Saints pull closer in tight ECC 3-A baseball race
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on April 20, 2005 1:58 PM
DUDLEY -- An early four-run lead is usually far from a guarantee, especially when two of the top five baseball teams in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference match up.
The support proved plenty for Southern Wayne right-hander Ashton Langston on Tuesday night against South Central.
Langston (4-2) gave up just one hit, a first-inning single to Tyrell Worthington, and retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced as the Saints claimed a key, 5-1 win at home.
The righty struck out just three, but consistently worked ahead in the count and let his defense work behind him. Nearly half of Southern Wayne's outs were recorded on ground balls.
"I settled down and got into my rhythm. The defense came through for me tonight," Langston said.
The victory, Southern Wayne's first in four tries against South Central, keeps the Saints (9-5, 7-3 ECC) in the thick of a five-team race for three, N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff spots. South Central (11-5 overall) fell to the same ECC mark at 7-3.
"This is the first time we have ever beat them in this conference, so this is a big win for us," Southern Wayne coach Trae McKee said. "We've just got to play hard and compete .. win every inning and take outs when they are given to us."
The Saints travel to Wilmington Hoggard today in non-conference action, before returning to league play on Thursday at rival and fellow contender Charles B. Aycock.
Offensively, the 8-9-1 hitters -- Brady Wiggins, Michael Steward and Logan Porter -- consistently got on base, while the middle of the order produced runs in the early going.
After the Falcons scratched for a run in the top of the first, Southern Wayne quickly answered as Porter and Austin Hood started the bottom half with a pair of singles. Matthew Holloman was then hit by a pitch by South Central starter Matt Scoggin (3-2) to load the bases.
Josh Narron and Chris Carr brought home Porter and Hood with consecutive ground outs to help the Saints take a 2-1 lead.
The second and third inning was more of the same. Holloman, in the three spot, scored Wiggins for the third run with an infield single - loading the bases for Narron. Narron was hit by Scoggin's first offering to push the score to 4-1.
After scoring two runs in the first two innings, Porter, who finished 3-for-4, plated Wiggins in the third with an RBI single for Southern Wayne's final run. Wiggins went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
"Anytime we have Ashton on the mound, we feel like we have a chance to win," Porter said.. "We came to play today and I hope we do that the rest of the season. I'm proud of this team."
Langston and the Saints' defense took it from there.
In the final six innings, only three South Central batters reached first and only one advanced past second -- Brandon Brown in the fourth inning. Brown walked with one out, then raced to third on a throwing error on a pick-off play.
Matt Scoggin followed with a fly ball to Porter in center field that looked deep enough to score Brown. With his coach instructing, "let it fly" from the dugout, Porter made the catch and did just that -- tossing a strike to catcher David Combs, who applied the tag to Brown for the third out of the inning.
"You don't have much time to think. Your adrenaline gets running and you let it ride," Porter said of the throw.
Scoggin was hit by a Langston offering to start the second and appeared to be heading for second, but Wiggins leaped to snag a hard, line drive off of the bat of Bill Hopkins for the first out.
The Saints finished with three errors, but none led to runs as Langston stayed composed and in control - facing the minimum hitters in innings three through six.
"Ashton stayed in the zone and threw the baseball on both sides of the plate and we made some good plays behind him," McKee said. "He's got good movement on the baseball."
The Falcons got their lone run in the top of the first when Edward Greene brought home Bryant Cooke, who walked earlier in the inning, with a fielder's choice.
Notes: In conference play, Southern Wayne and South Central play three at home and three on the road to close the season. ... C.B. Aycock and West Carteret have just two losses at the top of the conference, while Southern Wayne, Eastern Wayne and South Central all have three.
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