03/10/05 — Prep baseball -- Narron lifts Saints in ECC opener

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Prep baseball -- Narron lifts Saints in ECC opener

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 10, 2005 2:15 PM

DUDLEY -- "Just one hit."

Seeing his team struggle with runners in scoring position Wednesday afternoon, veteran Southern Wayne baseball coach Trae McKee said that silent prayer in the sixth inning.

Josh Narron delivered, but didn't drive home a run. His lead-off, two-strike double -- instead -- sparked a six-run uprising which led the Saints to a 7-1 victory against Kinston on the Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex diamond. It was the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference opener for both teams.

One of just five Southern Wayne players to record a hit, Narron's timely double erased helped erase four frustrating endings.

The Saints put men on base in each inning, but batted just 1 for 7 (.142) with those runners in scoring position. Kinston pitchers Tony Whitfield and C.C. Croom threw strikes, and got solid defensive play from their teammates. Catcher Davin Arnold threw out one runner and recorded the final out on an inning-ending double play. Both occurred in the third inning.

"They took some outs away from us that I thought we could have scored on," McKee said. "We had a few base-running decisions I thought we could have done better on." The offensive futility also flustered Saints starter Ashton Langston, who threw 61 pitches (39 strikes, 22 balls) in a five-inning stint. The lanky right-hander allowed just six base runners and retired the side in the third and fifth innings.

Langston encountered his only trouble in the fourth when he hit Arnold for the second time. Adam Spence singled to right field and Arnold stopped at third, despite a throwing error. Josh Tindal hit a hard grounder to second baseman Brady Wiggins, who dove for the ball and threw Tindal out at first.

Arnold scored for the 1-0 lead. Langston induced a fielder's choice and short fly ball to center field to end the inning.

"He was our bulldog last year and he's going to be there for us," McKee said of Langston's effort. "He did a great job throwing strikes and getting us ground balls. That's what he does, but it's tough for him to get a no-decision." Unlike the previous innings, Southern Wayne (1-1) finally answered.

Matthew Holloman tied the game at 1-1 with a sharply-hit single to left field. T.J. Hinson, who reached on an error, easily scored on the play. The run eventually led to a no decision for Langston, who gave way for the right-handed Holloman in the sixth inning.

Kinston (0-3) threatened in the sixth by getting two runners, including one by intentional walk, on board. Holloman kept his poise and forced Jamar Carraway into an inning-ending fielder's choice.

Tindal, who received clearance from the doctor to play Tuesday, took the mound. He threw a 1-2 hanging curveball to Narron, who slapped it to the left center-field fence. Tindal walked Joseph Davis and David Combs reached on an infield error to load the bases.

With one out, Hinson drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Saints a 2-1 lead. Garrett Barfield, the No. 9 hitter, ripped a two-RBI double down the right field line to keep the game-winning rally alive. Holloman and Hood finished off the Vikings with an RBI sacrifice fly and an RBI double, respectively.

"We got behind in the count and didn't throw strikes," Kinston coach Eddie Loesner said. "Barfield did a great job of going with the pitch and the chalk flew up. You've just got to tip your hat. The guy got a big hit.

"It was a typical Eastern Carolina 3-A baseball game." Holloman (1-0) gave up a seventh-inning single and walk, but struck out the side.

Notes: 1B T.J. Hinson led the Saints defense with seven putouts, while LF/C David Combs contributed five. ... The Saints are 1-1 at home. ... Eight of nine starters recorded either a putout or an assist for Southern Wayne. ... Holloman and Hood each had two hits and combined for three RBI. ... The Saints had three doubles.