PEMBROKE — The Purnell Swett baseball team has faced its struggles early its Southeastern Conference schedule, but a 9-3 loss to Pinecrest on Tuesday put the Rams in a precarious position.
Rather than beating the Patriots (10-3, 4-2), which would have kept both teams battling for third place in the conference with Scotland, the Rams (9-4, 2-4) dropped to fifth, leaving their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
“We’ve got to come out of it or our season’s going to be over with as far as the playoffs,” Purnell Swett coach Bryan McDonald said. “We’re backs against the wall now. We went 6-4 in the conference last year and made the playoffs, tied for second. 6-4 might not tie for second this year unless the conference beats up on itself a lot and that will require us to win our last four.
“That’s what we’ve got to fight for right now.”
The Patriots, who sit behind 4-1 Lumberton and Richmond in the conference standings, didn’t use a flashy game to beat the Rams for the second time this season, instead relying on consistency. They didn’t log an extra-base hit, finishing with 11 singles. Other key offense came on walks and hit batters, with runs coming in four innings, including a final two in the seventh.
“One of the things I thought was important for us, we were scoring every inning,” said Pinecrest coach Jeff Hewitt. “We were doing our best, trying to keep the momentum going in the seventh. We know this is a late inning team.”
It was the final inning that summed up McDonald’s frustration with the game. Ram pitcher Jordan Swett, who had come in for the last three outs, got the first but proceeded to walk three batters and hit one with a pitch. The Rams’ only error of the game allowed Pinecrest’s final run to score.
“The last inning typified the whole night,” McDonald said. “They had bases loaded, two runners scored, they didn’t have a base hit and we had maybe one error. They were just base-on-balls, hit batsmen, just doing little things that we normally don’t do but we’ve done the last couple of weeks.”
Other innings included similar problems. Pinecrest’s first run of the game scored when starter Austin Lee Locklear hit a batter with the bases loaded, setting the table for three-run inning. A walk opened the Patriots’ three-run fourth inning, with a run later scoring on a hit batter.
Purnell Swett’s primary offense came in the third and fourth innings.
With the Rams trailing 3-0 midway through the third, Tyler Maynor opened the inning with a walk and a single and stolen base put two Rams in scoring position. A walk to Ironeyes Locklear loaded the bases for a two-run double by Anthony Williamson that narrowed the lead to 3-2.
Maynor later played a role in getting Swett’s final run in the fourth when he got caught in a pickle between first and second that allowed Drew Armstrong to score from third.
The Rams finished with six hits, two from Williamson. Once Pinecrest put in relief pitchere Culley Bayless in the fifth inning, the Patriots recorded six straight outs before a small rally in the seventh.
The limited hitting is something that McDonald credits for his team’s struggles in conference play.
“I think the lack of offense is causing us to have a lack of fire in what we’re doing,” he said.
In other area baseball games, Fairmont continued its undefeated start in the Three Rivers Conference with a 13-1 win against West Columbus in five innings. South Columbus beat Red Springs 13-1 in five innings and St. Pauls lost 6-1 to Whiteville. The Bulldogs wre limited to two hits.
The Purnell Swett softball team got a key conference win, beating Pinecrest 6-4 on a night that honored cancer survivors.
The Rams took the field in pink jerseys and unveiled a memorial for the late Wendy Barton, a staff member at the school who coached multiple sports and was heavily involved in Special Olympics until she passed away.
In the win, Sequoia Locklear overcame a three-run second inning and allowed only two more hits and one run in the final five innings.
Mikala Lowry and Tiffany Clark combined for seven hits and five of the Rams’ six RBIs. A four-run third inning put the Rams ahead for good.
Fairmont beat West Columbus 13-3 to improve to 5-4 in conference. The Golden Tornadoes got a three-hit outing from pitcher Katelon Floyd and rallied for 10 hits, scoring 10 of their 13 runs in the first two innings. Floyd, Tiffany Hicks and Christa Thorndyke all had two hits each, which included a double and triple from Hicks.
In other area softball games, South Columbus beat Red Springs 13-1 and Whiteville beat St. Pauls 11-4.
Pinecrest 9, Purnell Swett 3
Pinecrest 003 301 2 — 9 11 0
P. Swett 002 100 0 — 3 6 1
WP — Phillips. LP — A. Locklear.
Leading hitters — PC: Helms 2-5, 3 RBI, Maples 2-5, 2 RBI, Wallace 2-5, 2 RBI; PS: Williamson 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI.
Fairmont 13, West Columbus 1
West Columbus 000 01 — 1 3 1
Fairmont 445 0X — 13 9 2
WP — Cole Lovin (5-1).
Leading hitters — F: Leggette 2-2, HR, 4 RBI; Hardin 2-2, 4 RBI.
Purnell Swett 6, Pinecrest 4
Pinecrest 030 001 0 — 4 8 2
P. Swett 004 011 x — 6 11 2
WP — S. Locklear. LP — McDaniel.
Leading hitters — PC: Love 2-3; PS: M. Lowry 4-4, 3 RBI, Clark 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI.
Fairmont 13, West Columbus 3
West Columbus 000 21 — 3 3 5
Fairmont 460 12 — 13 10 4
WP — Katelon Floyd. LP — Lee.
Leading hitters — WC: Flowers 1-1, Jackson 1-2, Young 1-2; FHS: Hicks 2-3 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, Thorndyke 2-4 2 RBI, Floyd 2-2, RBI.