Solid pitching and errorless defense lift Warriors to victory
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 10, 2005 1:56 PM
DUDLEY -- Clutch.
The single word goes a long way in describing Eastern Wayne's performance in all facets in a 3-1 win on Monday at rival Southern Wayne.
The Warriors played errorless defense behind senior ace Jesse Lancaster, who turned in seven more solid innings of work in improving to 5-2. They also came through with two outs at the plate in the key, Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference contest.
Beginning with Airlon Vinson's solo home run to right-center field with two gone in the first, Eastern Wayne tacked one run each in the fourth and fifth -- both also coming with two outs against Saints ace Ashton Langston.
Freshman Michael Mintz scored the senior Vinson, who finished 3-4 on the night, with an opposite-field double to right in the fourth, while Tyler Ham's two-bagger plated Joey Moye in the fifth.
"We got some timely hits. We had some different guys to come through tonight for us," Eastern Wayne coach Jabo Fulghum said.
With home games left against C.B. Aycock (today) and Kinston (Wednesday), Eastern Wayne (13-7, 11-3 ECC) controls its own destiny in the hunt for one of three N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff spots.
"We're still not in. It's a great feeling to have just three losses right now. I would like to have less than that, but this league as tough as it is ...I give credit to our kids," Fulghum said. "We've got a big challenge tomorrow night with Aycock and our guys are ready for the challenge.
"There's two pieces left to the puzzle."
Southern Wayne (14-7, 9-5) isn't eliminated, but is now two back of the Warriors, South Central and West Carteret. Also with two games left, the Saints travel to Goldsboro today and host West Craven on Thursday.
"You got a lot of quality teams up at the top. You're going to face tough pitching every Tuesday and Friday," Southern Wayne coach Trae McKee said. "It might come down to the final pitch and the last game."
Eastern Wayne and Lancaster never trailed Monday, but the Saints tied the game at 1-1 in the third when Brady Wiggins scored on a wild pitch. Wiggins reached on a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Michael Steward.
From there, Lancaster, who struck out nine against one walk and two hit batsmen, kept the Saints off of the scoreboard.
The righty pitched out of a second and third jam with two outs in the fifth, with help from a nifty pick by the left-handed Vinson at first on a throw from third for the final out.
"That's the best hitting team in the conference by far," Lancaster said. "Our defense has turned it up the second half of the year. They put it in play, and we made the plays."
After a 1-2-3 sixth, Southern Wayne threatened again in the seventh. Joseph Davis doubled to left-center to start the inning, before Lancaster struck out the next two hitters. Garrett Barfield followed with a walk, then Logan Porter slapped a single to left to load the bases.
Lancaster got Austin Hood to swing and miss at a low breaking ball for the third strike to finish off the three-hitter. The Saints had base runners in all but two innings, stranding six -- three at third base.
"We had opportunities. We put ourselves in position to tie or win it," McKee said. "We just couldn't get that timely it."
Eastern Wayne stranded nine on the game, leaving five in scoring position against Langston and Matthew Holloman, who tossed a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts. The Saints also played errorless defense.
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