After a historic season this year that included the first regular-season conference title in program history, the Purnell Swett baseball team racked up the postseason awards from the Southeastern Conference, the league announced on Monday.
Purnell Swett’s Ryan Graham and Pinecrest’s Zach Martinez were name conference co-Players of the Year after helping lead their teams to conference championships this season. The Rams won the regular-season title and the Patriots won the conference tournament.
Graham went 8-3 on the mound this season for the Rams with a 1.00 ERA. He was a perfect 5-0 against SEC competition this year as the second starter in the Purnell Swett starting rotation. At the plate he batted .244 with 11 RBIs.
“When we were picking out this award we got down to the best hitter and the best pitcher, and I feel like the conference made the right decision,” Purnell Swett coach Bryan McDonald said. “Ryan did what we needed from him with Lucas (Oxendine) going down in the offseason and he really stepped up for us.”
The Rams also garnered the other individual award for Coach of the Year as McDonald heads to retirement with another mark to add to his coaching tenure at Purnell Swett. McDonald earned 77 wins as the Rams’ skipper in five seasons and won 14-plus games a season during that stretch.
“I’m honored because there are a lot of good coaches and this is a tough conference,” McDonald said. “I have a lot of respect for this conference and after five years I agree this is one of the best 4-A conferences in the state.
“We accomplished a goal we set out for when I came here five years ago. We would’ve like to have done it sooner but I’m pleased to go out with the title.”
Six Rams were selected to the all-conference team, the most of any of the six conference teams. The Purnell Swett representatives on the team were: Graham, Chay Locklear, Ethan Chavis, McKinley Strickland, Cal Hunt and Dakota Locklear. Chay Locklear led the Rams and was third in the conference with a .441 batting average, while Dakota Locklear had a team-high 19 RBIs.
“That shows what the other coaches felt about our guys. Six is a lot and they had a lot of respect for what our players did,” McDonald said.
Lumberton placed two on the all-conference team in senior A.J. Brooks and sophomore Parks Ledwell. Brooks batted .303 this year with a team-best eight RBIs. Ledwell led the Pirates’ pitching staff with 38 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings on the mound.
“A.J. played behind the plate and really did a good job of shutting down other teams’ run game. We also used him at shortstop and he pitched, and at all three positions he did a solid job for us,” Lumberton coach Jeff McLamb said. “Parks had a couple big games for us in conference and when we went on our streak this year, he was a big reason for the success.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.