LUMBERTON — One night after the Lumberton softball team used a pair of two-run homers in the same inning to steal momentum from St. Pauls, Purnell Swett gave them a taste of their own medicine.
Seniors Kaitlyn Hunt and Madison Strickland launched two-run shots of their own in the first inning of the Robeson County Slugfest championship game to jumpstart a 7-4 win for the Lady Rams on Tuesday night.
It was the first home run of Hunt’s career.
“It feels great. It’s our senior year,” Hunt said of the victory.
Hunt finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of RBIs. Strickland was 2-for-3 and also drove in two runs.
“I’m proud of them. They stepped up,” Purnell Swett head coach William Deese said. “We’ve been struggling with the bats as of late, with pitch selection and what we swing at. We jumped out early. I’m proud of them. I knew it was in us.”
LeeAnn Nobles posted a 1-for-2 clip at the plate with three RBIs for Lumberton. Kasey West drove in a run while going 1-for-4 at the plate.
Rachel O’Neil finished 2-for-2 with a double and Ariel Allbrooks batted 2-for 3 for the Lady Pirates, who struggled to rally against Slugfest MVP JaiLeana Deese after she subbed in for Chelsea Jones in the first inning.
Deese, who struck out five batters, said she was at a loss for words after the game.
“I wasn’t expecting to go out there and pitch that good, but I guess because they’re our rivals I put the ball where it was supposed to go,” she said.
For several Purnell Swett players, the thrill of winning the tournament was a familiar feeling.
“I’ve got nine girls that were here two years ago when we won it,” William Deese said.
The Lady Rams beat Red Springs that year to win the title, and they came out ready to repeat that accomplishment against the Lady Pirates.
Lumberton tallied three runs in the first inning in response to Purnell Swett’s early offensive surge. Nobles hit a three-RBI double with the bases loaded to fuel the rally.
Deese and Lumberton pitcher Morgan Britt found their grooves over the next couple of innings, with neither team scoring in the second or third frames.
The Lady Pirates evened the score in the the fourth inning when Ashley Prevatte came home on a groundout by West.
Purnell Swett added three more runs in the fifth inning. Katlyn Jones registered a two-RBI single with no outs, and another run scored when MariJo Wilkes hit into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
The Lady Rams loaded the bases again in the sixth inning with no outs, but Britt and the Lady Pirates picked up three straight outs to stop the threat.
“Purnell Swett just outplayed us tonight,” Lumberton head coach Mackie Register said. “When you play long enough, you’re going to find there’s nights where you just get outplayed.”
Britt, who didn’t play on Monday night while recovering from an illness, yielded seven hits to the Lady Rams.
“She battled through. There was a lot of innings she battled out of,” Register said. “Defensively we didn’t help her out a couple of times.”
Purnell Swett earned fourth Slugfest title, the highest total of any team to compete in the tournament.
Hoke uses big fifth inning to top Lady Bulldogs
Hoke rallied late to earn a 4-2 victory over St. Pauls and secure a third-place finish at the Slugfest.
Hoke’s Autumn Hardin registered a one-out double in the first inning and advanced to third on an error by St. Pauls left fielder Danielle Gray. St. Pauls pitcher Brianna Brewer responded with a strikeout, but Kamryn Russell plated Hardin with a two-out single.
Gray accounted for St. Pauls’ first hit of the day with a leadoff single in the fourth inning, but Russell notched a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to keep the Lady Bulldogs from capitalizing.
JiVee Nettles-Graham picked up a one-out single for the Lady Bulldogs before stealing second and moving to third base on a passed ball in the fifth inning. Brianna Gray drove her in with an RBI single.
After the Bucks loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth inning, Hardin was hit by a pitch to bring a run in. A pair of fielding errors by St. Pauls after a sacrifice fly allowed two Hoke runs to score.
With a runner on base for the Lady Bulldogs in the sixth inning, Kourtney Sanchious launched a home run that would have pulled her team to within a run of tying the score. The Hoke coaching staff appealed the play afterward, saying Sanchious never touched home plate. The appeal was successful and Sanchious was consequently ruled out on the play.
The Bulldogs still received credit for the first run that scored on the homer, but that turned out to be their last score of the day.
Hardin finished 2-for-2 with an RBI for the Bucks.
Danielle Gray posted a 2-for-3 line at the plate with a triple for St. Pauls. Nettles-Graham also finished 2-for-3.
Russell earned the win in the circle for Hoke, striking out six and allowing seven hits.
Golden Tornadoes defeat Knights in fifth-place matchup
The Fairmont softball team held off West Bladen to claim a fifth-place finish with a 14-8 win in the Slugfest on Tuesday.
Mackenzie Johnson went 3-for-4 at the plate with a home run, three RBIs and a double for the Golden Tornadoes. Mya Strickland and McMillan both finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
“It feels great. We came here to compete,” Fairmont head coach James Cadiz said of his team’s finish in the tournament. “I’m proud of them and happy we won some games.”
Cashwell went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs for West Bladen. Dawson went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.