03/16/06 — Southern Wayne nips Eagles

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Southern Wayne nips Eagles

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 16, 2006 2:45 PM

DUDLEY -- Timely hits and big strikeouts often overshadow well-executed defensive plays.

But a somewhat non-conventional double play in the fourth inning proved key in Southern Wayne's 4-3 win at home over West Craven on Wednesday.

With the game tied 1-1 in the fourth, the Eagles' Allen Edwards started the inning with a double to left-center off of Saints' right-hander Ashton Langston. Langston got the next batter to pop to the shortstop for the first out, before Zach VanVoorhees followed with an infield single -- setting up first-and-third with one out.

With a 1-1 count on lefty hitter Sean Droese, West Craven coach, Morgan O'Neal called for a double-steal. Southern Wayne catcher David Combs popped up and gunned down VanVoorhees, as shortstop, Austin Hood, applied the tag, then quickly threw back to combs as Edwards dashed toward home.

The throw hit the dirt, but Combs dug it out and applied the tag on a sliding Edwards to end the threat.

"That was a big play ... with one out, we got a double play," Southern Wayne coach Trae McKee said. "That shuts down a big inning for them. He (Combs) stuck his nose on a ball that was low, caught the hop and put a good tag on him."

The out was the last recorded by Langston, who picked up the win in his first start and second outing overall of the season. Langston (1-0), working his way back after shoulder surgery last May, gave up just one run on four hits with six strikeouts against one walk and two hit batsmen in four innings of work.

The Eagles' lone run against Langston came in the top of the second when Edwards started the inning with a walk, then eventually came around to score on a two-out single to left by Dudding.

"I thought he was better tonight. He started finding his spots better in the third and fourth," said McKee of Langston's effort. "We've got to continue getting him some more innings."

The Saints, who managed just three hits against West Craven's Shawn Armstrong and Billy Dudding, responded with two runs in the bottom of the fourth -- aided by a hit batsmen, two walks and a pair of run-scoring wild pitches thrown by Armstrong.

In the fifth, Southern Wayne tacked on what proved to be a crucial insurance run when pinch-hitter T.J. Hinson scored Combs, who started the inning with a double to center against Dudding, with a sacrifice fly to left to make it 4-1.

Saints' reliever Sterling Grice, a righty transfer from North Duplin, walked two, but pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. In the sixth, Grice walked two more, including one with the bases loaded that allowed Edwards to trot home.

McKee then called on Combs in relief, who walked in a run on the first batter he faced to make it 4-3.

From there, Combs settled into a rhythm and struck out four of the last five batters he faced in the sixth and seventh to claim his first save of the year.

Langston, Grice and Combs combined for 13 strikeouts with six walks in the non-conference contest. Save the sixth inning, the trio were especially effective with men on base as West Craven stranded 11.

"I think both teams pitched well. We left a lot of runners on base, and nobody wanted to step up and get a two-out hit," said O'Neal, whose team lost a 12-0 contest to the Saints on March 8 in Vanceboro.

Armstrong endured the loss for the Eagles -- giving up three runs on two hits with five walks and six strikeouts in 32/3 innings.

Southern Wayne tallied its first run against Armstong in the third when Willie Koernig brought home Austin Hood, who doubled to right-center, from third with a fielder's choice ground out.

The Saints return to action on Friday when they visit Wilmington Ashley.

West Craven 010 002 0 -- 3 7 1

Southern Wayne 001 210 x -- 4 3 2

Leading hitters -- West Craven -- Allen Edwards 2-3, 2B, 2 runs; Billy Dudding 1-1, 2 RBI. Southern Wayne -- David Combs 1-3, 2B; Austin Hood 1-2, 2B; Brady Wiggins 1-3.


West Craven (1-5)

S. Armstrong (L) 32/3 2 3 3 5 6

B. Dudding 21/3 1 1 1 0 3

Southern Wayne (3-3)

A. Langston (W, 1-0) 4 4 1 1 1 6

S. Grice 11/3 3 2 2 4 3

D. Combs (S, 1) 12/3 0 0 0 1 4