05/13/07 — West Carteret nips E. Wayne

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West Carteret nips E. Wayne

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 13, 2007 2:03 AM

Nolan Lancaster's fourth-inning, tape-measure home run seemed to deflate West Carteret's pride Friday evening on the Eastern Wayne diamond.

Until Joe Montuori stepped into the batter's box in the seventh inning. The No. 9 hitter in the Patriots' lineup, the sophomore connected on his first-ever varsity home run and catapulted West Carteret to a 4-3 victory.

The Patriots (14-10 overall) continue play Tuesday in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A playoffs at Currituck County. The Warriors remained winless in the postseason since 1990 and concluded the year 13-14.

"We came up short," said Eastern Wayne head coach Jabo Fulghum. "It's just unfortunate somebody had to lose, especially us. It's a hard pill to swallow."

Eastern Wayne endured its third consecutive one-run defeat in the postseason and is 0-4 all-time in the 3-A playoffs since 2003.

West Carteret, the No. 4 seed from the Coastal 8 Conference, collected its fifth playoff victory in its last seven outings. The Patriots reached the eastern semifinals in 2005 and 2006.

"This is definitely not the team I've had in the past," said West Carteret coach Robby Lasater, who graduated two Division I pitchers last season. "But they played with heart tonight. It was a total team effort. Everybody had a little bit in this game."

The Warriors manufactured single runs in each of the second and third innings off Patriot hurler Brandon Johnson. A right-handed side-winder, Johnson issued a one-out walk to Lancaster in the second. Lancaster stole second and third, and scored when Jeff Hill reached base on an infield error.

In the third, Jose Ponce drilled a lead-off single to left center and crossed home on another infield bobble. Johnson turned an inning-ending double play to escape further damage.

Eastern Wayne returned the favor in the fourth.

An outfield error gave West Carteret an extra out, which led to a 2-2 tie. Allan Buck and Jared Belknap each drove in a run against Warrior right-hander John Wooten.

Lancaster, who made two superb defensive plays to preserve Wooten's shutout bid through three innings, put the Warriors back in front 3-2. The junior center fielder belted a one-strike fastball over the center field wall which landed sometime Saturday morning on Berkeley Boulevard.

It was Lancaster's third homer of the season.

"That was a bomb," said Lasater.

Frankie Smith's two-out single forced a 3-3 deadlock through 4 1/2 innings.

"We haven't done that all year," said Lasater. "We've been the type of team that if we got up, we won. If we got down, we didn't come back. Maybe they've decided to turn it up a notch for the playoffs.

"They played good ball tonight."

Johnson yielded doubles to Wooten and Jackson Frederick, respectively, in the sixth and seventh innings. Neither runner scored as Johnson coerced the Warrior batters to bite at off-speed pitches on the outside corner of the plate.

A senior, Johnson scattered five hits and notched 12 strikeouts in a complete-game effort. He retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced.

"We couldn't get the timely hit and I'll give credit to Johnson because he threw some good pitches," said Fulghum.

Montuori's lead-off home run, the Patriots' nine of the season, chased Wooten from the mound in the seventh. Right-handed reliever Taylor Sutton benefited from another spectacular play by Lancaster and kept Eastern Wayne in the hunt for its first postseason win in 17 years.

Wooten threw a five-hitter and fanned seven Patriot batters.

It was the final contest for five Eastern Wayne seniors -- Sutton, Frederick, Drew Douglas, Corey Harr and Chad Gurley. Fulghum praised the quintet for their commitment and dedication.

"I'm going to miss the seniors," said Fulghum. "They've worked hard and this team has played hard all year. That's all you can ask. For the young kids, we've got a lot to look forward to (in the future).

"We've just got to work hard and build on it."

West Carteret 000 210 1 -- 4 5 3

Eastern Wayne 011 100 0 -- 3 5 3

Leading hitters -- West Carteret -- Grant Kelly 1-3; Frankie Smith 1-3, RBI; Mike Robertson 1-3; Jared Belknap 1-3, RBI; Joe Montuori 1-3, HR, RBI. Eastern Wayne -- Chad Gurley 1-3; John Wooten 1-3, 2B; Nolan Lancaster 1-2, HR, RBI; Jackson Frederick 1-3, 2B; Jose Ponce 1-3.

DP -- W. Carteret 1. LOB -- W. Carteret 4, E. Wayne 4. SB -- Lancaster 2, Montuori. CS -- Johnson, Hill. SH -- Johnson, Buck, Gourley.


West Carteret

Johnson (W) 7 5 3 1 1 12

Eastern Wayne

Wooten (L) 6 5 4 2 3 7

Sutton 1 0 0 0 0 0

WP -- Wooten 2.

T -- 1:55.