05/27/07 — North Lenoir dumps Whiteville

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North Lenoir dumps Whiteville

Published in Sports on May 27, 2007 1:59 PM

WHITEVILLE -- After blowing through the 2007 N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A baseball playoffs, the North Lenoir Hawks got their first test of the postseason on Friday night.

As they have all season, the Hawks passed with flying colors. North Lenoir overcame their first postseason deficit by scoring five unanswered runs to end the game and the Hawks defeated Whiteville, 7-3, to sweep the Wolfpack in the best-of-three eastern championship series.

The win sends the Hawks to their third straight state 2-A championship series. North Lenoir will play East Rutherford, the Western champ, at either N.C. State's Doak Field or Zebulon's Five-County Stadium in a best-of-three series that begins Friday.

"This team proved why they're going back for a third state championship," NL coach Jim Montague said. "Win or lose there, they don't have anything to be ashamed of."

North Lenoir was out-hit 7-6 by the Wolfpack, but senior outfielder Brandon Sutton had four of the Hawks' knocks. The Appalachian State University-signee finished 4-for-4 with three runs scored and two stolen bases.

He only had one hit in Thursday's 16-4 rout in Wheat Swamp in Game 1, a fact that didn't sit well with Sutton.

"Last night, I couldn't buy a hit when everyone else could," Sutton said.

"Tonight, it was a little bit different. The ball just fell into some spots for me. It really looked liked a basketball to me, not a baseball."

The Hawks (27-3 overall) jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning after the first four batters reached base. Andrew Manning earned a bases-loaded RBI when he was walked and Tyler Smith pushed the score to 2-0 on a sacrifice fly.

But the Wolfpack (22-7) stormed back with a run in the first and two more in the third to take a 3-2 lead.

The score remained 3-2 until the top of the fifth when Sutton led off the frame with a double. Sthil Sowers walked and Bryce Grady sacrificed the pair 90 feet. Manning then delivered a solid single to right field that scored Sutton and Sowers for a 4-3 lead. Manning eventually scored after a Whiteville error and wild pitch to give NL a 5-3 lead.

"It was good to be pitched to for the first time tonight," Manning said of his game-winning RBIs. "I was just trying to put it into play and it happened."

The Hawks tacked on two more insurance runs in the sixth inning thanks to two Whiteville errors. Even when they were down, the Hawks weren't discouraged.

"We've been down before, but we always come back," Sutton said. "We just considered this another game."

Senior right-hander Dewitt Pope earned the victory in relief of starter John Alphin, who left the game behind 3-2. Pope pitched two innings of scoreless baseball, giving up one hit and one walk while striking out one. Sowers earned the save by going the final two innings, striking out five and walking one. The East Carolina-signee said he is excited that his team will be going for its third straight title.

"Not many people get to experience one of these, so us getting to go after three is amazing," Sowers said. "We've got a good ball club. We've been together a long time, so this is a good way for us to end it, to come out playing for a state championship."

Whiteville was led by Lloyd Enzor and Trey Nye at the plate, who had two hits each. Charlie Gore had a two-RBI single in the third that gave the Wolfpack the temporary lead.

But the true star for the Wolfpack was senior pitcher Robbie Penny, who defeated South Lenoir in the fourth round on Tuesday. In Friday's loss, the fireballer (who hit 93 mph on a radar gun during the game) went 5 2/3 innings, striking out eight, walking six and giving up six hits. Only three of the seven runs he surrendered were earned.

It was that type of workmanlike performance that Whiteville coach Bret Harwood said he was most proud of. Harwood also said his Wolfpack is trying to mimic the one they lost to on Friday.

"North Lenoir's program is where everyone else wants to be," Harwood said. "But we're getting closer."


Kinston Free Press Sports Editor

Editor's note: Story reprinted with permission.