FAIRMONT — When Chance Leggett touched home plate for the final time on Tuesday, parts of the Fairmont baseball field filled with euphoria.
Even as a cold rain drizzled down from a cloudy sky, Leggett was greeted by a blanket-covered crowd on its feet as teammates ambushed him with hugs, high fives and taps on the helmet, all while cars in the distance honked their horns.
Leggett had a smile on his face that couldn’t be erased.
“It was like we won the World Series,” he said. “I was on top of the world.”
His winning run capped a major comeback for the Golden Tornadoes, who went hitless for six innings before overcoming a four-run deficit to beat Whiteville 5-4 in eight innings on Tuesday despite logging only two hits the entire game.
The third-ranked Wolfpack (6-2, 3-2) was in control for nearly the entire game until last-minute rallies by the Golden Tornadoes (9-1, 5-0) pushed the game to extra innings, and eventually the win.
“I’m just speechless,” Fairmont coach Sandy Thorndyke said as he stood near the front of the dugout. ” (Late in the game) I stayed on my one little spot here. We started having some good luck, so I didn’t move much. I’m not being superstitious, but I did find a penny on heads today.”
It was the first matchup of the season between the state-ranked teams. Whiteville, who entered Tuesday ranked third in 1A, is expected to be the biggest challenger as Fairmont, the sixth-ranked team in 2A, tries for its fourth consecutive Three Rivers championship.
When it was done, Whiteville’s dugout was straight silence. There was no conversation as players packed their bags with coaches waiting nearby, the only utterance coming to indicate it was time to leave.
The Wolfpack had gotten out to a 4-0 lead, scoring twice in the third inning before getting insurance runs in the sixth and seventh.
The lead was held together by freshman pitcher McKenzie Gore, who was nearly flawless in his first six innings.
Gore hit spots and mixed in a breaking ball to keep hitters off guard. He retired Fairmont’s first 13 batters in order and carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh inning. He racked up 10 of his 11 strikeouts in the first six, the only blemish being a walk in the fourth.
Thorndyke said the team took a step-by-step approach, first looking to breakup the perfect game, then to breakup the no hitter, and eventually to avoid the shutout.
“We could have very easily laid down but hey, we didn’t,” Thorndyke said. “Give credit to the kids. It wasn’t anything we did as coaches. They did it all tonight.”
The no hitter ended when Alec Brewington hit a blooping single to shallow left field to lead off the seventh inning and Leggett followed it with a walk. The two moved into scoring position and Brewington scored on a single by Gage Hardin to break the shutout.
Gore was removed after hitting another batter to load the bases with one out, and his replacement, Hunter Harwood, walked in Leggett. An error on a rushed throw eventually allowed the tying runs to score.
Leggett said the rally was preceded by a short chat amongst players.
“I told them to get their heads up, anything could happen,” he said. “That’s probably the best team in our conference besides us. … We had to play to win.”
An error again hurt the Wolfpack an inning later. With the bases loaded and one out, Tyler Musselwhite hit a chopping grounder up the first-base line. The first baseman went for the force at home, which the catcher fumbled, allowing Leggett to score.
Cole Lovin picked up the win for Fairmont after pitching the final inning. Hardin threw the first seven innings, allowing 12 hits with six strikeouts. Thorndyke credited him for only allowing three earned runs. He also left seven Whiteville runners in scoring position.
Connor Grainger picked up the loss for Whiteville.
Fairmont’s softball team lost to Whiteville, falling 13-0.
Saulnier leads Lumberton to win
RAEFORD — The Lumberton baseball team started to find an offensive groove on Tuesday, combining it with aggressive baserunning in an 8-3 win against Hoke.
“We put the ball in play a lot better tonight and hit the ball harder too,” said Lumberton coach Paul Hodges.
Jacob Saulnier continued his strong start, going 2-for-4 with five RBIs. In his second at-bat, the Pirates had two on and went with the hit-and-run. Saulnier did his part, hitting a base-clearing triple and following it with another two-RBI single in his next trip to the plate.
The Pirates (6-4, 2-0) also converted on seven of their eight steal attempts.
The JV team also won 2-1.
Lumberton softball finds offense
RAEFORD — The Lumberton softball team had a long-awaited offensive breakout on Tuesday in a 14-6 win against Hoke.
The Pirates (1-1, 2-6) won their second in a row following an 0-6 start, getting 21 hits and limiting themselves to four errors, three on a single play.
“It finally clicked tonight and we hit the ball well,” said Lumberton coach Mackie Register.
Seven pirates had multiple hits, led by Randi Bullard, who went 4-for-5 and finished a home run short of the cycle. Joy Church finished 3-for-5 with a home run. Taylor Hammonds and Tori Sealy also had three hits and Danielle Smith went 2-for-5 with a home run, also picking up her second win in the circle.
Other area games
Because of rainy weather in the region, St. Pauls’ baseball and softball games at South Columbus were moved to Thursday at 4:30 p.m and West Columbus beat South Robeson 9-4 in baseball.
Fairmont 5, Whiteville 4
Whiteville 002 001 10 — 4 12 2
Fairmont 000 000 41 — 5 2 0
WP — Cole Lovin. LP — Connor Grainger.
Leading hitters — W: Cartrette 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Harwood 2-4, 2B; F: Leggett 0-2, 2 runs, HBP, BB; Hardin 1-2, 2 BB, run, RBI.
Lumberton 8, Hoke 3
Lumberton 003 302 0 — 8 7 0
Hoke 100 010 1 3 5 2
WP — Merritt. LP — Virgil.
Leading hitters — L: Oxendine 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Saulnier 2-4, 5 RBI, 3B; H: Cummings 2-3, 2B.
Lumberton 14, Hoke 6
Lumberton 340 106 0 — 14 21 4
Hoke 010 041 0 — 6 6 4
WP — Smith. LP — Locklear.
Leading hitters — L: S. Prevatte 2-4, 3 RBI, 2B; Smith 2-4, 2 RBI, HR; Hammonds 3-5; Church 3-5, HR; Bullard 4-5, 3B, 2B; Sealy 3-4, 3 BI, 2B; Mecure 2-4; H: Norton 2-4; Russell 2-3.