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Stanton, Wolves hold off Providence 3-2

NORCROSS -- Wesleyan's baseball team is used to using Devin Stanton's left arm as one of its biggest weapons.

In Thursday's Region 7-A opener against Providence Christian, the Georgia Tech-bound senior helped the Wolves out with both his arm and his bat, going 2-for-2 with a home run at the plate and pitching a scoreless seventh to close out a 3-2 victory over the Stars at Donn Gaebelein Field.

After spending the past three months rehabbing a minor tear in his pitching elbow, Stanton made his first game action of the season count by picking up the save to close out a solid start by senior Strother White, who threw five strong innings to move to 3-0 on the season.

"The win was huge, and to have your two-time ace state championship pitcher back is huge," Wesleyan coach Mike Shaheen said of the Wolves (3-6, 1-0) picking up a win in the region opener against one of the other top contenders. "His experience makes him a great leader. And (White) is doing what (Drew) Fithian did for us last year. As a senior, he's stepped in and done a great job."

He did a solid job Thursday, giving up just four hits and two runs -- only one earned -- with a career-high eight strikeouts in five innings before giving way to Kevin O'Leary, who threw a perfect sixth, and Stanton.

That effort was needed as Providence (5-6, 0-1) starter Kevin Dodson (0-3) was just as solid, scattering six hits and three runs (two earned) with four strikeouts over 51/3 innings.

After both teams had early scoring opportunities, only to come up empty, Wesleyan broke through in the bottom of the second as O'Leary's two-run single put Wesleyan in front 2-0.

Stanton gave the Wolves a little extra cushion with two outs in the third, jumping on a 1-1 offering from Dodson and hammering it well over the wall in left-center for a solo homer to make the score 3-0.

"(Dodson had) thrown two off-speed pitches, ... so I was definitely looking for a fastball," Stanton said. "He left one up and luckily I got a good swing on it."

But it took Christin Stewart only two pitches to get a good swing of his own in the top of the fourth and help Providence answer.

The sophomore slugger rocketed an 0-1 pitch from Strother well over the 345-foot mark in straightaway center for his fifth homer of the season, pulling Providence to within 3-1.

The Stars then threatened a big inning when Alan Skinner reached on an error and went to third after Austin Loyd's single -- his second hit of the game -- and a wild pitch, and came home one out later on Steven Slaughter's RBI fielder's choice grounder to cut Wesleyan's lead to 3-2.

"I challenged them in the fourth," Providence coach Adam Cantrell said of his Stars. "Wesleyan had come out seeing the bats and with the attitude that they were going to kick our tails. I told them if we didn't have that kind of attitude, it would be a long rest of the night. And we came out and scored a couple to give ourselves a chance."

Providence had a chance to tie the game after Josh Carter followed with a single, but White bore down and fanned Eric Stahl -- his seventh strikeout of the game -- to keep the Wolves' lead intact.

And after White threw a scoreless fifth and O'Leary followed with his scoreless sixth, Stanton made sure Wesleyan stayed in front.

The senior lefty showed no signs of rust, retiring Carter, Stahl and Tyler Brown -- the latter on strikes -- to slam the door.

"It feels great," the 2009 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year said. "The plan all along was for me to close if we had the lead (in the seventh).