Long ball does in Golden Falcons
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 5, 2004 2:07 PM
PIKEVILLE -- West Carteret coach Robby Lasater doesn't necessarily like to live by the long ball, but he knows his Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference-leading Patriots are plenty capable of doing damage that way.
Five of West Carteret's six runs off of Charles B. Aycock ace Phillip Cunningham were by way of home runs as the Patriots took an early 3-0 lead -- then pulled away late for a 6-1 win at the Golden Falcons' field.
All three of the Patriots' homers were with two outs in the inning.
"I think two guys in the starting nine don't have home runs. You try not to live and die by it, but this is a hitter's park," Lasater said. "That's the way our team is this year. It was a whole team effort tonight."
West Carteret (17-3 overall) improved to 10-2 in conference play, still sitting in prime position to capture its first conference championship in school history.
The loss drops Aycock (14-7 overall) to 7-6 in the ECC heading into Friday's trip to second-place South Central. The Falcons, who have made the Class 3-A N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs in 13 of the last 14 years under coach Charles Davis, currently hold the conference's fourth and final playoff spot with three games left.
"If we make the playoffs, it will be earned because nobody has the schedule we have the rest of the way," Aycock coach Charles Davis said. "In my opinion, this is the toughest 3-A Conference in the east by far. We lost a few conference games early, but we turned it around.
"It's still right in our hands."
The Falcons had won nine-of-10 coming into Tuesday's game.
The Patriots got a huge start out of the gate from the top five hitters in their lineup. In the first three innings, West Carteret's top five went a combined six-for-10. Four and five hitters Drew Poulk and Nick Martin supplied back-to-back, two-out, solo home runs in the top of the third to push the Patriots to a 3-0 lead.
Cunningham, who finished with 12 strikeouts, seemed to settle into a rhythm from that point, rarely getting behind and seldom making mistakes up in the strike zone. The senior right-hander didn't allow a run in innings four through six and pitched out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the sixth.
"We struck out too many times. 12 strike outs is way too many, but Cunningham is a really good pitcher," Lasater said. "He threw a lot of sliders in the middle innings. He did the right things, because we are a fastball-hitting team."
Aycock's improved pitching and defense allowed it to stay within striking distance.
Despite getting runners on base in every inning except the seventh, it could not come through with the big extra base hit or string together consecutive hits off of West Carteret righty Lonnie Chisenhall.
Chisenhall yielded his only run of the game on a two-out single to right by Josh Kirby, scoring Nik Pappas from second, who walked and reached second on an error.
"I thought we should have hit the kid more than we did tonight," Davis said. "Our hitting and our approaches at the plate ... that's something we've been working on and we didn't do that. You can't expect to hold that crowd to one or two runs. You've got to put some runs on the board."
The Patriots' Josh Wright, who had struck out looking in his first three plate appearances, bounced back with a three-run, two-out home run to center in the top of the seventh.
The blast pushed the score to its final margin at 6-1 as Chisenhall sat down Aycock 1-2-3 in the seventh with three strikeouts.
W. Carteret 102 000 3 -- 6 11 2
C.B. Aycock 000 001 0 -- 1 7 3
Leading hitters -- W. Carteret -- Lonnie Chisenhall 2-4, 2B; Clayton Pittman 2-4, 2B, 2 runs; Drew Poulk 3-4, HR, 2 runs, RBI; Nick Martin 1-3, HR, RBI; Josh Wright 1-4, HR, 3 RBI. C.B. Aycock -- Josh Kirby 1-2, RBI; Matthew Waddell 2-4.
IP H R ER BB SO
Lonnie Chisenhall (W) 7 7 1 0 2 7
Phillip Cunningham (L, 7-4) 7 11 6 6 1 12
WP -- Cunningham (2).
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