03/24/12 — Saints claim crucial ECC baseball win at home

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Saints claim crucial ECC baseball win at home

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 24, 2012 11:08 PM

DUDLEY -- Southern Wayne had plenty of time to develop character in the midst of adversity during the past month.

Perhaps that is why a 4-1 deficit midway through a pivotal Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference game hardly made the Saints panic.

Southern Wayne erupted for six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and Jeremy Taylor pitched a complete game in a 7-4 win over ECC foe North Lenoir on Friday evening at the Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex.

The Saints (7-4 overall, 4-1 ECC) avoided falling two games back in the conference-title race, while the Hawks (6-3, 4-1) endured their first league loss of the season.

Brian Hardy put North Lenoir ahead with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning. Mikal Batts tacked on a run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the third.

Hawks' sophomore left-hander Landon Letchworth held the Saints without a hit until Keith Jones' single to center field in the third inning. Taylor Gainey followed with an RBI single to pull Southern Wayne within 3-1.

Letchworth led off the top of the fourth inning with a walk and later scored on JT Williams' two-out RBI double. That would be North Lenoir's final hit of the game.

Kevin Williams began the Saints' six-run fifth inning by reaching on a dropped third strike. Jamie Dove delivered a one-out single before Williams raced home on a wild pitch. Clayton Cashwell's RBI single scored Dove as the margin shrunk to 4-3.

Ashton Cox's RBI single scored Cashwell to tie the game at 4-4. Jacob Sasser followed with a two-run double that put Southern Wayne in front 6-4. Courtesy runner Thomas Kelly later scored on a Hawks' error.

Keith Jones paced the Saints with two hits.

"We've been looking for some toughness and some fight," Southern Wayne head coach Trae McKee said. "We had our backs up against the wall early. I was just super proud of us just getting in there and grinding for a change. We've been in a little slide offensively.

"As a hitter I know whenever it turns the other way good things can happen. I thought we did a better job with two strikes."

Taylor retired the final 10 batters he faced, including four strikeouts. The senior right-hander surrendered four runs (three earned) on five hits with one walk and recorded 11 strikeouts on 103 pitches to earn the win.

"When my teammates started hitting the ball and they gave me the lead I wasn't giving it up," Taylor said. "I found some momentum. If we hit the ball, we can't be stopped. When we started playing as a team it made me a whole lot more confident and I was able to make my pitches."

Letchworth surrendered four runs (two earned) on four hits with six strikeouts and no walks in 4 1/3 innings and settled for a no-decision. Zach Casper endured the loss in relief. Hardy (two RBI) led the Hawks with two hits.

The Saints visit ECC rival Charles B. Aycock on Tuesday, while North Lenoir plays host to ECC leader Eastern Wayne the same evening.