West Carteret assumes ECC baseball lead
By David Williams
Published in Sports on April 25, 2004 2:00 AM
The Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference will use the next three weeks to slug out the playoff positions and see who is king of the most-even crop of teams in the region.
But when it comes to slugging anything out, never count out West Carteret.
The Patriots caught a few pitches in the right place early on and used three big home runs to stake themselves to a lead they never let go of in a 9-3 win against Eastern Wayne Friday night at the Warriors' diamond.
The victory moves West Carteret (7-2, 14-3) to the top spot after West Craven beat South Central 8-5. Two and a half games separated the top five ECC teams when Friday's games began.
The Warriors (6-5, 8-10) are not out of the playoff picture yet -- the top four teams get berths and Eastern Wayne is still right in the thick of the fight.
The big hitter on the night was Josh Wright who used a solo home run in the second inning off starter Airlon Vinson to open the scoring at 1-0. Trent Brooks followed that shot two batters later with a homer of his own, his first of the season. The ball landed just to the left of center field, some 30 feet from Wright's home run. Brooks picked up Scooter Johnson for an RBI and the Patriots led 3-0.
West Carteret doubled up on the lead in the third inning, again by the long ball. Vinson put two runners on with a hit and a walk before Jesse Lancaster took the mound.
The junior right-hander picked up two quick outs, but Wright struck again before Lancaster could escape the jam. Wright hit another shot to left-center field for a three-run home run and a 6-0 advantage for the Patriots.
"We left a couple of balls up, and they capitalized," said Eastern Wayne coach Jabo Fulghum.
While West Carteret was getting big blows on offense, the Patriot defense doubled up Eastern Wayne with a pair of twin kills in the third and fifth inning.
"That's a good hitting club," said Fulghum. "They turned a couple of double plays on us, too. We had some opportunities tonight, and turning those double plays kept us from scoring a few more runs."
But the Warriors never stopped scrapping. Eastern Wayne closed the gap to 6-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning. Matt Hemenway's ground out with the bases loaded scored Garrett Sutton, Billy McKinley drew a bases-loaded walk and Tyler Ham got a groundout RBI to draw near.
But The Warriors got no closer as West Carteret scratched for two runs in the fifth inning, on Wright's RBI single -- to give Wright five RBI on the night -- and an RBI groundout by Brooks. Pinch-hitter Brian Willis drive in a seventh-inning run for final insurance.
Relief pitcher Clayton Pittman shut the door on Eastern Wayne. Pittman got out of a fifth-inning jam with a double play, worked around a Trey Johnson double in the sixth to turn the Warriors away, then truck out the side in the seventh for the win.
Eastern Wayne's defense was strong, committing just one error and turning two sharp double plays in the fourth and sixth innings.
"We've just gotta get some backbone," Fulghum said. "We've got to keep playing hard. Nobody's going to quit. We've lost some close baseball games, but these kids will stick together. We think about what we're playing for -- to get into the playoffs."
Eastern Wayne will take on West Craven Tuesday in New Hope and will host New Hanover in non-conference action Friday.
West Carteret 033 020 1 -- 9 9 1
Eastern Wayne 000 300 0 -- 3 5 1
Leading hitters -- West Carteret -- Josh Wright 3-3. 2 HR, 5 RBI; Trent Brooks 1-2, HR, 3 RBI; Brian Wilson RBI hit. Eastern Wayne -- Trey Johnson 1-2, 2B; Garrett Sutton 3-4; Matt Hemenway RBI; Billy McKinley RBI.
IP H R ER BB SO
West Carteret (7-2, 14-3)
Drew Poulk (W) 4 3 2 2 2 4
Clayton Pittman 3 0 0 3 2 4
Eastern Wayne (6-5, 8-10)
Airlon Vinson (L) 2 5 5 4 1 1
Jesse Lancaster 2 4 3 5 5 5
HBP -- Ham (by Poulk), Lancaster (by Poulk), B. Johnson (by Lancaster).
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