03/05/06 — Young Warriors fall to defending state champs

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Young Warriors fall to defending state champs

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 5, 2006 2:19 AM

With two freshmen and three sophomores in the starting lineup on Friday against North Lenoir, veteran Eastern Wayne coach Jabo Fulghum is looking especially at the early part of the 2006 season as a "growing process."

Despite a 4-0 loss to the Hawks, the defending 2-A state champions, Fulghum saw some strides he believes the team can build upon with the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference campaign still three weeks away.

"All of our non-conference play is against good, quality competition to prepare us for three weeks from today," Fulghum said. "I thought we did some good things today, that we didn't on Tuesday against South Central. I'm not happy that we lost, but I'm happy that we're learning."

North Lenoir coach Jim Montague saw his team continue their solid start to the season, especially on the mound.

Hawks' junior left-hander, Brandon Sutton, yielded only four hits in seven strong innings of shutout work -- striking out six against no walks. Only one Eastern Wayne base runner advanced past first on the game in the southpaw's first start of the season. North Lenoir's pitchers have now only walked one and yielded just five runs in 19 innings this year.

"He (Sutton) made them swing the bats and put balls in play and did an excellent job to keep their bats in check," said North Lenoir coach Jim Montague, now in his 16th year at the helm for the Hawks.

Meanwhile, the Hawks (3-0), who stranded 10 on the game, were held scoreless through four as Eastern Wayne junior, Taylor Sutton, consistently pitched out of trouble. In the first four innings, the righty gave up four hits and seven total Hawks reached base but with clutch pitching and defense, the game remained scoreless.

"Our kids pitched well and their kid pitched well. It was a tough one for anybody to lose," Eastern Wayne coach Jabo Fulghum said. "I thought Taylor did an extremely good job. We didn't give in on defense when they had some runners on. We didn't fold early in the game."

North Lenoir's John Alphin started the fifth with an infield single. Then, a throwing error by the Warriors' third baseman on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Sutton was followed by a walk to Alex McGaughy to load the bases for Stihl Sowers.

Sowers' grounder to the mound was fielded by Sutton, who threw home to catcher Tyler Ham. The throw was wide, but it appeared Ham still had control of the ball and kept his toes on the plate. The umpire saw otherwise and Alphin crossed home for the first run of the game.

One batter later, Eastern Wayne (0-2) looked to have turned a 1-2-3 double-play to end the inning when the first base umpire ruled the runner out, then quickly changed his call to safe. The reversal allowed Andrew Manning to reach first, then Taylor Ginn followed with a clutch single to right to score McGaughy.

"Umpires never win or lose ball games. But, that call at home plate was big," Fulghum said.

The Hawks got two more runs in the sixth, one each off Sutton (0-1) and Ham, who came on in relief. Spencer Harris started the sixth with a double and scored on a single by McGaughy, while Alphin reached on a fielder's choice, then later came home on a perfect squeeze bunt by Sowers. North Lenoir executed six successful sacrifice bunts by six different players.

"Small-ball got us to where we got last year. One-through-nine this year, I'm not going to guess you're going to get a base hit," Montague said. "I don't care if you're hitting .700, you're going to be called on to bunt."

Ham pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the Warriors and finished with three strikeouts and one walk in two innings of work.

Taylor Sutton got Eastern Wayne's final hit to start the seventh, but the junior made a big turn around first on a sharp single to center and was doubled-off on an 8-6-3 relay from Alphin-to-Sowers-to-Brian Smith at first. Brandon Sutton (1-0) picked up his sixth and final strikeout, then got the final out on a grounder to third to finish the shutout.

Both teams return to action at home on Monday as North Lenoir hosts East Duplin as Eastern Wayne entertains South Central.

North Lenoir 000 022 0 -- 4 8 1

Eastern Wayne 000 000 0 -- 0 4 3

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- John Alphin 2-3, 2 runs; Spencer Harris 1-3, 2B; Taylor Ginn 1-3, RBI; Stihl Sowers 1-3, RBI; Alex McGaughy 1-2, RBI. Eastern Wayne -- Taylor Sutton 2-3; Joey Moye 1-3; Chris Brown 1-2.


North Lenoir

B. Sutton 7 4 0 0 0 6

Eastern Wayne

T. Sutton 5 7 3 2 2 1

T. Ham 2 1 1 1 1 3

T. Sutton pitched to one batter in the sixth