PEMBROKE — Pitching wins championships and after Friday’s 6-3 victory at Purnell Swett, the Lumberton Pirates feel like their arsenal of arms is deep enough to grab a title in the Southeastern Conference this season.
“Our pitching staff is going to keep us in ballgames all year long,” Lumberton coach Paul Hodges said. “As a coach, you love it when you’ve got more than one quality starter and some other guys that can throw in key situations.”
Tied for first place with Richmond coming in, the Pirates took out their cross-town rival with dominance on the mound throughout before benefiting from a baserunning mistake during the Rams’ last gasp. Swett brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh with two outs, but had a runner tagged out in a rundown after Tyler Maynor’s infield single would’ve loaded the bases.
“That’s the classic high school baseball shoot yourself in the foot scenario,” Purnell Swett coach Bryan McDonald said. “If we go base to base there, the outcome may have been different.”
Daniel Oxendine’s two-run moonshot over the fence in left center off Jordan Swett gave Lumberton (9-5, 4-1) breathing room in the top of the seventh and capped off impressive appearances from starter Evan Odum and Sampson.
“I was looking for a fastball, but the curve was just sitting right there,” Oxendine said after his first homer of the season.
Added McDonald: “I’ll take the blame for that. We wanted to nibble with a base open and we hung one right over the plate. That ball might be still going.”
Hodges yanked Odum, a UNC commit, after five innings with a 3-2 lead to give way to Sampson, Lumberton’s ace and Robeson County’s top-ranked player in the preseason. Sampson ran into trouble in the final frame before sealing the deal.
“It was a great baseball game, one either team could have won,” Hodges said. “I’m proud of the way we competed.”
Swett (9-3) benefited from early shakiness from Odum to plate the game’s first run in the bottom of the first after the hard-throwing sophomore walked and hit a batter. After the Rams plated another in the second, Odum settled down and retired eight of the final 11 hitters he faced via strikeout.
“During the first couple of innings, I was overthrowing and really trying too hard because it was Purnell Swett,” Odum said. “I located better after that and was able to get a few strikeouts.”
Raleigh Forrest’s run-scoring through the hole to left in the top of the fourth supplied Lumberton with a one-run lead, an advantage it wouldn’t relinquish. The Pirates’ first two runs in the second came on Tyler Maynor’s two-out error in right.
Maynor made up for the mistake with an outfield assist later in the game, but Swett never regained the lead.
“We didn’t do the little things it takes to win,” McDonald said. “I thought DJ (Lowry) gave us a good enough outing, but we had too many mistakes. We’ll regroup and get back after it on Tuesday against (Pinecrest).
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
Lumberton 6, Swett 3
Lumberton 020 100 3 — 6 11 0
Purnell Swett 110 000 1 — 3 6 1
WP — Evan Odum. LP — DJ Lowry. S — Justice Sampson.
Leading hitters — LHS: Oxendine 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Forrest 2-2, 2 RBI; Brooks 2-3.