03/04/05 — Greenville Rose escapes E. Wayne with extra-inning win

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Greenville Rose escapes E. Wayne with extra-inning win

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 4, 2005 2:33 PM

In both team's season-opening game, two-time defending NCHSAA Class 4-A baseball champion Greenville J.H. Rose escaped Eastern Wayne with a 2-1 win in eight innings on a chilly Thursday evening at New Hope.

Both veteran coaches, the Warriors' Jabo Fulghum and the Rampants' Ron Vincent left Eastern Wayne's diamond knowing their respective teams will see plenty more one-run, tight games through the season and they must improve in those situations.

"We just couldn't finish it. We had some routine plays we didn't make, and if you don't make routine plays against good teams you don't win," said Fulghum, a 13-year coach at Eastern Wayne. "We better get prepared, because we are going to be in close games all year long. We've just got to keep our heads up and keep working."

Keyed by a stout pitching effort from senior right-hander Jesse Lancaster, the Warriors took a 1-0 lead into the top of the seventh. Lancaster stayed ahead in the count with his fastball, then mixed in a biting curve to post a seven-strikeout, two-hit performace in five innings of work. Lancaster hit one batter and walked just one.

He and sophomore reliever Taylor Sutton, who tossed a scoreless sixth, benefitted from flawless defense through the first six innings.

"I was very impressed with Jesse as always. He's a great player and a great pitcher and he kept us off-balance," said Vincent, in his 31st season at Rose. "It's hard to pick up those breaking balls and change-ups early in the season. We were very fortunate to win."

In the seventh and eighth, the Warrior defense looked like a different team behind their pitchers. Eastern Wayne committed four infield errors in the final two innings -- three of which led to runs for the Rampants, who improved to 1-0 on the year.

With Sutton on the mound, Rose's Josh Maclaga reached on a two-base error to start the seventh, before Matt Board executed a perfect, sacrifice bunt to move Maclaga to third. Eighth-hitter Jordan Lee followed with a one-out double to tie the score at 1-1.

Billy McKinley came on in relief of Sutton and eventually found himself in a bases-loaded jam, but pitched out of the situation when Ryan Graepel flied out for third out.

After the Warriors (0-1) went down in order in the seventh, the top of the eighth started much like the inning before. Rampants' clean-up hitter Josh Aldridge reached on an infield error as Fulghum went to the bullpen to left-hander Airlon Vinson to relieve McKinley. Vinson looked to have Aldridge picked off first, but a poor throw from first to second allowed Aldridge to advance a base. Eventually, Maclaga scored Aldridge from third with a single to left for the game-winning run.

Despite not allowing an earned run or hit in 2/3 innings of work, McKinley picked up the loss.

Eastern Wayne reserve freshman Michael Mintz, who had two hits in two plate appearances, smacked a one-out single to right off of Rose reliver Brad Piland in the bottom of the eighth. Mintz stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position, but Piland struck out the next two batters to finish off the win.

By game's end, the Warriors struck out 12 times combined against Piland and Rampant starter Ryan Graepel.

"We didn't do a good job today with two strikes," Fulghum said.

Eastern Wayne's quartet of hurlers finished with 11 strikeouts and allowed no earned runs.

"There weren't many hits for either team. Our guys came through, but we are going to have to score more runs in the future," Vincent said.

Eastern Wayne picked up their lone run against Graepel in the bottom of the fourth. Airlon Vinson, who finished 2-4, reached on a one-out, infield single then stole second. With two outs, Joey Moye delivered a clutch, opposite-field base hit to right -- scoring Vinson from second. Moye moved to second when the ball was misplayed by Rose's right fielder, but Graepel pitched out of the inning with no further damage.

The Warriors didn't advance past second in the final four innings.

Eastern Wayne opens Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference play on Tuesday at home against South Central.