EWHS teammates lean on each other
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 4, 2009 1:46 PM
John Wooten and Walker Gourley don't anticipate giving an emotional pre-game speech or calming the nerves of a teammate before Friday's game against Lake Norman in Zebulon.
The two Eastern Wayne seniors have done plenty of talking on and off the field during the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A playoffs.
The life-long friends and fellow East Carolina signees have been living examples for their teammates to follow. Now, as the Warriors prepare for a performance on high school baseball's grandest stage, Wooten and Gourley couldn't be more confident in their teammates.
"I think we don't have any problem with anybody getting nervous," said Gourley. "We've played together all year and we play with confidence. I don't think there's any message to relay other than to go out there like we have all year and play hard."
Relentless workers known for spending hours on the practice field and in the batting cage, Wooten and Gourley have reaped the benefits of their labor. Wooten enters the state championship series hitting .540 with 16 home runs, 47 hits and 51 RBI in 87 at-bats. Six of the third baseman's 16 home runs have come during the postseason.
Gourley has compiled a .477 batting average with 42 hits, four home runs and 23 RBI in 88 at-bats.
"Hard work is always going to pay off," said Wooten. "I don't work hard to set an example. I work hard because I feel like that's the way it should be done and that's the way the game should be played.
"You shouldn't take anything for granted because right when you start thinking you've got the game figured out is when it will show you that you don't."
Five of the Warriors' eight postseason victories have been comeback wins. In both games of the eastern regional finals against Northern Nash, Eastern Wayne got significant contributions from guys in the lineup other than Wooten and Gourley.
Cambric Moye's two-out solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning tied game one against the Knights at 5-5. Robert Faucette followed with a double and Jose Ponce's walk-off double scored Faucette to end the ballgame.
The following night, Eastern Wayne again received production throughout its lineup. Moye belted a three-run homer, and Josh Frederick and Zack Mozingo each provided two-run doubles. Colton Fulghum added a sacrifice fly.
"I've got just as much confidence in Colton Fulghum, Robert Faucette or Zach Beachum or anybody as I do in myself or Walker," said Wooten. "I love being up at-bat in those situations, but if something needs to happen then I've got total confidence in anybody on our team."
The Warriors have rallied around the phrase "Elmer's Glue" this season as those words have served as a constant reminder of the importance of sticking together and believing in one another. That unity has transcended beyond the dugout and the playing field to a strong sense of camaraderie that doesn't stop once the game is over.
"Very rarely do you have a team like ours and you have so many people that get along with everybody," said Wooten. "After the game I'll hang out with or call anybody on the team. It's like after the game we're talking to everybody and it's like everybody is all together."
As the weekend draws near and the magnitude of playing for a state title transitions from a dream to a reality, Wooten and Gourley's calmness and confidence has become noticeably contagious amongst their teammates. Eastern Wayne had a looseness about it at practice this week and an understanding that once the first pitch is thrown Friday night, the state championship becomes just another game.
"I'm sure there will be some deep breaths," said Frederick. "All I think about is Lake Norman puts their pants on the same we do. It's no different from any other game we've played just because it's the state championship at the Mudcats' stadium.
"It's no different. It's just a game."
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