Tough Tornadoes

First Posted: 5/12/2014

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont baseball team had its share of success this season but coach Sandy Thorndyke knows his team will face bigger challenges come Wednesday.

To even get to the regional finals and top last year’s tournament run, the Golden Tornadoes could have to play two different teams that played for a state title last season.

“It looks like we’ve got one of the toughest roads,” Thorndyke said. “We’ve got a pretty tough draw.”

Fairmont (23-3), the Three Rivers Conference’s top seed, will start the playoffs at home Wednesday night at 7 against Clinton (14-6) in the first round of the NCHSAA state playoffs. The school is one of four in the county that made it to the playoffs in the sport and will be the county’s only baseball or softball team to play a home game in the first round.

Playoffs start tonight when Lumberton (15-9) plays at Hoggard (17-5) in the 4A bracket and Red Springs (11-11) visits North Brunswick (19-4) for games starting at 6. South Robeson (8-13) will play at Wallace-Rose Hill (11-12).

Lumberton girls soccer (15-3) also will be at home for the first night of play. The Pirates took the No. 5 seed in the 32-team 4A East bracket and will host No. 28 Ashley (9-8-3) on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Conference rival Pinecrest got the 16th seed in the west.

Red Springs (0-10) got the 32nd seed in 2A East and will play at top-seeded Washington (17-2) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Fairmont softball (12-8), which finished as the Three Rivers Conference’s second seed in 2A, will be on the road Wednesday to open play at East Duplin (13-6), another second seed that won home-field based on win percentage. Red Springs softball (8-14) will join the baseball team in a trip to North Brunswick (15-5) today and South Robeson (10-15) will open the playoffs at Pender (13-5) in 1A play. Neither of the county’s 4A softball teams earned a berth.

Fairmont baseball’s opening-round game comes against Clinton, whose only losses came in Four County Conference play. Thorndyke said his team can’t take the Dark Horses lightly.

“You’ve got to take it one game at a time,” he said.

If the Golden Tornadoes win, it could set up a second-round matchup with Midway, which lost 2-1 to South Stanly in last year’s 1A State Championship series. A win there would could set up a third-round matchup with North Brunswick, last year’s 2A state runner-up.

Thorndyke said the key will be continuing its recent success and manufacturing runs. All year, the Tornadoes have had success pitching and have played largely error-free defense.

“We’ve got to play as well as we can play,” he said.

Julius Calder will have the hill in game one, though sophomore ace Cole Lovin will be ready if he’s needed in relief. The freshman has gone 5-0 this season.

“He’s played a lot of baseball,” Thorndyke said. “I have the confidence he can step up and do it.”