LUMBERTON — JaiLeana Deese did a little bit of everything for the Purnell Swett softball team in the opening round of the Robeson County Slugfest on Saturday, going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs while holding West Bladen to three hits in a 11-1 run-rule victory.
The Lady Rams piled on their runs in the back half of the five-inning game, scoring five runs in the final frame to secure the victory.
Deese said adjusting to West Bladen starting pitcher Madison Collins was tough at first, but she was able to settle in quickly.
“At first I wasn’t comfortable because the pitching was different, but after that first inning everything felt good,” she said.
Magan Barton finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and Madison Strickland went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs for the Lady Rams.
Kyla Reed went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI for the Lady Knights. Madison Collins and Alara Cashwell both went 1-for-2.
“We started slow. We had to adjust to the pitching,” Purnell Swett head coach William Deese said. “Hopefully this helps us gain momentum going into Monday.
“Jai’s been consistent all year. She started off rough because the mound was a little bit wet. The girls know once she’s throwing good, defensively we end up doing well.”
Deese got into scoring position with a one-out double before stealing third base in the third inning. She came home on a sacrifice fly by Kaitlyn Hunt. Kierra Locklear continued the run later in the inning with an RBI single that drove in Barton.
The Lady Rams added five more runs in the fourth inning. Strickland registered a two-RBI double, while Deese and Barton picked up RBI singles.
The Lady Knights showed signs of life in the fifth inning when Reed picked up an RBI double. The hit put runners at second and third for the Knights, but Deese kept them from trimming the lead any further.
With the run-rule victory in reach, the Lady Rams rallied to string together five runs in the fifth. Nakyra Mitchell hustled out an infield single to load the bases, and Deese followed with a two-RBI single.
Hunt increased Purnell Swett’s lead to 9-1 with a one-out RBI single, and the Lady Rams reached double digits when Shyane Oxendine scored on a passed ball.
The deciding run scored from third base on a groundout by Strickland.
Purnell Swett advanced to face No. 2 Hoke in a semifinal matchup at 4 p.m. tomorrow. West Bladen will face Red Springs at 10 a.m. in the consolation round.
William Deese said the Lady Rams will need to take advantage of early opportunities to score in order to give themselves a chance later in the tournament.
“We’ve got to hit the ball early. We can’t wait until the late innings to hit the ball,” Deese said. “We’ve got to get base runners early in the game and get our bunts down and get hits to score runs.”
“If we stay up, we can do anything,” JaiLeana Deese said.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Tester_Brandon.