07/16/06 — Lancaster's clutch hit lifts Wayne County

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Lancaster's clutch hit lifts Wayne County

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on July 16, 2006 2:13 AM

FOUR OAKS -- Clutch.

Nolan Lancaster's one-word description of Wayne County's Junior Legion team goes a long way in describing its ability to claim two wins on Saturday in Johnston County in the 2006 Eastern N.C. Tournament.

At South Johnston High School on Saturday night, Lancaster slapped a 2-2 fastball from Wilson's Justin Nygard into right field -- easily scoring Tyler Wicks, who walked with two outs, from third to tie the game at 2-2 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.

The right fielder's throw home bounced past Wilson catcher Chris Lamm as Taylor Allen, who was hit by a pitch to chase reliever Jeremy Efird from the game, alertly raced home and slid under the tag of Nygard covering the plate for the game winning run -- sending Wayne County to the state tournament in Cary next weekend.

Wilson plays Scotland County at 2 p.m. today.

"This team is just clutch. We'll boot some balls, then come back with an amazing play," Lancaster said. "We might strike out, then we'll come back with a big hit. We just always seem to come through."

In the first seven innings, Wayne (19-5) squandered multiple chances to score, hitting into three double plays and leaving six on the bases - including three in scoring position. Down 1-0, Post 11 scored its first run in the sixth when Garrett Barfield, who finished with two hits, scored from third on a fielder's choice by Ryan Ford with Wilson's second pitcher, Michael Pittman, in the game to make it 1-1.

Wilson, which got on the board with an unearned run in the second inning on a fielder's choice by Alex Howard against Wayne starter Byron Powell, took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth. With Allen on in relief, Richard Carr, courtesy running for Lamm, scampered home from third on the second Post 11 error of the inning and fifth of the game.

Allen tossed two innings and picked up his third win of the postseason. Powell tossed six strong innings -- yielding only three hits and no earned runs with one walk and three strikeouts on a muggy evening.

"Byron threw the ball well. He was hot and tired. Both teams were tired on a hot day," first-year Wayne County coach Nelson Cunningham said. "The boys have been going step-by-step to get to the state tournament. This is what we've worked for."

Jake Strickland went the first five innings for Wilson (21-8) and pitched to two batters in the sixth before Pittman came on in relief after Barfield reached on an error by the centerfielder. Strickland's only run allowed proved to be unearned.

In Saturday afternoon's contest, Wayne County's Sterling Grice tossed a complete-game, four-hitter and made a key play on a squeeze bunt attempt by Aberdeen-Sandhills in the bottom of the seventh as Post 11 held on to claim a 2-1 win in Game 1 at West Johnston High School.

Down 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh, Aberdeen posted its only run as Trace Allard scored all the way from first when Lawson Thomas' sharp single was misplayed by the left fielder and rolled all the way to the fence.

The shortstop's relay throw to the plate sailed over the catcher's head - allowing Thomas to advance to third with one out. Then, pinch-hitter John Luenke attempted a squeeze bunt on an 0-1 count, but Grice quickly got off the mound, fielded the bunt and tossed to the catcher, Barfield, who applied the tag for the second out of the inning.

Grice, the third Wayne pitcher in five outings to go the distance, got the final batter to fly to center for the final out. The righty from Southern Wayne finished with three strikeouts and just one walk and his one run allowed proved to be unearned.

Wayne committed three errors, but also made a handful of stellar defensive plays. In the bottom of the first, leftfielder Alex Casey cut down Justin Richardson at the plate trying to score from second on a single to left by Josh Haley for the second out.

One inning later, center fielder Jackson Frederick made a diving play on a ball hit to right-center by Allard, while rightfielder Nolan Lancaster dove and took a hit away from Haley in the fourth.

Crafty Aberdeen lefty, Andrew McDonald, yielded eight hits, but gave up just two runs to keep his team within striking distance. McDonald finished with six strikeouts and no walks.

Wayne scored its first run in the fourth when Powell scored from third on a fielder's choice by Ryan Ford. In the fifth, Chad Gurley came through with a one-out double down the right-field line to bring home Scott Holloman, who started the inning with a single, to make it 2-0.

Frederick singled behind Holloman in the fifth, while Casey had a key sacrifice bunt before Gurley's two-bagger.

Tyler Wicks finished with three hits and has nine hits in his last 11 plate appearances after Saturday afternoon's contest.

Official pairings for the eight-team state tournament will be announced Monday.

2006 Junior American Legion

Eastern N.C. Tournament

(at West Johnston HS, Benson)

Game 1

Wayne County 000 110 0 -- 2 8 3

Aberdeen 000 000 1 -- 1 4 0

Leading hitters -- Wayne County -- Chad Gurley 1-3, 2B, RBI; Byron Powell 2-3, run; Tyler Wicks 3-3; Ryan Ford 0-2, RBI; Scott Holloman 1-3, run; Jackson Frederick 1-3. Aberdeen --Trace Allard 1-3, run; Josh Haley 1-3; Lawson Thomas 1-3; Andrew McDonald 1-1.


Wayne County

Grice (W) 7 4 1 0 1 3


McDonald (L) 7 8 2 2 0 6

Game 2

Wilson County 010 000 01 -- 2 4 3

Wayne County 000 001 02 -- 3 7 6

Two outs when game-winning run scored.

Leading hitters -- Wilson County -- Jacob Davis 1-3, run; Blake Jones 1-3, 2B; Michael Brown 1-4; Tripp Sauls 1-3. Wayne County -- Alex Casey 1-3; Garrett Barfield 2-4, run; Byron Powell 1-4; Ryan Ford 0-3, RBI; Nolan Lancaster 2-4, RBI; Scott Holloman 1-2.


Wilson County

Strickland 5 4 1 0 3 0

Pittman 1 1 0 0 0 1

Efird (L) 1 2/3 1 2 1 1 1

Nygard 0 1 0 0 0 0

Wayne County

Powell 6 3 1 0 1 2

Allen (W) 2 1 1 0 0 0

Strickland faced two batters in the sixth.

Powell faced one batter in the seventh.