LUMBERTON — Walking up to the plate in the fifth inning with her team down three runs to St. Pauls in the semifinals of the Robeson County Slugfest, Lumberton right fielder Rachel O’Neil wanted to get on base in any way possible.
“I was just hoping I’d get a hit,” O’Neil said. “I didn’t want to strike out or pop up again. I was focused on staying level and getting a hit.”
O’Neil did more than just get on base. The junior became the first Lady Pirate to do damage against St. Pauls pitcher Brianna Brewer with a two-run home run.
Madison Canady followed shortly after with another two-run homer, giving the Lady Pirates the lead and changing the flow of momentum that had favored the Lady Bulldogs in the early stages of the game.
The rally provided a motivational spark for Lumberton and helped them back up starting pitcher Mallori Allen, who picked up a win in the circle as the Lady Pirates earned a come-from-behind 9-6 victory on Monday night.
Lumberton will face Purnell Swett in the Slugfest championship game at 7 p.m. looking to repeat as Slugfest champs.
“She did a good job of keeping us in the game,” Lumberton head coach Mackie Register said of Allen’s effort.
Allen, a freshman for the Lady Pirates, picked up six strikeouts while allowing nine hits.
Classmate Nakayia Hunt registered a save for Lumberton after picking up the last out of the game.
Canady finished 2-for-2 with with two RBIs. O’Neil went 1-for-2 at the plate with three RBIs. LeeAnn Nobles posted a 1-for-3 clip with one RBI for the Lady Pirates.
Kenija McGougan and Kourtney Sanchious both went 2-for-4 for the Lady Bulldogs. McGougan registered two RBIs and Sanchious picked up an RBI to go along with a double. Braxtin Kinlaw went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
“We didn’t hit the ball well the first four innings. Their pitcher did a good job keeping us off balance, striking out and hitting weak pop flies,” Register said. “Once we started getting some hits together and putting some pressure on them, hitting’s contagious. We started catching fire those last couple innings.”
Lumberton scored all of its runs in the fifth and sixth innings after initially struggling to make contact against Brewer. Canady drew a leadoff walk in the fourth inning, but the Lady Bulldogs made a pair of big plays defensively to strand her at second base.
St. Pauls struck first with a two-out RBI double by Sanchious in the first inning. A two-out RBI single by Kinlaw in the fourth inning added to the lead.
Kaitlyn Locklear walked with the bases loaded in the fifth inning to put the Lady Bulldogs up 3-0.
Syniah Lancaster reached base on a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth inning, and O’Neil’s homer brought her home. Autumn Pittman hustled out an infield single before scoring on Canady’s shot.
O’Neil hit a sacrifice fly to fuel Lumberton’s rally in the seventh inning. Ashley Prevatte notched an RBI single and a bases-loaded walk for Nobles helped pad the lead.
A two-run double by Ariel Allbrooks added runs for the Lady Pirates.
The Lady Bulldogs posted one run in the sixth on an RBI single by McGougan. A late rally in the seventh saw St. Pauls bring in two more runs on a bases-loaded walk and an RBI single by McGougan, but the Lady Pirates stopped the comeback attempt from progressing.
“We fought. I like that,” St. Pauls head coach Phillip Tyler said. “Any other time, we would have folded. That’s what I like about us. We didn’t get intimidated by Lumberton. Everyone was talking about how they were going to beat us by 10 and all that stuff.
“I told my girls they had to come out and play. Show them that you belong.”