06/04/04 — Former area players excited to return home

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Former area players excited to return home

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on June 4, 2004 1:55 PM

WILMINGTON -- As a fifth-year senior catcher for UNC-Wilmington's baseball team, Eastern Wayne alumnus Pat Murphy knows his role.

He has started in just seven of 59 games for the Kinston regional-bound Seahawks with 42 plate appearances, but his experience is vital.

While senior back-stop Neal Eichhorn has a majority of the starts behind the dish, UNCW also has two freshman catchers, including Kinston graduate Chris Hatcher, that Murphy has been able to help as a seasoned mentor.

"I think we have a good mix this year. We talk about it a lot around here that we have a lot of role players," Murphy said. "Everybody does their part and it comes together. It works out good because we have a fifth-year guy at nearly every position."

Three other area players -- Greene Central graduates Jon Davis and Matt Sutton and Southern Wayne alum Bradley Bradshaw -- also boast more about knowing their roles than individual achievement on the squad that claimed its first CAA Championship in school history on its home diamond at Brooks Field last weekend.

It's been that kind of year for the Seahawks.

Since starting out slow out of the gate at 0-6, new players seem to emerge on different nights as UNCW (38-21) advanced to its second straight Division I regional berth. UNCW faces Southeastern Conference foe Tennessee, which received an at-large berth, in the first game at Grainger Stadium at 3 p.m.

Sutton has been a key cog in what has been a balanced machine.

The sophomore first baseman scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth against Delaware to force a second game with the Blue Hens -- ultimately won by UNCW 15-3. He's also put up some stout offensive numbers in his second season.

Sutton, who has started in 56 games, is third on the team with a .336 average and is second on the team in RBI (36) and home runs (5). Though his average is higher than last year, he believes he saw better pitches last year and may have been more explosive at the plate. Still, it's all about the team.

"We've just stayed together and played like a team," Sutton said. "No one person was trying to do everything, and we've got good team chemistry. That got us along way this year."

Davis is still nursing various injuries with a nagging right shoulder being his current worst nemesis. Still, he has been able to provide a good stick off of the bench in pinch-hitting scenarios recently. The sophomore is hitting .248 in 101 at bats with two home runs and six doubles.

"My hitting has been down since I've been here and I've had some injuries to keep me down," Davis said. "I don't think I've played as well as I could have, but I think I've done what I can to help the team win and that's the most important part."

Former Saint and red-shirt freshman Bradley Bradshaw won't dress out for the regional, but will be in the dug out pulling for the team. Bradshaw went 1-0 in 10 appearances this season with an 8.59 earned run average. He gave up 11 hits in seven innings of work, but struck out nine.

"My role this year has been to come in different situations and get a big out for us," Bradshaw said. "I think I performed pretty well in that role. I had a few bad outings, but most of the time I got out of it.

"I can help pick the guys up when they need it ... help things run smoothly and not be griping all the time."

The Seahawks and East Carolina split two head-to-head meetings this season and the prospect of possibly playing the in-state rival Pirates is obviously intriguing. On top of that, it's safe to say a number of the attendees at close-by Grainger Stadium will be friends and family members of the area players.