05/06/09 — Opinion -- Local teams prepare for ECC tournament

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Opinion -- Local teams prepare for ECC tournament

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 6, 2009 1:47 PM

For some teams, it's a second chance at earning a playoff berth. For others, it's simply an opportunity to build on an already solid campaign while gaining momentum for the postseason.

Whatever a club's agenda may be entering the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference tournament, winning is always atop the list of priorities.

Here's a look at Eastern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock and Southern Wayne as each team prepares for the ECC tournament:

No. 1 Eastern Wayne: The back-to-back ECC regular-season champions, the Warriors earned a first-round bye and will play host to either Southern Wayne or Kinston on Friday evening in New Hope.

The two biggest keys for Eastern Wayne could be its defense and maintaining its intensity. The Warriors committed nine errors in three games last week despite winning two of those three contests.

Eastern Wayne appeared sluggish for the better part of six innings in a home win last Wednesday over New Hanover less than 24 hours after losing at C.B. Aycock. The top-seeded Warriors (17-4) can't afford to have similar letdowns defensively or mentally if they want to reach a second straight ECC title game.

"If we play good defense we're pretty tough," said Eastern Wayne head coach Jabo Fulghum. "We just need to play heads up baseball. I want to see us maintain our intensity level and I want us to be able play hard. If we let the chips fall where they fall I believe good things will happen."

Fulghum confirmed earlier in the week that junior left-hander Josh Frederick will get the start on the mound in Friday night's semifinal game.

No. 2 C.B. Aycock: The defending tournament champions, the second-seeded Golden Falcons appear to be playing their best baseball of the season at the right time.

Aycock reeled off five consecutive ECC wins after starting 2-3 in conference play. A newfound confidence in their ability as a team, along with the return of shortstop Connor Narron to the lineup, helped the Golden Falcons (17-5) piece together a strong regular-season finish.

Aycock will entertain either Wilson Hunt or Wilson Beddingfield on Friday evening. The Golden Falcons will have gone eight days since playing its last game by the time it takes the field on Friday.

The lengthy break, Aycock's first of the season, is something that causes Davis some concern.

"My only concern this week is not having a game before Friday," said Davis. "We have been playing three games a week. That's going to be our goal as coaches this week is to make practices as competitive as possible."

No. 4 Southern Wayne: The Saints entertain Kinston in the first round tonight and were forced to rally past the fifth-seeded Vikings in both regular-season meetings.

Fourth-seeded Southern Wayne (11-13) has struggled to close out ballgames and capitalize on runners in scoring position at times this season. The Saints let a pair of wins slip away against Eastern Wayne and left eight runners on base in a loss at C.B. Aycock last week.

"We're searching for a win and searching for a way to finish a baseball game," said Southern Wayne head coach Trae McKee. "We've swung the bat well all year and our team average is right around .305 or .310. We've just got to keep from allowing other teams to score and we have to be better with runners in scoring position."

With a win over Aycock already under their belt and the confidence that comes from pushing Eastern Wayne to the brink twice, the Saints are more than capable of putting together a deep run in the tournament.