Winningham out for key series
By By Stan Caldwell / Special to The Star
May 10, 2002
HATTIESBURG When the University of Southern Mississippi hosts East Carolina this weekend in a critical Conference USA baseball series, the Golden Eagles will be without one of their key players.
X-rays taken on Monday revealed that starting third baseman Allen Winningham suffered a broken bone in his left leg and will be out four to six weeks. That means that unless USM reaches the College World Series, Winningham has played his last game for the Golden Eagles.
Winningham suffered a clean break of his left fibula, the smaller and outer of the two bones in the lower leg. He sustained the injury when he was hit by a pitch Friday night against Memphis.
The loss of Winningham is a big blow to the Eagle offense. At the time of his injury, he was the team's leading hitter with a .366 average out of the second spot in the batting order, and he leads C-USA with 19 doubles.
Freshman Beau Griffin will take over Winningham's spot at third base, and another freshman, Jarrett Hoffpauir, moves into the No. 2 spot in the order. USM coaches say they like Griffin's play in the field, and they're hoping Hoffpaiur, who has been hot at the plate lately, can pick up Winningham's slack offensively.
Winningham said he didn't think his injury was too serious at first, and he even expected to play the third game of the Memphis series on Sunday. But the swelling right above his ankle didn't abate, leading to x-rays on Monday and confirmation of the broken leg.
The Golden Eagles (33-16, 16-7) won't be able to dwell on their loss with ECU coming into town for three games. USM is tied with Houston for the league lead, but the Pirates (35-13-1, 14-9-1) are right in the thick of the red-hot conference race. Moreover, ECU is ranked 24th in the Baseball America poll and 22nd in the USA TODAY/ESPN poll.
ECU and USM are familiar foes in the football field, but Friday's game will be the first time the two teams have met in baseball, as this is East Carolina's first year as a full member of C-USA.
The Pirates will bring a pretty well-balanced squad into the series. ECU only has a team batting average of .297, but its team ERA is a league-leading 3.23. Sam Narron (7-3, 3.10) and Davey Penny (7-2, 3.23) lead the Pirate staff. Darryl Lawhorn is the leading hitter for ECU with a .415 average. He's hit 14 home runs and driven in 48 runs.
Friday's starting time will be later than usual, with the first pitch scheduled for 8 p.m., because of USM's commencement ceremonies earlier in the evening. Saturday's game will be at 3 p.m. and Sunday's game will start at 1 p.m.