Warriors well prepared for strong competition
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 2, 2009 1:46 PM
The schedule looked rugged on paper.
The results were a sight to behold.
Eastern Wayne head baseball coach Jabo Fulghum challenged his team with early non-conference contests against perennial playoff qualifiers South Central and North Lenoir.
An early start to an always-difficult Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference schedule, along with stern midseason non-conference outings, prepared the Warriors for their current postseason run.
"We have always tried to play a tough non-conference schedule," said Fulghum. "It's a good measuring stick to find out what we need to work on. If you play good competition you're going to find out what you're weaknesses are and where you need to go work on."
Eastern Wayne started 11-0 before suffering back-to-back losses in mid-April. J.H. Rose, the 2009 eastern 4-A runner-up, handed Fulghum's team its first defeat.
The Warriors owned an 11-5 advantage in hits, but surrendered a bases-loaded RBI walk that led to Rose's win. Key defensive miscues also proved crucial in the one-run setback.
Ocean Lakes (Va.) handed Eastern Wayne its second loss on the opening day of the Jimmie R. Grimsley Hot Stove League Invitational.
The two-game skid may have been viewed as a step in the wrong direction. Fulghum regarded the defeats as healthy eye openers for his team.
"We were playing a bit afraid to lose instead of going out and trying to win," said Fulghum. "I think it was good for us. Since then we've been going straight on and working to improve every day."
Eastern Wayne captured its second consecutive ECC regular-season title and first-ever tournament crown.
"When you're going to play teams like Southern Wayne, Aycock and Hunt you better have your ducks in a row," said Fulghum. "Our non-conference schedule prepares us for a tough conference schedule. There's not a lot of time to prepare where there used to be."
The Warriors concluded regular-season play with a 2-1, non-conference loss at Wilmington New Hanover. Eight consecutive victories later, Fulghum's team is playing in the program's first state championship series since 1986 and just its third overall in school history.
"Our visions are set on one goal at a time," said Fulghum. "We've achieved one goal at a time and we've had different players to step up. John (Wooten) and Walker (Gourley) have carried us but they can't do it all themselves.
"We've gotten production from guys up and down the lineup. Pitching-wise someone different and has stepped up, and we've preached if we do simple things well, we'll put ourselves in position to win."
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