05/09/08 — Warriors get first playoff win in more than a decade

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Warriors get first playoff win in more than a decade

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 9, 2008 2:52 PM

Eastern Wayne showed some grit and ended more than a decade of frustrating, postseason futility on the baseball diamond Thursday evening.

The Warriors clubbed three home runs in come-from-behind fashion and dumped Western Alamance 10-6 in their first-round, N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A playoff contest. They presented 16th-year head coach Jabo Fulghum with his first postseason triumph in 10 tries.

"You've got to learn how to win when you get behind," said Fulghum. "We've done it before and we did it today. It ain't what you do at the beginning (of the game), but what you do at the end sometimes.

"I'm proud of our guys for battling. Everybody stepped up, it just wasn't one guy today."

Eastern Wayne (20-6 overall) entertains either West Craven or Gray's Creek next Tuesday. First pitch is 7 p.m. at New Hope.

Western Alamance (11-13) appeared destined to hand the Warriors their fifth consecutive playoff loss on the 3-A level. The visitors roughed up right-hander Michael Mintz for four earned runs on six hits and two walks.

Catcher Anthony Hezar chased Mintz from the mound with a one-strike, two-RBI single into left center field. But relievers Adron Hollowell and John Wooten limited Western to three hits during the next four innings.

Eastern Wayne turned two crucial double plays and used the long ball to avoid keeping Fulghum winless in postseason play. Tyler Wicks crushed his seventh round-tripper of the season in the third inning. Jeff Hill drilled a lead-off homer in the fourth inning and Walker Gourley tied it with a solo shot two batters later.

"We knew we could hit the ball, but just had to find the cracks," said Wicks. "As soon as we did find the hole, we busted it wide open. When all three of us hit our home runs, it jolted us."

Fulghum's Warriors used small ball to plate a fifth-inning run. Cambric Moye and Jose Ponce each reached on bunt singles to load the bases. Wicks, who walked to start the inning, trotted home on Mintz's RBI groundout.

"That really hurt them a little bit, executed the bunt well that inning," said Fulghum. "We did the little things today a little bit."

Eastern Wayne broke the game open in the sixth. Two hit batsmen, four walks, Wooten's two-strike double and an infield error translated into a five-inning uprising. All five runs were unearned.

Western wound up using four hurlers, who combined to throw 142 pitches -- but just 72 strikes.

Wooten yielded a seventh-inning home run and issued a one-out walk to the No. 9 batter in the lineup. An infield error kept Western's comeback chances alive, but Gourley (three assists, two putouts) and Mintz (three assists) turned a game-ending double play.

Seven of nine Eastern Wayne starters recorded either a putout or assist in the two-hour, 35-minute affair. Moye logged nine putouts behind the plate, while Wicks retired six runners at first.

Wicks (2-for-2) and Hill (3-for-3) each reached base in four plate appearances. Moye finished 2-for-3 in Eastern Wayne's 10-hit attack.

"We've had a lot of good teams over the years who couldn't bust through the first round," said Wicks. "It's amazing ... a great feeling to make it through. Now we need to keep on going. We're not slowing down at all."