. I thought our pitchers threw well enough to win.

"We've just got to battle through this and believe we can stay within striking distance."

From there, Lancaster took over. He masterfully found his spots and kept the Vikings offstride in the box. Kinston had two hits and put three more runners on via infield errors, but it could never get the game-breaking hit.

"Jesse pitched well," Fulghum said. "He located better towards the end of the game than he did at the beginning. I was tickled to see that. He mixed up his pitches well in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings."

Sutton snagged a pair of seventh-inning pop flies in shallow right field to preserve Lancaster's second mound win of the season. Lancaster struck out five, walked two and scattered four hits in a complete-game effort.

Vinson paced the Warrior offense with three hits and three RBI. Hemenway and Mitchell each provided two hits.

Eastern Wayne continues play at home Thursday against South Central.

"The second half gets tougher than the first half, so we have to take it one game at a time," Fulghum said.

Kinston 100 010 0 -- 2 4 6

Eastern Wayne 001 301 x -- 5 10 3

Leading hitters -- Eastern Wayne -- Airlon Vinson 3-4, 2B, 3 RBI; Jesse Lancaster 1-4, RBI; Matt Hemenway 2-3, RBI; Tyler Mitchell 2-3; Billy McKinley 1-3, 2B. Kinston -- Reggie Dixon 2-4, HR, 2 RBI.

E -- Tindal 2, Nobles 2, Lanier, Brown, Parker 2, Mitchell. DP -- Kinston 1. LOB -- Eastern Wayne 9, Kinston 7. SH -- Parker. SF -- Hemenway. SB -- Nobles, Lanier, Johnson. CS -- Johnson.



Nobles (L) 6 7 4 3 0 2

Tindal 1 3 1 0 0 0

Eastern Wayne

Lancaster (W, 2-3) 7 4 2 1 2 5

WP -- Lancaster, Nobles. BK -- Lancaster. PB -- Spence 2. HBP -- Whitfield (by Lancaster), Spence (by Lancaster).