LUMBERTON — Competing in the Three Rivers Conference is a good way to prepare for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs, according to Red Springs baseball head coach Chris Howell.
“We play in one of the toughest conferences in the state,” Howell said.
The No. 23 Red Devils (15-9) finished fourth in the league standings, and they will look to keep their season alive as they take on No. 10 West Craven (18-5) in Vanceboro at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“I think we’re going to be OK,” Howell said. “It’s all routine by now.”
With four players batting above .300 and ace Darren Bowen throwing on the mound, Howell believes his team can make noise in the playoffs but wants them to “be more consistent” offensively.
“We’ve been kind of up and down,” he said.
Bowen has a 1.22 ERA in 47 1/3 innings this season.
No. 17 Fairmont (17-6) joins Red Springs as Robeson County’s representatives in the baseball playoffs. The Golden Tornadoes will face No. 16 Dixon (13-10) in Holly Ridge at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
“One of our goals this season was to make the playoffs,” Fairmont head coach Sandy Thorndyke said. “We don’t know too much about them (Dixon).”
University of North Carolina at Pembroke commit Randy Floyd is having a dominant year on the mound for the Golden Tornadoes, posting a 1.12 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings, and will get the start in the first round
“When Randy’s on the mound, we’re a little more confident,” Thorndyke said.
Seth Thorndyke, one of the team’s biggest threats at the plate with a batting average of .556 and 23 RBIs, hasn’t been playing at full strength due to a knee injury, but Sandy Thorndyke said the senior is healthy enough to play first base and see time on the mound in the playoffs.
“It (the injury) is not going to change a whole lot,” he said.
On the softball field, No. 14 Purnell Swett (15-7) hosts No. 19 Ardrey Kell (16-7) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“I feel good. We seem focused,” Purnell Swett head coach William Deese said. “It’s been a few days since we played but I think they’ll be ready to go.”
The Lady Rams are led offensively by Madison Strickland and Kaitlyn Hunt. Strickland is batting .429 with 22 RBIs, and Hunt is hitting .422 at the plate with 23 RBIs.
Deese said the Lady Rams have been upbeat during their practices leading up to the postseason, after the loss in the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament semifinals to Jack Britt.
“That lets me know that they’re relaxed and ready,” Deese said.
He also said playing at home was ‘real big’ for the Lady Rams.
“It lets us knew we’ve had a successful season,” he said.
No. 15 Lumberton (15-9) will also play at home in the first round, as it takes on No. 18 Rolesville (11-8) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Lady Pirates lost to Richmond in SAC semifinals, but head coach Mackie Register said the team quickly put that behind them and looked forward to starting fresh in the playoffs.
“We forgot about that game as soon as it was over,” Register said.
Madison Canady is Lumberton’s leading batter with a .500 batting average, 38 RBIs and eight home runs.
“We won two of our last three games,” Register said. “I feel good about it.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.