Saints fall in ECC opener

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DUDLEY - The best lesson Southern Wayne can learn from its season-opening loss Tuesday afternoon?

Shake it off.

D.H. Conley led off the Eastern Carolina 3A-4A opener with three consecutive solo home runs and cruised to a 14-0, five-inning victory on the Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex baseball diamond.

“I’ve been around for 21 years and this [Conley] is a pretty solid baseball club,” Saints head coach Trae McKee said. “We just didn’t pitch well. Will [Pennington] is the type of guy who’s got to spot the ball up and be able to move it around a lot.

“He hasn’t been roughed up like that in a long time. He’s going to bounce back because he’s a tough kid.”

Lead-off batter Dixon Williams launched a fastball away over the left center-field fence. Justin McDonald deposited an inside fastball over the right center-field wall, and East Carolina commit Braeden Murphy mashed a two-strike curveball over the right-field wall.

In all, the Vikings hit five homers.

“It’s not going to be like that all year,” DHC head coach Jason Mills said of his team’s early explosion.

“We know when they come over Thursday it’s going to be a tougher game. My guys all play travel ball, have been playing since COVID and they’re in tune with what we’re doing. We might have a lot of juniors in our lineup, but they’re experienced juniors.

“We do have some advantages on other teams.”

DHC had the upper hand in pitching, too.

Junior right-hander and North Carolina commit Matthew Matthjis pounded the strike zone and logged eight strikeouts during his four-inning stint. The Saints’ Alex Davis broke up Matthjis no-hit with a fourth-inning single down the right-field line.

Reliever Josh McAllister tossed a 1-2-3 fifth and finished with two strikeouts.

The duo combined to face two batters over the minimum for the mercy rule-shortened contest.

“We’ve got to go back to their place on Thursday,” McKee said. “We’re going to try and get better from here. [I think] we’re going to bounce back because we’re a tough team.”

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