04/18/12 — Eastern Carolina 3-A baseball race is a battle

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Eastern Carolina 3-A baseball race is a battle

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 18, 2012 1:48 PM

Growing up with two sisters, I can vividly recall the never-ending struggle to always stay a step ahead of them.

We battled over the front seat in the family mini van, coveted leftovers in the refrigerator, argued over what to watch on television and fought to see who got the couch in our basement.

Like three siblings jockeying for position and working desperately to one-up each other, the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference race has become a three-team fight, also.

Eastern Wayne (12-4) owns a one-game lead over Southern Wayne (12-7) and leads North Lenoir (10-6) by two with just two weeks left in the regular season. A handful of big ballgames are yet to be played as the ECC season comes down the stretch.

Perhaps no element of the game will prove to be bigger in the hunt for the ECC championship than pitching depth. Each of the three contenders has multiple significant games remaining on its schedule and having reliable arms to turn to will be pivotal.

University of North Carolina signee and Eastern Wayne ace Zack Mozingo (6-0) continues to be the top arm in the conference. The right-hander has tallied 66 strikeouts in 412/3 innings. He pitched complete games in wins over C.B. Aycock and North Lenoir and earned the win in relief against Southern Wayne.

Left-hander Hunter Barnett turned in a complete-game victory in a 6-1 win over West Carteret in the Pitt County Classic on April 10. Eastern Wayne has games with North Lenoir, Southern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock left on its schedule. If the Warriors hope to win the ECC, Barnett and fellow hurlers Nolan James and Ryan Faucette will have to deliver on the mound in big situations.

Southern Wayne has developed depth in its pitching staff in recent weeks as Jackson Hayes, Jamar Holmes, Tyler Gainey and Cody Wendorf have each supplied quality innings behind No. 1 starter Jeremy Taylor.

Wendorf, a left-handed junior, tossed a complete game with 14 strikeouts in a win over West Carteret in the Pitt County Classic. Possibly more valuable than the experience Wendorf gained in that outing was the confidence he developed. With what can be a devastating curveball and faith in his abilities, Wendorf could prove to be a valuable asset down the stretch.

"Cody really did a good job," Saints' head coach Trae McKee said after Wendorf's complete game. "I feel confident that he's got some confidence. I think that was the biggest thing with him that he's got the confidence to go out there and do that."

North Lenoir has received quality innings all season from seniors Caleb Kearney (4-2) and Chastin Radford; and sophomores Landon Letchworth (4-0) and Zach Casper (2-1). Letchworth has given up just nine earned runs in 32 innings and the Hawks have a team ERA of 2.52.

North Lenoir has defeated both Charles B. Aycock and Southern Wayne once this season, and has a critical game at Eastern Wayne today.

With three ECC rivals within arm's reach of the coveted conference championship, you better believe its going to take more than one arm to bring that trophy home.