PEMBROKE — For the first time in six seasons, the Pembroke Middle School baseball team walked off the field on the losing end of a ballgame.
The Warriors quest to win a sixth straight Robeson County middle school baseball championship was ruined on their home field on Thursday as Orrum came away with a 5-4 win.
Leading the way for Orrum in the championship, as well as all season, was Cameron Hodge, Colby Thorndyke and Noah Parker. All three added an RBI in the win and it was the pitching of Hodge and the defense at shortstop of Parker that led the Raiders to their first county baseball title since 2012, the year before Pembroke’s reign started.
“Our guys played a good game,” Orrum coach Mike Lovin said. “(Hodge) pitched a good ballgame, the boys played defense and we got the runs when we needed them.
“He didn’t crack, he kept his head up and he was solid. Cameron was solid all game long.”
Pembroke coach Jonathan Graham, whose father, Roger, coached the first three seasons of the stretch before Jonathan coached the last two titles, said the feeling was different talking to the players after the game.
“You know it is eventually going to come. That’s what makes streaks so great,” Graham said. “The worst part is looking into your kids’ eyes and they are teary-eyed after a ballgame.”
Hodge struck out 12 batters and allowed seven hits in his complete game performance.
“I just tried to throw strikes. I knew I had the defense behind me for the most part,” Hodge said. “It feels good because we lost to them last year in the first round.”
Orrum gave its pitcher some run support in the second inning with three runs crossing after leaving the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the first inning. Parker started the run scoring with an RBI single that he advanced to second on the throw. A passed ball made it a 2-0 Orrum lead, before Hodge plated Parker with an RBI ground out.
That cushion helped Hodge out in the next few innings when the Warriors started posting runs and putting runners on the base paths.
“Once I got the third run in, I knew I had some support,” he said.
Another Raider run scored in the top of the third on a throwing error from Pembroke to push the advantage to 4-0.
The Warriors responded with a pair of runs in the next half inning on a RBI groundout by Zack Strickland and a passed ball.
Thorndyke pushed the lead back out to 5-2 in the top of the sixth with an infield single to score Billy Hunt. Thorndyke led all batters with two of the three hits in the game for Orrum.
Facing the three run deficit, Pembroke didn’t go down quietly as it rallied on its final out of the game.
A two-out double from Garyen Maynor scored two runs and put the tying run in scoring position.
“This is a heck of a ball team. We had a close game with Littlefield earlier in the season and they fought through it,” Graham said. “When those two runs crossed the plate, I was still feeling it with Cameron (Hunt), our No. 4 hitter up there. He’s a good ballplayer and I expected him to drive that run in.”
Hodge used a moment off the mound to talk to Thorndyke, his catcher, and to calm down as he retired Hunt to seal the win.
“I was a little nervous,” he said. “(Thorndyke) knew the batter struck out on fastball outside so we were trying to keep him away for the most part.”
Hits for Pembroke came from Ransom, Maynor, Hunt, Kylan Strickland, William Brooks, James Oxendine and Jayden Strickland.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.