The chatter was high and despite the Patriots’ 14-1 record and 11-0 win the first time the two teams met, Lumberton was confident in the outcome.
“Our guys were upbeat all day long and were really excited to play,” Hodges said. “They were pumped up and ready to go. The whole atmosphere was different.”
Ranked No. 2 in Impact Baseball’s state preseason poll, Pinecrest left Finley Reed Field with a 10-2 loss, their first in Southeastern Conference play.
Lumberton’s Steven Kirby tossed his best game of the season, allowing one earned run over six innings while coming through at the plate with a triple to left center during his team’s six-run barrage in the fifth inning.
“I just wanted to keep hitters off-balance and throw strikes,” Kirby said. “Beating these guys show us we can play with anyone in the state.”
The Pirates batted around in the fifth off of Patriots starter Joey Vecchione, who came into the contest with a perfect 5-0 record. Lumberton benefited from an error, two passed balls and had run-scoring hits from Brian Phillips, Jonathan Corbett and Thomas Williams to take a 7-2 lead.
In all, the first six batters reached and all six scored.
“We were real patient at the plate and made their guy work,” Hodges said.
Dakota Hayes atoned for dropping a fly ball in center that led to a run in the fifth with a two-run double in the sixth that helped the Pirates push across three more for a sizable advantage.
Kirby was cruising through the first 3 2/3 innings before he left a pitch over the middle of the plate to cleanup hitter Dillon Maples.
Maples deposited the 1-1 delivery over the left field wall into the trees for a 1-0 lead. After Lumberton knotted the score with a run in the fourth, Pinecrest regained the lead in the top of the fifth after an RBI groundout from Evan Guy.
Kirby retired nine batters through the air, including three long flys that went to the warning track.
“If we were playing at their place, those might have gone out,” Hodges said. “Playing at our field helped us tonight and Steven did just what we asked him to do and that was throw strikes.”
Lumberton’s victory, its third in conference, came after narrow losses to Scotland on March 29 and Purnell Swett Monday evening in which the Pirates swung at a number of bad pitches according to Hodges. Lumberton has now won two straight after cruising at Jack Britt Thursday, 12-2.
“I guess we kind of play to the level of our competition,” he said. “We came out with a little different approach tonight at the plate and it worked out for us.”
Staff writer Brad Crawford can be reached at (910) 272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org