LUMBERTON — Timing is everything, and the feel for the Purnell Swett baseball team is that it’s peaking at the right time.
To cap off its second Sandhills Athletic Conference series sweep of the season, the Rams had what their coach said was “the best offensive night we’ve had all year” to topple rival Lumberton in a 10-1 win on the road. Purnell Swett enters next week’s conference tournament winners of eight of its last 10 games dating back to the opening-round win over the Pirates in the Robeson County Slugfest.
“We’re playing our best baseball now and this is when you want to be playing your best baseball,” Purnell Swett coach Jeff Lamb said. “We’ve been playing good ball the last half of the season. If we had found something early and stole a couple here and there, we would be in a completely different boat. Now we’ve got to play for our life.”
Purnell Swett (9-14, 6-8 SAC) and Lumberton (5-14, 3-11 SAC) were locked in a 2-1 ballgame for the first four innings, then the Rams’ lineup started to find its mark after scoring its first four runs on the Pirates’ miscues.
“Early on we hit it at them, and as the game progressed, they started falling,” Lamb said.
In the first and second innings, Purnell Swett posted a run in each frame courtesy of a wild pitch to score Chandler Brayboy in the top of the first and a bases-loaded hit by pitch in the second inning. In the top of the fourth, the Rams posted a pair of runs when Braydon Scott scored from third as the Pirates tired to throw out Brayboy at second and the ball rolled to the outfield. Brayboy advanced to third on the play and scored on a wild pitch in the next at-bat.
Oftentimes, Noah Locklear feels he gets looked over as the No. 9 batter in the Purnell Swett order, but Friday night he made the Lumberton pitching staff pay. His two-run single in the top of the sixth pushed the lead out to 6-1 with his second and third RBIs of the night.
“I guess they think that they can get over on me so they kind of overlook me,” Locklear said. “I use it as motivation and look for a fastball and try to drive it somewhere.”
Locklear went 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored. Along with Trevan Locklear, Brandon Brewer and Micah Carter, Locklear and the bottom four bats of the order had seven hits and four runs scored.
“We just try to learn from the lead-off man and talk in the dugout and ask what the pitcher’s got,” Locklear said.
To go along with Locklear’s two-run hit, Troy McGirt scored two runs with a double in a five-run inning for Purnell Swett.
The struggles late for Lumberton came as it dipped into its bullpen when Seth Odum was pulled after allowing seven hits and four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
“We brought in our relief pitchers and they couldn’t find the strike zone and the wheels fell off,” Lumberton coach Jeff McLamb said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
On the other side, Purnell Swett starter Eugene Wilkins cruised through his five innings of work, allowing four hits and one run with five strikeouts to earn the win.
“I wouldn’t say he had his best stuff, but he comes out here and does what he’s supposed to do,” Lamb said. “It’s great to have a guy like that.”
Caleb Wilkerson had the RBI single for the Pirates in the bottom of the first inning. Scott was the other Ram to have multiple hits with Trevan and Noah Locklear.
Purnell Swett will be the six-seed and Lumberton will be the seventh-seed in the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament that starts on Tuesday. The Rams will travel to Richmond, while Jack Britt will host Lumberton.
“We’re going to go in with nothing to lose,” McLamb said. “We’ve got to try to win it because that’s the only way to get into the playoffs.”
After a two-run loss and a loss in extra innings to the Raiders this season, Purnell Swett comes in with a different outlook and with momentum into this first-round matchup knowing it is win or go home for the season.
“All our loses in conference play was close, we were close at one point in the game. We’ve just got to finish strong,” Locklear said. “We’ve just got to keep playing strong.”
Lady Pirates grab early lead in close win over Purnell Swett
LUMBERTON — After scoring five runs in the bottom of the first inning, the Lumberton softball team held off Purnell Swett to claim a 6-5 win on senior night.
Lumberton (14-8, 8-6 SAC) avoided the season sweep against Purnell Swett (14-6, 9-5 SAC) in the process, and will open the Sandhills Athletic Conference against Hoke on Tuesday. Purnell Swett was the third-seed in the conference and hosts Scotland on Monday.
Kasey West went 3-for-3 at the plate for the Lady Pirates and scred the first run of the five-run rally in the first inning on an error. Madison Canady had two RBIs and LeeAnn Nobles added the other with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Katie Kinlaw went 1-for-2 as well.
Mallorie Allen got the win for Lumberton and Ariel Allbrooks got the save.
Purnell Swett’s Kaitlyn Hunt had a pair of hits, while JaiLeana Deese, Magan Barton, Katlyn Jones and MariJo Wilkes each had an RBI.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.