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Whetstone, Clams walk off final home game

Edenton 3 Wilmington 2

Edenton Steamers vs Wilson Tobs, Game 22, 2018-06-26
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Edenton Steamers' Ben Whetstone from Missouri State University went 2-for-4 with a double and hit a walk-off two-run home run against the Wilmington Sharks, baseball, Friday, August 3, 2018 at Hicks Field in Edenton. The Clams won 3-2 in 10 innings.

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By David Gough
Sports Writer

Saturday, August 4, 2018

EDENTON — Historic Hicks Field was packed for Fireworks Night as part of the Edenton Steamers’ final home game of 2018 Friday, and the game against the Wilmington Sharks ended in appropriate fashion.

Ben Whetstone, with the team trailing by one and down to their final out in the tenth inning, crushed a pitch from Wilmington’s Will Varnadore over the right-field wall for a two-run walk-off home run.

His sixth home run of the season, capping off a 2-for-4 night with a walk at the plate, gave Edenton a 3-2 victory.

“It felt good,” the first baseman said. “Definitely knew it was gone right off the bat. It’s a good way to end the year here.”

Whetstone was a late addition to Edenton (11-11) this summer, but after making his debut in the last week of June, he’s been one of the most productive bats on the team with those six blasts and his .317 batting average both being second-best on the team behind only Zane Harris.

Coinciding with a big night from one of the team’s biggest offensive threats in the final home game was a big night from one of the team’s most consistent pitchers all season.

Ben Anderson impressed yet again with his best pitching performance of his career. The right-hander struck out 14 batters, his best ever at any level of baseball.

The Binghamton product, with 59 strikeouts on the season and four double-digit strikeout games, went seven strong innings of three-hit, no-walk and scoreless baseball. He holds the team’s best earned-run average at 0.91.

“I had a lot of it working tonight,” Anderson said. “Curveball was probably the best that I’ve ever thrown. Fastballs to get ahead and just put the batter away. Felt really good out there.”

Friday night’s win put the Steamers 1.5 games behind the Wilson Tobs in the second half standings with just two games remaining to be played in a doubleheader at Peninsula Saturday.

Originally, in order for Edenton to make the postseason, it would have needed to win the north division’s second half crown or have Peninsula win it again while the Steamers finish with the division’s second-best overall record.

That situation has had a bit of gray area as of Friday night. Several games for Wilson, Peninsula and Edenton were cancelled due to rain in the last few weeks and there’s no time to make them up with the playoffs beginning Sunday.

So, the best winning percentage takes precedence over the most wins. Wilson would be the second-half division champ even with a loss Saturday and two Steamer wins in Peninsula.

For head coach Russ Burroughs, however, he’s not giving up hope yet. Assuming the weather holds up Saturday in all cases, the Steamers will have played 50 games all season while Wilson played 46 games.

He doesn’t think his team, if they were to win their last two games especially, should be punished by the weather situation nor the fact that they were able to have more games in hand than the Tobs.

“Until I get a phone call from the commissioner saying the Edenton Steamers have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in every scenario possible, I’m still believing we’re going to make the playoffs,” Burroughs said.

Regardless of whether the Steamers miss or make the single-elimination playoff game at Peninsula Sunday, they still did in the second half what they’ve been accustomed to doing; that’s finishing strong.

Friday’s win was their seventh in ten games after winning just one of their first seven second-half games. Edenton’s first half started out the exact same way before winning 10 of its next 15.

“We’re the ‘Cardiac Clams,” Burroughs said. “We got something like five extra-inning wins, four or five ninth-inning wins. This team never gives up. We usually start slow, but we always finish strong and that’s how it’s been all year.”

This season was Burroughs’ first as a head coach. The former pitching coach, who celebrated his 32nd birthday Friday, has gained a lot out of the experiences he was able to have throughout the course of the season.

“It gives me a lot to understand what I need to work on in the offseason to get better,” Burroughs said. “It was exciting. It was the first group of guys I was able to recruit. I’m never going to forget them. That’s just how it is. Your first one is always the most special.”

Burroughs hopes to bring back anywhere from five to ten guys next season. It’s a luxury the Steamers weren’t really able to have this year as most of last year’s team were already juniors in college.

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