04/24/08 — Warriors alone at the top

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Warriors alone at the top

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 24, 2008 3:34 PM

One small step at a time.

Eastern Wayne's travels from an 0-2 start to clinching a share of the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference regular-season title has been a marathon with its share of bumps along the way.

The Warriors took a giant step toward crossing one of several goals of their "to-do" list with a 7-4, senior night victory over archrival Charles B. Aycock on Wednesday evening. Eastern Wayne (16-5 overall, 8-1 ECC) secured a share of the ECC regular-season crown and can clinch it outright with a win Friday at Kinston.

"Our kids have worked hard all year and I've got a good coaching staff," said Warriors head coach Jabo Fulghum. "I knew we had potential all along, it was just a matter of gelling. We started to gel. This is gratifying but we have a lot of season left."

Eastern Wayne touched up Golden Falcons starter Jesse Randolph (7-2) for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the first.

John Wooten ripped an RBI double to right field and Tyler Wicks followed with a three-run homer to left center. Wooten went 2-for-3 with an RBI and catcher Cambric Moye also had a pair of hits.

"We hit the ball good," Fulghum said. "Randolph wasn't locating early and we hit the ball all over. It was a good start and I knew we had to play seven innings. We beat a good ball club tonight."

Walker Gourley's two-run homer to center in the home half of the second extended the lead to 6-0. Gourley finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.

Eastern Wayne hurler Michael Mintz kept Aycock hitters off balance and surrendered just one hit in the first three innings. Mintz was lifted in favor of Wooten after Aycock (15-6, 7-2) loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth.

Jordan Carr's two-run double trimmed the deficit to 6-2. Jonathan Taylor added an RBI single and Steven Strouse's sacrifice fly cut the lead to 6-4.

However, Carr was thrown out at home on Taylor's single, which took a costly run off the board.

"I was proud of my guys for fighting back," Golden Falcons head coach Charles Davis said. "You get down 6-0 at Eastern Wayne with as a good a ball club as they've got, and then we don't quit and battle back ... that's a lot to be proud of."

Jeff Hill led off the bottom of the fourth with what was ultimately ruled a home run. Hill belted Randolph's first pitch deep to left field and the ball eventually wound up in Taylor's glove in left field. Hill initially stopped at second base but was waved home by the umpire extending the Warriors advantage to 7-4.

Davis disputed the call to no avail.

"The (umpire) told me it hit the trees and bounced back," Davis said. "That was kind of bad eyesight right there. That ball was over the left fielder's head and it hit the fence. As hard as that ball was hit, if it hit those trees it would have went through those trees."

Wooten was solid in relief, striking out six in three innings of work. His diving catch off the mound robbed Aycock catcher Zach Wright of a bunt single in the sixth.

Later in the inning, the right-hander's hustle paid dividends again as Moye corralled a passed ball and fired to Wooten at the plate to nab Taylor, who tried to score from third. The play ended the inning.

"John's embraced that role," Fulghum said. "I would like to start him, but he likes coming on in relief. It gives other guys a chance to pitch some and we're finding ways to win."