HOPE MILLS — When Purnell Swett alumnus Bladen Strickland hit a single against Jeremiah Locklear in the fifth inning of the Home Mills Boosters’ American Legion matchup against Whiteville on Monday at South View High School, he was overcome by a feeling of accomplishment.
It wasn’t just because he had broken up the current Purnell Swett pitcher’s no-hit bid.
“There’s a lot of hype he had, and it felt good,” Strickland said.
Strickland logged Hope Mills’ first hit of the game and went on to drive in the go-ahead run to help the hosts earn a 3-1 win over Whiteville.
The catcher, who plays for Southeastern Community College, finished 2-for-3 with an RBI.
“I just felt good,” Strickland said. “My swing felt good my first at-bat, I just missed him.”
Locklear stifled Hope Mills’ bats early in his five-inning outing before the hosts rallied to score all of their three runs against him and reliever A.J. Brooks, a Lumberton alumnus and teammate of Strickland’s at Southeastern, in the sixth inning.
“I felt good, my arm just started hurting at the end,” Locklear said.
Locklear yielded three runs on as many hits, while registering three strikeouts and two walks.
The first of those hits, a leadoff line drive to left field off the bat of Strickland in the fifth inning, caught Locklear off guard.
“I told the boys to come in because he was about to bunt, but then he changed his mind and he reached out there,” Locklear said.
Whiteville already had a 1-0 run at that point after Dylan Lawson hit an RBI single with no outs in the second inning.
Hope Mills starter Matthew Little prevented them from doing more damage, tallying five strikeouts while allowing five hits over six innings on the mound.
Hope Mills found its rhythm in the meantime, using RBI singles by Strickland and Jeremy Butler as well as an RBI groundout by Jordan Bullard in the sixth inning to take the lead.
KyShawn McLean picked up the save for Hope Mills after striking out the side in the seventh inning.
“KyShawn came in and did a great job,” Hope Mills head coach Mark Kahlenberg said. “He threw a lot of strikes, and that’s what you want to do when a guy comes in looking for a save. You want to come in there and throw fastballs and let your defense do some work.”
McKinley Strickland, a Purnell Swett graduate who plays for North Carolina A&T, scored a run for Hope Mills while drawing a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
Brooks Baldwin went 2-for-3 at the plate for Whiteville. Lawson finished 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Gage Hammonds and Owen McDowell both logged a double for Whiteville.
“They fought hard,” Kahlenberg said of his team’s effort. “Matthew Little came in and threw a lot of strikes and kept them off balance all night. He had his curveball working really well tonight. The guys battled and played and did a good job of scoring some runs late.”
“We just swung at good pitches and we were patient,” Strickland said. “At the beginning of the game we swung at a lot of balls.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.