04/09/06 — Sutton's walk-off slam wins it for EW

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Sutton's walk-off slam wins it for EW

By Dan Friedell
Published in Sports on April 9, 2006 2:08 AM

As he walked to the plate with the bases loaded and no one out in the seventh inning of a 3-3 ballgame, Eastern Wayne clean-up hitter Taylor Sutton was expecting the suicide squeeze sign from coach Jabo Fulghum at third base.

Why ask your best power-hitter to bunt? Because runs were hard to come by during Friday night's game between Eastern Wayne and Kinston.

Despite each battling through rocky first innings, starting pitchers Michael Mintz (Eastern Wayne) and Andy Spence (Kinston) were still in the game, and still dealing. Mintz' hard stuff low in the strike zone had induced 10 Viking groundouts in seven innings, and Spence's slow curve had baffled the overeager Warriors all game.

Joey Moye, Eastern Wayne's No. 3 hitter, had just failed to drop down a sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second, but reached on a bizarre play that took the wind out of the Vikings' sails and loaded the bases.

But Sutton wasn't asked to bunt, and for the Warriors, it's a good thing he wasn't, because he reached out and stroked the first pitch he saw over the fence in right field for a game-winning grand-slam. The 7-3 comeback win pushed Eastern Wayne's record to 3-2 in Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference play and 6-7 overall. Kinston (0-5 ECC) suffered its fourth one-run loss of the season and dropped to 0-11.

When Sutton made contact, he knew he had won the game for the Warriors, but he was surprised to see the ball clear the fence.

"I knew I hit it good, but I didn't think it actually went out," Sutton said of his second homer of the year. "I just knew it would score a run."

An excited Joey Burridge danced home with the game-winner, and the entire dugout lined up behind home plate to wait for Sutton to round the bases and touch home.

While Sutton convincingly ended the game, Burridge, the team's left fielder and leadoff hitter, was involved in the play that will be talked about in Kinston all week.

After Moye failed to get the bunt down, he worked the count to 2-2 and fisted a ball to left off Spence. As Spence moved for the ball, Burridge, who even runs hard to first when he draws a walk, was headed for third.

Spence threw the ball a little high to third baseman Adam Spence, who leapt for the ball and looked to come down on the bag an instant before Burridge slid in and knocked him off balance.

A good secondary leadoff and a quick reaction allowed Burridge to make the play close enough to be called safe by the field umpire.

This decision incensed Kinston coach Eddie Loesner, who walked into the middle of the field to argue the call. He took a moment to call into question the play at third and a play at first base earlier in the inning.

"It hurts to lose a baseball game like that," Loesner said. "The call didn't go our way, but the guy still hit the ball out of the yard so we would have lost anyway. So I can't really harp on that call too much."

After the game, Andy Spence, a junior, looked to be on the verge of tears.

"I feel bad, because we should have come out with a win," he said after facing four batters in the seventh. "But we've just got to keep battling, even though we're 0-11 ... it would have been a great boost of confidence to get a win."

On the other sideline, Fulghum was conflicted. He was glad to see his team get the win, and maintain its playoff hopes, but he was left shaking his head regarding the Warriors' struggles with Spence's swooping curveball.

"We were just impatient," Fulghum said. "We didn't try to go backside tonight. We're 3-2, we have a big game coming up against Southern Wayne (Tuesday). I'm just disappointed that we didn't bunch up more hits than we did. Some of our better hitters are not coming through with runners in scoring position. We've got to get mentally tougher at the plate."

Fulghum's pragmatism, however, didn't get in the way of his players taking a minute to enjoy the win.

"It means a lot to get the win," Sutton said. "If we had lost to them, it means we're probably out of the playoffs, but now we still have a chance."

Kinston 201 000 0 -- 3 4 3

EWHS 200 100 4 -- 7 8 2

Leading hitters -- Kinston -- Anthony Clark 2-3, 2B, run; Heinz Guttenberger 1-3, 2B, run; Adam Spence 1-3, RBI. Eastern Wayne -- Joey Burridge 2-3, 2 runs; Taylor Sutton 1-4, Grand Slam HR; Tyler Ham 2 runs; John Wooten 2-2, 2B, run.


Kinston (0-11, 0-5)

A. Spence (L) 6 8 7 6 2 5

Eastern Wayne (6-7, 3-2)

M. Mintz (W) 7 4 3 2 1 6

Spence faced four batters in seventh