Hill scores lone run; Warriors snap 4-game skid
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 21, 2007 2:46 PM
That dark, bothersome cloud hanging over the Eastern Wayne baseball team finally revealed a much-welcomed silver lining late Tuesday afternoon.
And it couldn't have happened at a better time.
Right-handed pitcher John Wooten turned in another superb outing and the Warrior defense played flawless in a 1-0 triumph over archrival Southern Wayne. The Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference opener for both teams took just 76 minutes to play.
"I'm proud of our guys for battling," said Eastern Wayne head coach Jabo Fulghum. "It's good to get a win for these kids because it's been a dry spell here for the last week."
The Warriors (3-6 overall) ended a frustrating four-game skid, including a two-game slide on their home diamond. Their last victory was a 2-1, nine-decision over perennial 4-A power J.H. Rose nearly two weeks ago.
"We've been hitting the ball hard and our pitchers have been throwing very good," said Warriors right fielder Jeff Hill. "Things haven't been falling our way ... a little bloop hit here, a little bloop hit there. That's all it was.
"Today, we played great defense. John (Wooten) threw a picture-perfect game, we hit the ball when we needed to and we got it done."
Wooten collected seven strikeouts and yielded three hits in a complete-game effort. The sophomore right-hander retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced and threw two perfect innings during that stretch.
Southern Wayne shortstop Dave Overman foiled Wooten's no-hit bid with a two-out, one-strike single in the third. Overman ended the day with two hits, while teammate Chris Massey batted 1-for-3.
The Saints left four runners on base with one in scoring position.
"John has pitched like that all year long and come up short every time," said Fulghum. "We played good defense behind him today. He made some crucial pitches; he hit spots today and did a better job with two strikes."
Warrior middle infielders Walker Gourley and Chad Gurley combined for nine assists on putouts at either first or second base in the seven-inning affair. Senior Taylor Sutton posted a game-high 12 putouts at first base.
Overall, six of the Warriors' nine defenders recorded either an assist or putout and didn't commit an error.
"When you're working with a defense like that, all I have to do is throw it in there," said a grinning Wooten. "Our two middle infielders are the best in the conference."
The Saints' Sterling Grice, who transferred from North Duplin a year ago, threw an equally-impressive game on the mound. The right-hander scattered three hits and surrendered an unearned run in the third inning.
Grice threw a perfect fifth and sixth inning, and retired the final seven batters he faced.
"Sterling threw the baseball great and had command of three pitches tonight," said Saints head coach Trae McKee. "He changed speeds well and was ahead of a lot of hitters. When he got behind, he was effective throwing several pitches to either tie them up or get out in front (in the count)."
One defensive bobble proved crucial for the Saints.
Jeff Hill stroked a one-strike fastball into left field and advanced to second on Jose Ponce's sacrifice bunt down the third-base line. The ball, at first, looked as if it might roll foul, but it stayed in fair territory.
Massey, the Saints' third baseman, threw Ponce out at first. However, no one covered third base. Fulghum waved Hill around and the Saints tried to throw him out at third. The ball sailed over Massey's head and Hill scampered home for the only run.
"Jose did a great job getting the bunt down and he was the real hero out of everything (that happened)," said Hill. "I picked up coach Fulghum coming around second base and there was nobody at third. When the third baseman realized I was coming, they just panicked and threw the ball away."
Southern Wayne (3-5, 0-1 ECC) came up empty in the fourth and sixth innings, and Overman led off the seventh with a single. Wooten retired Brady Wiggins on a bunt and struck out the next two batters to end the game.
It was the heart of the Saints' lineup.
"An inch to the right and that push bunt is a base hit," said McKee of Wiggins. "Wooten is very quick to the plate and I didn't feel like, as an overall team, that we did anything to slow him down. He gets in a real quick rhythm."
Wooten induced 12 ground-ball outs and allowed just one runner to reach third base.
"I've been playing against some of these guys and I knew how to throw to some of them," said Wooten. "I just wanted to get the job done."
So. Wayne 000 000 0 -- 0 3 1
E. Wayne 001 000 x -- 1 3 0
Leading hitters -- Southern Wayne -- Dave Overman 2-3, Chris Massey 1-3. Eastern Wayne -- Jeff Hill 1-2; Tyler Wicks 1-2; Taylor Sutton 1-3.
DP -- So. Wayne 1. LOB -- So. Wayne 4, E. Wayne 3. SB -- Gurley. SH -- Wiggins, Ponce.
IP H R ER BB SO
Grice (L, 0-2) 6 3 1 0 2 2
Wooten (W) 7 3 0 0 1 7
WP -- Wooten.
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