04/06/05 — Warriors outpitch rival Saints

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Warriors outpitch rival Saints

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 6, 2005 1:53 PM

Tyler Ham carried those two thoughts with him to the plate against archrival Southern Wayne and delivered in stirring fashion on the Eastern Wayne diamond. Ham's one-out single kept a sixth-inning rally alive and Chris Davis polished off the Saints with an RBI fielder's choice in a 1-0 victory.

The Warriors, who begin a three-game road swing Friday at county foe Charles B. Aycock, remained one-half game behind South Central for the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference lead. Eastern Wayne is 5-1, while the Falcons are 6-1.

Southern Wayne (5-5) dipped to 3-3 against ECC opposition heading into Thursday's non-conference home tilt against Wilmington Hoggard.

Right-handed pitchers Jesse Lancaster and Ashton Langston, teammates on Wayne County's American Legion team during the summer, dueled for 89 minutes Tuesday evening. The Warriors' Lancaster (1-2) tossed a complete-game three-hitter and notched nine strikeouts.

The Saints' Langston (2-2) scattered four hits in a seven-inning stint and fanned six batters.

"I'm just glad we got the win," a smiling Lancaster said. "Ashton threw a great ball game. They caught some breaks and then we caught one when Logan (Porter) got hit on a ground ball. What goes around comes around, I guess.

"I hate that Ashton had to lose it, but it was about time that I got a win."

Lancaster, starting for the fifth time this season, retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced. He mixed his pitches well, stayed outside on the corners and didn't appear to concerned with velocity.

Lancaster struck out the side twice, including the seventh inning.

"I got some good calls. The ump was great," Lancaster said. "I stayed around the plate, not on it, and later in the game I got some calls around the plate. The first inning I didn't have a curve and I knew I had to find one if I wanted to win because these boys are going to hit a fastball no matter where you throw it.

"Finally, the curve started snapping off a little bit. Tonight it broke from the middle to the outer corner. That really helped me out a lot."

Haunted by no-decisions in previous outings, Lancaster appeared headed in that direction again in the sixth inning. Porter, hitless in his two previous plate appearances, slapped a two-strike, lead-off single to left center field.

Austin Hood ripped a hard grounder on the next pitch and the ball hit Porter in the right foot. With one out, Matthew Holloman hit into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play -- the Warriors' second twin-killing of the contest.

"We had a hit and run there," Saints coach Trae McKee said. "If that gets through, we've got first and third with no outs. I trust my players are going to get the job done right there.

"I told the boys baseball is a game of inches."

Langston struck out Joey Moye to start the Warrior sixth. The lanky hurler worked to a 1-2 count against Airlon Vinson and threw a change-up that Vinson barely lifted out of the dirt. The ball scooted into right field and gave the Warriors, swept by the Saints last season, some extra energy en route to their sixth win.

Ham, a left-handed hitter, stepped into the batter's box. He took Langston's first offering, a fastball, for a ride into the left center-field gap.

"He jammed me a little bit ... inside-out," Ham said. "I thought it was a pop fly ... honestly. He sawed me off and I don't know how I hit it backside. It was right on the handle."

Davis plated Vinson with a fielder's choice for the one-run win.

Before the game, veteran Warriors coach Jabo Fulghum reminded his team of last year's losses -- including Lancaster's 14-strikeout performance in Dudley. The team, especially Ham, used that reminder as motivation.

"Revenge," Ham said. "Airlon does everything he can to get on base and he does everything he can for our team. I felt like it was my turn to step it up. I didn't really hit a good pitch, but I tried to do what I could to back up Airlon."

Vinson finished with two of the Warriors' four hits.

McKee described the game as a classic between two smart pitchers, who left "their hearts out there on the mound."

Langston allowed eight base runners, but only three managed to advance into scoring position. The reigning News-Argus Pitcher of the Year, Langston induced eight ground-ball outs and one infield pop-up in his complete-game performance.

Notes: Ham paced the Warrior defense with nine putouts -- all Lancaster strikeouts. ... Vinson collected seven putouts at first base. ... Eastern Wayne batted 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. ... Saints 1B Josh Narron recorded eight putouts and one assist. ... C David Combs added six putouts, while Langston had four assists. ... The Warriors picked up their 32nd ECC regular-season victory since the league's inception in 2001-02.