One up, one down for Wayne
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 13, 2006 2:20 PM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Two Wayne County all-star teams find themselves headed in opposite directions after day two of the Eastern N.C. Babe Ruth District 4 tournament at Spring Creek High School.
Matt Neal scattered nine hits in a complete-game effort as Wayne's 14-year-olds doubled up Johnston County 4-2. Wayne County seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series that continues at 6 p.m. Friday.
"We've got the upper hand and that's what you want," said Wayne County coach Greg Neal.
Left-hander Charlie Young tossed a three-hitter and notched eight strikeouts as Johnston County triumphed 13-1 over Wayne County in the three-team, 15-year-old playoffs. Officials halted the contest after six innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Weather permitting, play continues today. The 13-year-old tournament resumes with Wilson County facing Johnston County in an elimination game at 6 p.m. Greene County and Wayne County square off at 8:30 p.m., and the winner earns a berth in the championship game.
Johnston County pressured Neal (1-0) throughout their seven-inning tussle. Coach Scott Cuddington's team connected on six, two-strike singles and put the lead-off runner aboard in four of seven innings.
"We just didn't hit the ball at the key times when we needed to," said Cuddington.
Neal surrendered an unearned run in the first inning and allowed Johnston County to load the bases before settling down. The rising freshman at Rosewood retired eight consecutive batters through two-plus innings until Randy Deaver (2-for-4) smacked a lead-off single in the fourth.
"Matt is the type of pitcher who normally starts the game like that," said coach Neal. "If we can get him through the first couple of innings, he settles down. Their guys hit the ball, but we made the plays to back Matt up.
"He hung in there."
With the first-inning butterflies gone, Wayne County scratched out a 2-1 lead in the second inning. Steven Bostic drew a lead-off walk and moved into scoring position on Michael Fields' infield groundout.
Scott Pate, also a student at Rosewood, drove home Bostic for the 1-1 tie with a single to right field. Pate advanced to second on a throw to the plate and claimed third on a wild pitch.
Robert Faucett plated Pate with a perfectly-timed drag bunt down the first-base line.
"What we've talked about all year long is it takes 13 players to win a ball game," said coach Neal. "If I've got a man up there who can hit it out, but I need him to squeeze-bunt a run home, those guys know that we are going to do that.
"We settled down and played small ball ... got a couple of runs on the board and took control of the game."
Anderson Barnes slapped a two-RBI single into right center field to increase Wayne County's advantage to 4-1 in the third inning. Barnes' lone hit of the game chased right-hander Cameron Harrison from the mound.
Tanner Hayes replaced Harrison and held Wayne County scoreless the final three-plus innings of play. He retired the side in order in the fourth and sixth innings, and allowed just two balls to leave the infield.
"Our bats were silent," said coach Neal, whose team managed just six hits. "These guys can hit the ball, but I think first-game jitters (hurt us). We're capable of hitting and scoring a bunch of runs."
Neal gave up a run-scoring single to Ryne Mitchell in the seventh, which closed the gap to 4-2. Mitchell moved into scoring position, but remained stranded at third base when Pate tracked down Deaver's deep fly ball in center field to end the game.
"Our pitching and defense was fine," said Cuddington. "I can't fault anyone for their effort. The pressure is definitely on us to win the next one."
Every Johnston County starter managed at least one hit against three Wayne County hurlers in the 15-year-old contest. Chris Johnson and Hunter Lane combined for four hits, two doubles and four RBI.
Johnston County sent 24 batters to the plate in the first four innings. Wayne County left-hander Phil Howell started, but departed the mound for reliever Kevin Prunest after an infield error and single in the second inning. Prunest gave up nine runs (seven earned) on six hits to go along with six walks and six strikeouts in four-plus innings.
B.J. Hayes replaced Prunest in the sixth and yielded an unearned run on one hit.
Meanwhile, Young (1-0) retired the first five Wayne County batters he faced before walking catcher Steven Best. Lucas Potter ruined Young's short-lived, no-hit bid with a backside single to right field.
Wayne County avoided the shutout on Robert Herring's two-out, RBI single in the fourth.
Johnston County, which successfully stole six bases in six attempts, closed the door with a nine-run sixth inning.
"No batting and a few errors," said Wayne County coach Kurt Douglas, whose team had just six base runners. "It was just hard to get anyone around on the bases tonight. These boys can hit the ball a lot better than they did tonight.
"They just didn't show up."
Wayne County missed starters Codie Richards and Mike Douglas, who were participating in a Junior Legion playoff game. Their lineup took another blow when shortstop Jordan Hood, the younger brother of Mount Olive College signee Austin Hood, sustained a possible broken nose during pre-game infield.
"The injury affected us more than anything," said coach Douglas. "The boys really got down on that and they seemed like they were lost as soon as that happened. Maybe if those boys come back from Junior Legion, things might be a little different Saturday."
Wayne County plays the Johnston County-Greene County loser at 1 p.m.
Eastern N.C. Babe Ruth
District 4 Baseball
(at Spring Creek HS)
Johnston 100 000 1 -- 2 9 0
Wayne 022 000 x -- 4 6 2
Leading hitters -- Johnston County -- Hunner Holloman 2-4; Randy Deaver 2-3; Codie McConnell 2-3; Jaleb Williams 2-3. Wayne County -- Will Beasley 2-3; Anderson Barnes 1-3, 2 RBI; Scott Pate 1-3; Robert Faucett RBI.
IP H R ER BB SO
Harrison (L, 0-1) 21/3 5 4 4 1 1
Hayes 32/3 1 0 0 0 2
Neal (W, 1-0) 7 9 2 1 1 3
WP -- Harrison, Neal 2. HBP -- Z. Grantham (by Hayes).
Johnston 130 009 -- 13 11 0
Wayne 000 100 -- 1 3 7
Leading hitters -- Johnston County -- Corey Poston 1-2, 2 RBI; Chris Johnson 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI; Ruel Merritt RBI; Hunter Lane 2-4, 2B, RBI. Wayne County -- Greg Champion 1-2; Robert Herring 1-2, RBI; Lucas Potter 1-2.
IP H R ER BB SO
Young (W, 1-0) 7 3 1 1 2 8
Howell (L, 0-1) 1 4 3 2 1 1
Prunest 41/3 6 9 7 6 6
Hayes 2/3 1 1 0 1 0
WP -- Howell, Prunest (2). HBP -- Rose (by Young), Wood (by Prunest), Wood (by Prunest).
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