The baseball slate featured three of four games decided by two runs or less — notably Red Springs’ 3-1 upset of second-seeded South Robeson — and a total of five home runs from the eight participating teams.
Red Springs 3, South Robeson 1
Fueled by Jeremy McDowell’s complete-game gem, Red Springs topped South Robeson 3-1 in the day’s only upset, pushing the Red Devils into Monday’s 4 p.m. semifinal tilt with Lumberton.
McDowell gave up four hits in the contest while striking out five and induced Timmy Locklear into a game-ending lineout to Glenn Patterson Jr. with a runner on second to close out the victory.
“Jeremy’s role today was to be our finisher,” Red Springs coach Chris Howell said. “We didn’t worry about him at the plate even though he’s a great hitter. His job was to pitch and he pitched well.”
The Red Devils (4-13) scored twice in the top of the seventh off of South Robeson’s Timothy Carter to break a 1-1 tie. McDowell, LeMichael Locklear and Devan Locklear each collected extra base hits to the outfield wall.
“This lets us know we can play with anybody,” McDowell said, calling Saturday’s win the team’s best of the season. “I just wanted to throw as hard as I could and help my team the best that I can.”
Nick Ferguson made the day’s most stellar defensive play, snagging a hot grounder off the bat of Casey Chavis in the sixth. Ferguson tagged first and threw to Patterson at second who made a leaping tag on John Mitchell for the double play to end the inning.
LeMichael Locklear enjoyed a 3-for-3 day at the plate for Red Devils, clubbing a solo homer to go along with single and a double.
Lumberton 7, West Bladen 6
Jonathan Corbett’s liner to left center with two outs in the bottom of the eighth gave Lumberton a 7-6 win in the Slugfest opener over West Bladen.
Corbett’s clutch gapper came after Thomas Williams’ RBI single with two outs in the seventh forced extra innings against West Bladen reliever Mikey Inman.
“I challenged our seniors to step up at the plate,” Lumberton coach Paul Hodges said, a four-time Slugfest winner. “I talked to (Corbett) before the at-bat and actually considered pinch-hitting for him.”
Zach McCartney had a terrific outing in relief for the Pirates (9-9), retiring six of the nine batters he faced via strikeout en route to his third win all-time in the tournament. McCartney is scheduled to start Monday’s semifinal against Red Springs.
Former St. Pauls coach Kim Cain — now at West Bladen — said his team fell flat after scoring four runs in the top of the first off of Lumberton starter Steven Kirby.
“We quit hitting and helped (Lumberton) by leaving runners on base,” Cain said.
Lumberton was led at the plate by Brian Phillips who hit his first home run of the season in the bottom of the second.
Josh Schultz scored the tournament’s first run after a solo drive to center on the fifth pitch of the contest.
Before the game’s first pitch at 10:09 a.m., the home plate umpire called time to inspect the bat of West Bladen’s Clint Allen. Along with the base umpire, both settled at the West Bladen dugout and found Allen’s Easton Surge on the NCHSAA approved bat list.
No further bats were looked at during Saturday’s games.
Purnell Swett 8, St. Pauls 7
Purnell Swett held on to beat St. Pauls 8-7 in the afternoon game, advancing to Monday’s semifinal despite the Bulldogs scoring four runs over the final two innings.
With the tying run on the second and nobody out, Swett closer Jordan Brooks struck out three consecutive batters to solidify the win. Brooks caught Sandy Chavis looking to end it.
The Rams (6-11-1) built a 6-1 lead after three innings following a trio of run-scoring hits and a pair of errors that led to three more runs.
“I looked at Jordan and he looked at me, so I guess something clicked there in the last inning,” Purnell Swett coach Kelly Chavis said. “I was an assistant at St. Pauls for two years. I know those kids and how hard they work. I knew they would make a game of it.”
Kalem Hunt was handed the loss for St. Pauls (5-13) but did record a towering two-run homer to left off of Chase Armstrong in the top of the fifth.
“We fought back, but I’m tired of telling these guys we played good only to lose,” St. Pauls coach Tommy Townsend said. “We’re getting there. We just aren’t making enough plays to win ballgames right now. We had a couple errors early that really hurt us.”
Fairmont 9, E.E. Smith 1
In Saturday’s nightcap, top-seeded Fairmont cruised past E.E. Smith 9-1. In a scheduled split start on the mound for Alex Britt and Josh Ammons, the two combined to allow just three hits.
Benefiting from seven walks, the Golden Tornadoes led 6-0 after the third and tacked on another in the bottom of the fifth. Senior Jonathan Callahan, playing in his last Slugfest, blasted a two-run homer that capped a 2-for-3 performance.
Fairmont (13-5) will play the evening game Monday against Purnell Swett. The two teams have not met this season.