No rain on the plain stops the comeback of Wayne
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 5, 2004 1:07 PM
GREENVILLE -- Lightning, accompanied by several claps of thunder, flashed brightly in the distance Saturday evening near venerable Guy Smith Stadium.
Everyone looked toward the sky and probably silently wondered if another Americn Legion Area I East contest, this one a key South Division matchup, would get washed out. Pitt County built a four-run lead after five innings and would have gladly welcomed a rain-shortened official game.
Wayne County, on the other hand, needed the rain to come earlier so the officials would declare a suspended game and give it a much-needed chance to regroup mentally.
Neither got their wish. But visiting Post 11 rallied from behind to win 7-6 behind three crucial innings of no-hit pitching from middle reliever Brett Butts and closer Philip Cunningham. The victory kept Wayne County atop the South Division at 6-1 heading into today's road game at archrival Snow Hill.
Pitt County (14-3) slipped into a second-place tie with New Bern at 5-3.
"I knew we didn't come ready to play," Post 11 coach Brad Reaves said. "We just finally woke up ... don't know what happened."
Listless play by Wayne County led to a five-run deficit through six innings. Post 39 right-hander Aubrey Edens had a perfect game through three before Jesse Lancaster ripped his first-ever Legion home run over the left field fence to start the fourth.
Edens yielded two hits in the sixth inning, but Post 11 failed to score after committing a critical base running mistake. Pitt County capitalized, turning an inning-ending double play.
"He had command of three pitches and wasn't throwing anything but outer half (of the plate)," Reaves said. "We told the guys, you have to think and take the approach of taking the pitch up the middle.
"When we finally pieced a couple of hits together, he got wild and started throwing it around a little bit."
Its seven-game win streak in jeopardy, Post 11 rattled Edens in the seventh. Erik Lovett doubled down the right field line and moved to second on Todd MacCoy's ground out.
Philip Pennington slapped a high chopper between first and second, plating Lovett. Airlon Vinson, a left-handed hitter, kept the rally alive with a line-drive home run off Edens over the left field fence. Wayne County, unresponsive for six innings, had revived its own heartbeat and trailed 6-4.
"How about those two plate appearances Vinson had?" a grinning Reaves quipped. "He took the correct approach and ran one out of here the other way."
Butts recorded two strikeouts and held Post 39 scoreless in the seventh.
Wayne County (17-3) roughed up Pitt County reliever Alex White in the eighth. Jes Snyder led off with a single and advanced to second when White walked Lovett. MacCoy, hitless in his previous four at-bats, stroked a game-tying double into left center field.
Pennington sacrificed MacCoy, who has eight doubles this season, to third. Vinson, who contributed a season-best three hits and three RBI, drove home MacCoy with a sharply-hit single to right field. Wayne County led 7-6.
"A huge hit," Reaves said of MacCoy.
A rising sophomore at Charlotte, Butts got upset when Reaves called Cunningham from the bullpen to start the eighth. A surprisingly nervous Cunningham experienced little trouble and retired three of four batters he faced.
Cunningham walked the first two batters in the ninth. Landis Wilson, the No. 8 hitter, failed to execute a sacrifice bunt and eventually struck out. Cunningham fanned the next batter and then induced a game-ending pop-up to Lovett in shallow right field.
"I think the only thing I've faulted our guys with all year is that we've stressed the small things, doing the little things right like getting our bunts down and getting the reads correct," Pitt County coach Mike Mullis said. "In games like this, that's where it shows up. If we get that bunt down, who knows what happens.
"But we didn't."
It was Cunningham's third save of the season and second in less than a week.
"Brett came in and did a great job; the best he's thrown all year," Reaves said. "He allowed us to get back in this ball game and win it. He wanted to go back out there, but if I get a lead or am tied up in the eighth or ninth, Philip is getting the baseball.
"This was definitely a team effort. Everybody contributed."
Wayne County beat Pitt County for the sixth time in seven outings since the two teams battled for the Area I East championship in 2002. Post 11 leads the all-time series 56-48.
Wayne County 000 100 330 -- 7 12 2
Pitt Co. 39 200 211 000 -- 6 10 0
Leading hitters -- Wayne County -- Jesse Lancaster 1-5, HR, RBI; Jes Snyder 2-5; Erik Lovett 2-4, 2 2Bs; Todd MacCoy 1-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Philip Pennington 1-3, RBI; Airlon Vinson 3-4, HR, 3 RBI; David Combs 1-2; Mike Oglesby 1-1. Pitt County -- Ryan Graepel 2-5, 2B; Jason Cargile 3-5; Brian Ford 1-4, 2B, RBI; Alex White 1-3, HR, 3 RBI; Tanner Jones 2-4, HR, RBI; Landis Wilson 1-4.
DP -- Pitt County 1. LOB -- Wayne County 6, Pitt County 13. SB -- Cargile. CS -- Graepel. SH -- Pennington.
IP H R ER BB SO
Wayne County Post 11
Langston 21Ú3 6 4 2 2 1
Butts (W, 3-0) 42Ú3 4 2 1 2 5
Cunningham (S, 3) 2 0 0 0 3 2
Pitt County Post 39
Edens 61Ú3 7 4 4 1 4
A. White (L) 22Ú3 5 3 3 2 5
WP -- Edens, Butts. HBP -- Wilson (by Butts), Letchworth (by Butts).
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