LUMBERTON — For 15 years, Jerome Hunt has kept his tournament pass from his last Robeson County Slugfest title as a head coach, and Thursday he broke out the tattered slip of paper out of his wallet to remember the tournament that still is fresh on his mind.
“Every once in a while, I’ll go through my wallet and see it, and think about how that was a good night for us,” he said.
Now an assistant coach for the Rams, Hunt coached the Rams to Slugfest titles in 2001 and 2003, and was on the staff for titles in 2014 and 2016. But that 2003 tourney is one he has fond memories of due to the circumstances his team had to go through.
Rain hit the tournament midway through the second day, forcing the second semifinal of the day between Purnell Swett and Lumberton to be pushed to the tournament’s final day. This meant for whoever won, it would be back-to-back games with a title-game matchup with a powerful Richmond team that was 13-2 at that point in the season in one day.
For that reason, Hunt has held onto his pass just to relive the memories.
“We beat Lumberton in extra innings and then beat Richmond at 7 p.m., that was the year that Richmond was loaded and nobody was supposed to beat them,” Hunt said. “I had that ticket with me and I was like, ‘I’m going to hold onto this just for that particular reason.’”
In the semifinals, Purnell Swett took on Lumberton, the defending Slugfest champions, in a game that went to extra innings. Corey Locklear’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth lifted the Rams in a 3-2 game where both teams were making play after play to keep the score knotted, including a Purnell Swett player being thrown out at the plate on a toss from center field in the eighth inning from the Pirates’ Matt Hunt, who 15 years later is the coach at St. Pauls.
Harlis Moore had the championship-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh against Richmond in a 4-3 win, with a single to left field for his only hit in either game. The hit also gave him the pitching victory after he struck out six in the game.
The MVP of the tournament was Jermaine Cummings, who went 6-for-11 with two RBIs in the tournament, but five hits and one RBI game during those two final games.
“I don’t even think we were supposed to beat Lumberton in the semis. Just to beat them in extra innings and to come back at beat Richmond, it was a good night for us,” Hunt said.
Hunt was quoted after the games saying that the Lumberton game “was the best baseball game I had ever been involved in — as a player or as a coach.”
As both a player and a coach in Robeson County, Hunt is ingrained in the baseball scene in Robeson County, and the annual Slugfest is a special time for him.
“The Slugfest has always been special to me as far as everybody in the county getting to play in it and you get to see teams in the county that you normally don’t get to see. That was just a special night for me.”
The Rams victory over the Raiders marked the last appearance for Richmond in the tournament, something Hunt is not quick to forget.
“Keep in mind, Richmond never came back to the tournament after that year.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.