Southern Wayne tops EW; will face Aycock in finals
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 10, 2006 2:16 PM
DUDLEY -- Fans who follow the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference baseball scene know no lead is safe until the final out is recorded in the scorebook.
Just ask Southern Wayne.
Despite three seventh-inning defensive miscues, the Saints escaped county rival Eastern Wayne 3-1 in their ECC 3-A semifinal tournament contest Tuesday evening. Southern Wayne (16-8) seized one of the league's two automatic berths to the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin next Tuesday.
The second-seeded Saints, co-ECC champs in regular-season play, face top-seeded Charles B. Aycock for the inaugural ECC tournament crown Thursday evening. The winner grabs the conference's No. 1 spot for the playoffs. Game time is 7 p.m. at Pikeville.
The third-seeded Warriors finished the season 12-14 overall and had their three-year playoff streak snapped.
"The last three outs are the hardest ones to get in high school baseball," said Saints coach Trae McKee, whose team finished unbeaten in six home ECC outings.
Leading 3-0, Southern Wayne uncharacteristically committed back-to-back infield errors in Eastern Wayne's half of the final inning. Michael Mintz accounted for the Warriors' lone run with a groundout that scored Nolan Lancaster.
Another infield error allowed freshman catcher Walker Gourley to reach first. Saints right-hander Ashton Langston induced consecutive ground-ball outs to end the game.
Langston (6-0) yielded two hits and struck out four in a complete-game effort. He retired 12 of 13 batters during four-plus innings before surrendering a one-out single to Gourley in the fifth.
"I don't think I pitched as good as I could," said Langston as he raked the pitcher's mound. "My defense made the plays for me again tonight. I just served up the pitches and let the defense work.
"I'm not going to strike out many batters."
Eastern Wayne stranded five of six base runners, including two in scoring position.
"The Langston kid struggled a couple of times but he always came back with a ground ball," said Warriors coach Jabo Fulghum, who eclipsed the 200-win mark in his career earlier this season. "Our kids played hard and gave a great effort.
"They hit the baseball when they had to. (T.J.) Hinson was tough."
Moved into the designated hitter role this season, Hinson singled, doubled and slugged a second-inning home run -- his second of the season -- against Warrior right-hander Tyler Ham.
Hinson fell behind 1-2 in the count against Ham in his first at-bat.
"It's one-on-one when you get in the box," said Hinson. "I'm going to give it everything I've got and battle. I was looking for a fast ball and that's what he gave me."
The Saints have cranked out eight home runs this spring.
Chris Massey doubled twice in three plate appearances and produced an RBI in the fifth inning. Hinson doubled to lead off the sixth and moved to third on David Combs' single up the middle. Ham walked Brady Wiggins to load the bases.
Ham uncorked a wild pitch that got caught in Gourley's chest protector. The home plate umpire called a dead ball and Hinson scored for the three-run advantage.
The Saints left Combs and Wiggins in scoring position, and stranded seven runners on base overall.
"I don't think we were locked in at the plate," said McKee, whose team has managed just eight hits in its last two contests. "We were in some situations where we could expand our lead and didn't.
"We're going to have to play a lot harder than we did tonight to continue on (in the postseason)."
Southern Wayne and C.B. Aycock split the regular-season series with each team prevailing on its home diamond. The Golden Falcons (23-2) eliminated fourth-seeded Wilson Hunt 7-1 in the other semifinal-round game.
"We want that conference (tournament) championship," said Hinson.
2006 Class 3-A
Eastern Carolina Conference
(at Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex)
E. Wayne 000 000 1 -- 1 2 2
So. Wayne 010 011 x -- 3 6 3
Leading hitters -- Eastern Wayne -- Tyler Ham 1-3; Walker Gourley 1-3; Michael Mintz RBI. Southern Wayne -- T.J. Hinson 3-3, 2B, HR, RBI; Chris Massey 2-3, 2 2Bs, RBI ; David Combs 1-3.
IP H R ER BB SO
Ham (L) 6 6 3 3 4 2
Langston (W, 6-0) 7 2 1 0 1 4
WP -- Ham 2.
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