First Posted: 12/26/2013
2013 was a year filled with noteworthy sports moments, whether on the prep level or even local professionals that represented the county on a national stage. Championships were won, other strong seasons cut short, but there was hardly a dull time to be a fan.
The Robesonian sports staff went through the year’s highlights and picked out the top 13 stories of 2013.
10. Britt wins second straight county POY award
When Fairmont’s baseball team attacked this year, it did so with a handful of pitchers that included young phenom Cole Lovin. None stood out more than Alex Britt.
The senior and UNCP signee became the third player in history to win consecutive player of the year awards, joining only former St. Pauls player Dwayne Gerald, who won awards in 1990 and 1991, and South Robeson’s Jerome Hunt, the current athletic director at Purnell Swett.
“Alex understands how to pitch and he’s one of the best we’ve ever had here,” said Fairmont coach Sandy Thorndyke. “We knew what to expect when we put him out there.”
Britt overcame back spasms early in the season to regain the dominance he flexed during a 10-win junior year. Grimacing through his first couple of starts, Britt led the area in strikeouts, innings pitched and helped the Golden Tornadoes to a berth in the third round of the state playoffs.
Behind his arm, the Golden Tornadoes put together a 12-game win streak that ended in the third round of the state playoffs. Britt allowed five runs in the game, but six total runs in the 43 innings prior.
Thorndyke credited Britt with a strong senior season.
“He’s pitched the best he could for us and if we had do it all over again, we’d put him on the mound again,” he said. “He’s one of the main reasons we’re here. They just beat us tonight.”
11. Bass wins County golf title, familiar faces take Kiwanis
The county’s top individual golf tournament ultimately came down to two friends on hole No. 1.
When all was said and done, 20-year-old Ryan Bass who sank a putt, took off his cap and walked over to his opponent, giving him a hug and a handshake as the Robeson County Golf Championships, sponsored by Dial Insurance, ended on the same hole it started on two days earlier.
Bass beat friend and defending champion Brad Locklear on a playoff hole to take the county title for the first time.
“I work as hard as I can on my game,” Bass said. “My putter came through for me.”
He became the tournament’s fourth champion in four years Locklear in 2012, Ian Locklear in 2011, and Kyle Covington in 2010. Covington had won seven of eight tournaments from 2003 to 2010.
Laura Bird, a women’s golfer at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Purnell Swett High alum, finished the county tournament at even-par 144 for her first win in three tries in the women’s division. Eddie Williams, son of longtime Pinecrest head professional and course superintendent C.M. Williams, won the senior division and Ashton Woods won the men’s division.
At the Kiwanis All-American Golf Tournament, Dyrck Fanning and Scott Benton reclaimed the top spot for the first time since 2007 with a 10-under-par 62.
“We won back-to-back and I told Scott I thought was like 2009 or 2010,” Fanning said. “When I got to looking it was 2006 and 2007. I told Scott I didn’t realize it’d been six years. It’s been a while.”
12. Lumberton soccer gets 1st win over Pinecrest in 10 years, Bradley Burnette named All-State
Defenders don’t always get the stats on the soccer field, but Lumberton’s Bradley Burnette got all the acclaim.
Burnette, who spent his youth watching the dominant Pirates of the mid-2000s, finished his senior season in the same tradition as the first player since 2007 to make the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association’s All-State team.
“Having an older brother play and growing up around the program, he got to witness firsthand the success of previous teams and what it meant to be a part of it,” Lumberton coach Simmons said. “He learned to respect the tradition and eventually embraced it.”
He was only the fourth All-State player in school history, following Kyle Dickerson in 2007, Devin Musselwhite in 2003 and Chad Sanders in 2002.
The honor capped an eventful season for the team, which made it to the second round of the playoffs and had its first win against Pinecrest since 2003. In the win, the senior-heavy Pirates trailed 2-0 before Burnette used his size to score two goals off headers to tie the game and Zach Von Rupp and Jace Ward later scored the winners.
It made for a season that left Burnette more than happy, with him humbly crediting linemates Scott Cherichella, Mahir Patel and Antonio Massol for the success.
“I’m just glad I left my mark,” Burnette “I went out beating Pinecrest, I went out with a great team.
“That’s the best team we’ve had since I’ve been in high school.”
13. Lumberton pitches way to Slugfest title No. 6
There’s hardly an occasion that gets the Lumberton baseball team more excited than the annual Robeson County Slugfest tournament.
The Pirates continued to show why this year when they won their third straight tournament title and the seventh overall for coach Paul Hodges.
“These kids really get pumped up for this thing playing against their friends and other players in our county,” Hodges said following this year’s championship game.
The Pirates did it this year by beating host Purnell Swett 2-0 behind pitching from tournament MVP Justice Sampson. Sampson won in style, holding the game-tying run in scoring position in three straight innings of the championship game. On the opposite side, Austin Lee Locklear tossed a complete game without a walk, allowing a run each in the first and six innings.
Sampson provided the spark all year from the mound, which included a no-hitter in a loss to Richmond.
The Pirates ultimately struggled defensively and the senior-heavy squad fell missed the playoffs, but kept bragging rights within the county.
Lumberton fared better on the softball diamond, finishing 14-13 in coach Mackie Register’s return to the sport. Behind pitcher Meagan Skipper, the Pirates won their first state tournament game of the fast-pitch era.