03/01/13 — BASEBALL TAB -- Fulghum excited about young team's potential

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BASEBALL TAB -- Fulghum excited about young team's potential

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 1, 2013 1:47 PM

For the first time in a long time the household names are gone at Eastern Wayne.

In their place are bright-eyed underclassmen ready to make their mark on the Warriors' storied program. Nine seniors graduated from a team that went 16-8 in 2012 and captured Eastern Wayne's fourth Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season championship in the last five years.

Filling the void left by veteran cornerstones Zack Mozingo, Hunter Barnett, Benito Avila, Nolan James, Tyler Ware, Wes Stewart, Ryan Mitchell and Wes Capps won't be easy.

Finding playing time for the wealth of young talent at his disposal should be a challenge for Warriors' head coach Jabo Fulghum.

"We have some depth which is something we have not had a lot of in the past," Fulghum said. "I'm excited about what we're getting ready to see once the season starts. We've had some guys pushing each other and competing for spots.

"Hopefully we can play one game at a time and progress one game at a time."

Eastern Wayne has a stable of capable, but relatively unproven arms on its pitching staff. Jeremy Lancaster returns as the Warriors' most experienced pitcher. Josh Dixon, who served as the Warriors' catcher a year ago, is also expected to see time on the hill.

Zack Smith, Tyler Warren, Justin Lee, Coy Barnett and Brandon Johnson could all potentially log some innings on the rubber.

"It all boils down to getting consistent pitching," Fulghum said. "If we can play good defense and our pitchers can throw strikes we can put ourselves in position at the end to win ballgames. It is hard to win when you don't do those two things."

Speed should also be an asset for Eastern Wayne as outfielders Ryan Kelly, Grayson Wells, Scott James, M.J. Morgan, Lee and Johnson all have good wheels. The ability to steal bases and put pressure on opposing defenses is something Fulghum is eager to utilize.

"The big key is moving runners over," Fulghum said. "With the new bat you've got to make the defense make the plays. We're not looking for guys to him home runs. We're looking for guys to get a fastball or hanging breaking ball to gap to gap. We've got some guys with some speed that can move around the bases."

Senior shortstop Ryan Faucette, the Warriors' leading hitter from a year ago, is expected to miss the beginning of the season with a broken hand. A year ago, an injury to a starting shortstop could have been devastating for the Warriors. This season it just means Smith, a freshman, inherits the opportunity to display his talent in Faucette's absence.

Eastern Wayne faces perennial powers South Central and Wilson Hunt before beginning ECC play March 5 at South Johnston.

"The league is going to be tough again this year," Fulghum said. "I think just about everybody is improved and I know a couple of teams had some talented kids transfer in. There's going to be some parity in our conference this year for sure."