PEMBROKE — With Lumberton showing signs of life with two runners in scoring position, no outs and down two runs in the top of the sixth inning, Purnell Swett shortstop Matthias Carter wanted to make the plays for his team.
“Before they hit it, I was praying just hit it to me, please,” Carter said.
The senior delivered on senior night for the Rams with back-to-back plays on ground balls to keep the lead in tact and lead his team to a 3-1 win at home over their Southeastern Conference and in-county rival.
Lumberton (10-12, 3-7 SEC) put runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth after Alec Brewington was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and A.J. Brooks drew a walk. A wild pitch advanced them 90 feet for Evan Odum who hit a sharp grounder to Carter who came up throwing home and put the ball perfectly on catcher Bladen Strickland’s left side to tag out the sliding Brewington. Carter fielded the next ground ball drifting toward second base and turned and flipped the ball to second baseman Cal Hunt as he grabbed the ball barehanded and turned to first to get the double play, and get Purnell Swett out of the jam.
“When they hit it to me I knew he was going because he’s the fastest dude on the team so I went ahead and threw it home,” Carter said. “On the double play, I have no idea what was going through my mind. I went up the middle and I was too far from the bag to tag it so I threw it and Cal made an unbelievable catch and throw with his bare hand.”
The sequence of the two at bats in the sixth inning without pushing a run across was one of the four innings where the Pirates were unable to find the timely hit and left runners stranded.
“I didn’t think Alec got a good walking lead at third. Matthias made a great play throwing him out at the plate,” said Lumberton coach Jeff McLamb. “I told them we were going to be aggressive anyway. Anything up the middle we were going to test them and see what happens and he made a heck of a play. He even made a great play with the double play ball as well.
“We had several chances where a big hit would put us right in it and maybe leading the game, but we just couldn’t get the big hit.”
With where the Pirates where in the lineup when Carter made the plays, Purnell Swett coach Bryan McDonald thinks if the plays had went in Lumberton’s favor the game could have been severely different.
“The double play was unbelievable,” he said. “They had the meat of the order up, had the leadoff man on and we roll a double play to get out of the inning. That was huge because if you don’t they’re still swinging the bat with the meat of the order up and the outcome could be different.”
Purnell Swett (16-6, 6-4 SEC) recorded its only three runs and four hits in the game during the fourth inning. Pitcher Lucas Oxendine scored McKinley Stickland on a RBI triple to left field and then he scored on the next at bat on a Braylan Locklear double to center field. Locklear tallied four RBIs in two games against Lumberton this week.
“Braylan’s seeing it as good as he’s ever seen in his career right now,” McDonald said.
Locklear scored two batters later on a bloop single from Ethan Chavis.
Lumberton scratched across a run against Oxendine in the first inning with back-to-back hits to start the game by Brewington and Odum. Brewington reached on a grounder that died short of the pitcher, advanced to second on a wild pitch and Odum drove him home on a single to left field.
From there, Oxendine allowed just two hits while going the distance on the mound. He struck out eight batters and allowed one walk to the Pirates for his team-best sixth win of the season.
“Lucas has been a very dominate pitcher. You might get to him early, but if you don’t get to him early, it’s usually over with,” McDonald said. “Normally, the farther he goes the stronger he gets and that was the case tonight.”
Brewington, Odum, Nolan Locklear and Tyler Jacobs had the four hits for the Pirates who are looking for a better performance at the plate on Tuesday when both teams open SEC tournament play against each other at Purnell Swett.
“We’ve got to hit, point blank,” McLamb said. “Our pitching staff keeps us in every ballgame. If we didn’t have such a great pitching staff, we’d be getting blown out by the way we’re swinging the bats.”
The Rams will come into that game winner of five of their last six games.
“I think we’re playing our best baseball of the year right now,” Carter said. “With the pitching we have now, if we score a couple runs I think that’s enough.”
Big inning propels Swett softball past Lumberton
The Purnell Swett softball team used a six-run seventh inning to cap a 9-1 win over Lumberton on Thursday.
Kaitlyn Hunt led the Rams at the plate, logging a 4-for-4 performance with three RBIs. JaiLeana Deese earned the win in the circle, and helped her cause with three hits and three runs scored. She limited the Pirates to four hits.
Randi Bullard and LeAnn Nobles added one hit each for Lumberton.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.