FAYETTEVILLE — After a 10-inning game on Tuesday to advance to Wednesday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference semifinal game at Jack Britt, the tank was near empty for the Purnell Swett baseball team that needed a win to keep its season going.
Just like the energy level of the Rams, those chances at keeping the season going ran out as the Buccaneers scored five unanswered runs for a 5-1 win at home to advance to Friday’s conference championship game against Pinecrest, and ended Purnell Swett’s season in the process.
“I’m physically tired and mentally tired,” Purnell Swett junior Chandler Brayboy said. “All of us was tired. You could tell once we got off the bus, we were all dragging.”
In the first inning, it was tough to see the exhaustion Purnell Swett (10-15) had when Brayboy launched a solo homer to left field and give the Rams the 1-0 lead. From there, Jack Britt (15-8) and left-handed ace Brennan Herbert took control of the game.
“It was a tough turnaround. Most of us got home at midnight and we had to try and reset and get focused,” Purnell Swett coach Jeff Lamb said. “When you’re dealing with 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds to get back in that mindset we were in at 11 o’clock last night, it’s tough. That’s one of the best pitchers in the conference we saw tonight.”
After giving up the solo home run, Herbert — an Appalachian State signee — struck out seven of the next eight outs for the Buccaneers as they took the rubber match between the two teams. He pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed the lone hit and struck out 11 to earn the victory.
“He was changing speed and locations. He pitched and that’s what you look for in guys like that,” Lamb said.
Herbert helped his own cause in the third inning as his single up the middle scored two runs and put Jack Britt up 2-1. Two more runs scored in the next inning for the Buccaneers when Chad Jernigan reached out an RBI infield single. Alex Reyna knocked Jernigan home with an RBI double, two at-bats later.
Errors in the infield during those innings kept the at-bats alive for Jack Britt, who amassed eight hits. In total, three errors came from the Purnell Swett defense.
“They hit them right in the exact spots where it’s tough plays,” Brayboy said.
A Nick Frank RBI single in the fifth inning pushed the score to its final as the Rams had two runners on the base paths in the final two innings. Micah Carter’s single in the top of the seventh against Jernigan was the second hit the Rams had in the game.
Purnell Swett closed its season with 10 wins in its last 13 games, and it season ended at the hands of the team the Rams earned their first win of the season against on March 27.
“At 0-12 to finish the way we did, we made great strides,” Lamb said. “It was tough for them, but they did it and that says a lot about the character of the guys.”
Herbert led all batters with three hits in the contest and Frank added two hits for the Buccaneers.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.