03/02/10 — ECC baseball preview

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ECC baseball preview

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 2, 2010 1:46 PM

Perceived as the strongest Class 3-A prep baseball league statewide, the Eastern Carolina Conference could be powerful from top to bottom.

Realignment brought in perennial state contender North Lenoir, tradition-rich South Johnston and Triton. With those additions, that gives the ECC five teams that have combined to win seven N.C. High School Athletic Association championships on the 4-A, 3-A and 2-A levels.

Coaches tabbed Charles B. Aycock as the preseason favorite to capture the ECC regular-season crown this spring. The Golden Falcons received five of six first-place votes with 2009 state 3-A runner-up Eastern Wayne receiving the other first-place nod.

The Warriors were picked second. South Johnston was selected third, followed by Triton, North Lenoir and Southern Wayne.

Aycock finished 18-7 a year ago and lost to Wilson Fike in opening-round action of the NCHSAA playoffs. Eight starters return, including Major League prospect and North Carolina signee Connor Narron.

"Our strengths lie in our defense, our hitting and the depth in our pitching staff," said Golden Falcons head coach Charles Davis.

Eastern Wayne, the reigning ECC regular-season and tournament champion, welcomes eight starters back off last year's state runner-up squad. The Warriors will undoubtedly lean on its pitching staff, anchored by all-ECC selection Josh Frederick.

Sophomore Zack Mozingo, junior Logan Wicks and senior Zach Beachem should each see substantial time on the mound. Behind the plate is UNC Greensboro signee Cambric Moye.

"This is probably one of the best baseball conferences in the state," said Warriors head coach Jabo Fulghum. "But, I feel like we'll have a chance to win our third straight ECC crown. If we play together good things will happen."

South Johnston's strengths are its pitching and defense. UNC Wilmington signee Dillon Bass, senior first baseman Jesse Holmes and sophomore Austin Lee should anchor the defense. North Carolina State recruit Logan Jernigan returns to headline South Johnston's pitching staff.

Triton lost six starters off last year's team that ended the year 19-6.

"We have the potential to compete but we have key players that are hurt at the present time and we need to get them healthy," said Hawks head coach Joey Miriello. "We have a mixture of old and young players. If they develop chemistry together it will better our chances."

North Lenoir returns seven starters and head coach Jim Montague hopes his club's strength will be its defense. The Hawks posted a 15-9 record last spring and finished runner-up to archrival Greene Central in Eastern Plains 2-A Conference action.

Southern Wayne will be young with 10 sophomores and no seniors on the roster. Will Broadwell is the Saints' lone returning pitcher with varsity experience. Keith Jones will also play a key role in the team's success this season.

"We need pitchers to gain experience very fast," said Saints head coach Trae McKee. "We do have a lot of potential to swing the bats."