03/14/07 — Sowers' seventh-inning double sparks Hawks

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Sowers' seventh-inning double sparks Hawks

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 14, 2007 2:49 PM

John Wooten wanted to finish this outing.

The Eastern Wayne hurler had thrown a brilliant game for six innings against state-ranked North Lenoir. When two of the first three batters reached base in the seventh, Warriors coach Jabo Fulghum took a trip to the mound.

Fulghum encouraged Wooten to keep Sthil Sowers off balance in the box.

"It was a big at-bat for our team," said Sowers. "I hadn't been hitting the ball real well tonight and have been frustrated with myself these past few games because I haven't been hitting the ball real good.

"While they were talking on the mound, I just told myself that something middle way (of the plate) I'm going to drive it backside or something off-speed I'm going to drive it backside."

Sowers got something better -- a fastball. The East Carolina signee ripped a two-RBI double into the right center-field gap to spark the seventh-inning uprising. Bryce Grady added a two-out, RBI single as the Hawks seized a come-from-behind, 4-2 win on the New Hope diamond.

"I was looking off speed and figured that's what he (Fulghum) told him (Wooten)," said Sowers. "I guess they tried to fool me with a fastball. I was lucky; able to get a good, solid rip off it."

North Lenoir, ranked No. 3 in the ImpactBaseball.com Class 2-A poll, claimed its sixth consecutive victory after a season-opening loss against archrival South Lenoir.

Eastern Wayne slipped to 2-4 overall.

"John pitched great, but I'm going to take credit for this loss," said Fulghum. "I've got Taylor Sutton sitting at first base ready to come in. He's fresh and John's a little bit tired. I wanted John to finish it.

"We wanted to pitch around Sowers and Sowers hit the ball well."

Sowers provided two of the Hawks' eight hits against Wooten, who worked 62/3 innings. A sophomore right-hander, Wooten threw 79 pitches, including 51 strikes. He struck out three and yielded four earned runs.

Sutton replaced Wooten after Grady's RBI single and retired the lone batter he faced.

North Lenoir cranked out five extra-base hits, but left seven runners on base with three in scoring position. The Hawks didn't register a hit with a runner in scoring position until Sowers' double in the seventh.

"We're going to play some one- and two-run games this year, and we can't wait until the sixth or seventh inning to do things," said North Lenoir head coach Jim Montague. "One thing we're not doing this year that I'm probably going to have to go back to is we squeezed (bunts) a lot the last two years.

"We haven't squeezed this year. We have started going back to the sacrifice bunt to move runners over."

A sac bunt set up the Hawks' first run. Grady tattooed a double down the right field line to lead off the second inning. C.C. Croom bunted him over to third base and Grady trotted home on Andrew Manning's sac fly to center field.

The Hawks missed a chance to break open the game in the fourth. Croom reached on a fielder's choice groundout, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Manning drew a walk from Wooten to put runners on the corner.

Wooten (0-2) struck out John Alphin and induced an inning-ending flyout from Josh Bass. The escape from a potentially-disastrous situation sparked the Warriors during their at-bat.

Wooten singled up the middle and moved into scoring position when the Hawks' infield misplayed Sutton's grounder. Wooten eventually scored on a wild pitch and Sutton scampered home when Nolan Lancaster belted a fastball -- up and away -- down the right field line.

The next two Eastern Wayne batters went down quietly against North Lenoir southpaw Brandon Sutton. Sutton ended the inning when caught Jeff Hill in a rundown between first and second base on a double-steal attempt.

Each team threatened in the next two innings and left runners in scoring position. The Hawks finally broke through in the seventh and gave right-handed reliever Dewitt Pope his second victory of the season.

Meanwhile, Eastern Wayne played super defense behind Wooten and didn't commit an error on 21 put-out chances. Sophomore shortstop Walker Gourley notched four of the Warriors' nine assists, while Taylor Sutton recorded 10 putouts.

"Our guys played hard," said Fulghum. "John played well and we made some good defensive plays. From a coaching standpoint, I lost this ballgame ... period. I should have pulled John.

"But we'll bounce back."

N. Lenoir 010 000 3 -- 4 8 2

E. Wayne 000 200 0 -- 2 3 1

Leading hitters -- North Lenoir -- Brandon Sutton 2-4, 2 2Bs; Sthil Sowers 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Bryce Grady 2-3, 2B, RBI; Andrew Manning 1-1, 2B, RBI; Tyler Smith 1-2. Eastern Wayne -- Chad Gurley 1-4; John Wooten 1-3; Nolan Lancaster 1-2, RBI.

LOB -- North Lenoir 7, Eastern Wayne 5. SB -- Lancaster, Croom. CS -- Hill. SH -- Lancaster, Croom, Smith. SF -- Manning.


North Lenoir

Sutton 5 3 2 1 2 6

Pope (W) 2 0 0 0 1 4

Eastern Wayne

Wooten (L, 0-2) 62/3 8 4 4 2 3

Sutton 1/3 0 0 0 0 0

WP -- Sutton. HBP -- Bass (by Wooten).

T -- 1:44.