LUMBERTON — Fairmont baseball coach Sandy Thorndyke said any team lives and dies with its seniors, and on Tuesday night in the Robeson County Slugfest championship against Purnell Swett, the Golden Tornadoes and their seniors lived on the county’s biggest stage.
After winning the Slugfest title three seasons ago against the Rams, the Golden Tornadoes used a masterful pitching outing from senior right-hander Randy Floyd to repeat the success and secure the title in a 2-1 win at Lumberton High School.
“I didn’t call a single pitch tonight. Seth (Thorndyke) called the whole game and they worked together. Both of them had two big RBI hits,” Thorndyke said. “The last couple games, our bottom of the lineup has picked us up and carried us. Our seniors didn’t shine, but in a big moment tonight the seniors came through.”
With the senior battery of Floyd and Thorndyke, the two were enough on both sides of the ball to hold Purnell Swett (3-13) off balance in the batters box. On offense, the duo keyed the only two RBIs in the game for Fairmont (11-3) that won its fourth title overall.
“We knew what we could do coming in and we just put it together and it finally clicked like we are supposed to,” said Floyd, who was named MVP of the tournament. “Me and Seth did what we could to help our team and hopefully the young guys can learn, and as the years go on they can do the same thing as seniors and juniors.”
Before tossing Monday’s semifinal, Floyd was visibly frustrated before the game, according to his coach, not knowing if that outing would keep him from throwing on Tuesday. He stayed under the pitch-count limit against St. Pauls to be able toe the rubber on Tuesday’s championship, the place he wanted to be in when he entered the tournament.
“It was exactly this moment right here,” Floyd said he wanted to pitch in. “All the attention is on us. I like being in the moment doing the best of my ability for my team.”
“That’s a senior,” Sandy Thorndyke said. “That is by far the best game I think he’s pitched this year.”
On the big stage, he didn’t disappoint by striking out 14 batters, including the final nine batters, to lock in the win for the Golden Tornadoes. He allowed seven hits and one earned run in his seven innings on the mound.
Although it was smooth sailing for him for much of the night, the turning point in the game that sparked his nine straight strikeouts came in the top of the fifth inning. Noah Locklear led off with a triple to right center field in the frame with the top three batters in the lineup coming up. Floyd used 11 pitches to get three strikeouts to get out of the jam.
“It just felt real good,” Floyd said of getting out of the situation. “I wasn’t going to let my team down.”
From there, the wind was out of the Rams’ sails on their best offensive night of the tournament with seven hits.
“That’s kind of a back-breaker there, and I kind of left it to the guys to put it in play and we couldn’t get it done,” Purnell Swett coach Jeff Lamb said. “We had an error-free game today. That’s the first one all season. We’ve got a lot of positives from this.”
The one blemish from Floyd came in the top of the fourth innings when the Rams struck first on the scoreboard. Fairmont nearly got out of the inning when a ground ball to Michael Richardson with one out was fielded and an errant throw to first trying to turn a double play put Ethan Wilkins on second base with two outs. Trevon Locklear scored Conner Harris, Wilkins’ courtesy runner, in the next at bat to put Purnell Swett up 1-0.
Fairmont responded in the next at bat when Seth Thorndyke took advantage of pitches thrown to him, something he hadn’t seen all tournament with six walks over the first two games. The senior doubled to right field and scored Floyd from first after he was hit by a pitch to get on.
“It felt a little funny to get pitches in my first at bat that I can actually hit,” he said. “My (second) at bat first pitch I was going to swing if it was close and that’s what I did.”
Thorndyke and Skyler Hunt joined Floyd on the all-tournament team. Thorndyke has been named to the team all four years.
The championship is a bookend title for the seniors after being freshman on the 2015 title. Getting back and winning it again was on Thorndyke’s mind, and to close it out as a senior carries more weight.
“I told Randy before the game that this was our last one (Slugfest) so we have to do it big since we don’t get another Slugfest,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s win it. Let’s do it for us.’
“We’ve always had a run at the Slugfest, and this year we made up our mind that we were going to win it.”
The go-ahead hit for the Golden Tornadoes came in the bottom of the fifth with Floyd fresh out of the jam with a runner on third with no outs. He roped a double to left field with two runners on to score Halon Oxendine from second base.
Noah Evington, who had one of the Rams’ seven hits, was selected for the all-tournament team, as well as semifinal starting pitcher Jeremiah Locklear.
Bucks hold off Bulldogs’ 7th-inning rally
After posting five runs in the first inning, Hoke never lost the lead, bu St. Pauls threatened late in a 9-6 win in the third-place game.
St. Pauls trailed 5-1 after the first inning, and scored two runs in the top of the second and sixth innings, but left the bases loaded in the seventh with the tying run on first base.
Aaron Revels had two hits and two RBIs for St. Pauls (5-9). Caleb Henderson also added a pair of hits, while Erikson Emmanuel had a hit and an RBI.
For Hoke (10-8), Ben Chavis had first-inning single that scored two runs. Ryan Taylor got the start and struck out seven batters in his five innings of work.
Bowen, Red Devils claim fifth in run-rule win over Pirates
Behind a two-hitter from starter Darren Bowen, No. 3 Red Springs topped No. 5 Lumberton in a 10-0 win in six innings in the fifth-place game.
After throwing two no-hit innings on Monday in the win over South Robeson, Bowen followed up by striking out 10 batters in his six innings of work.
Gabriel Locklear had three RBIs for Red Springs (10-5) in the win, while Jayshawn Carthens and Oliver Brooks each had an RBI. Brooks led the Red Devils with two hits.
Lumberton’s (3-9) Caleb Wilkerson and Jordan Smith had the only hits.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.