FAIRMONT — Kerosen Rivera and Destiny Strickland were in a battle on Monday afternoon.
During South Robeson’s game against Purnell Swett in the semifinals of the Robeson County Slugfest, Rivera and Strickland played a game of “rock, paper, scissors” in between innings.
Rivera won the side battle against Strickland on the diamond, and helped her team earn a berth in Tuesday’s championship game at 7 p.m. against top-seeded Lumberton.
A freshman transfer from South View, Rivera, better known as “KK” to her teammates, scored two runs and had a pair of hits to lead the Lady Mustangs to a 6-3 upset win over the defending Slugfest champions.
“When KK got here, it seemed like it filled a slot we needed to fill,” said Carter, whose team earned a berth in the Slugfest title game for the first time in program history.
“She brought some enthusiasm and fun back. And it brought some competitiveness back, too.”
Trailing 1-0, the sixth-seeded Lady Mustangs (10-7) came alive in the final two innings, scoring three runs in each frame to earn the victory over the second-seeded Lady Rams (7-12).
“I joined the team a couple of weeks ago and I noticed that when hard times come through, they play their butts off,” Rivera said of her teammates. “We just have to keep our heads up and focus for (Tuesday’s) game.”
Rivera tied the game at 1-all in the sixth inning after sliding under a tag at the plate on a double steal. Halei Chavis and Harmony Oxendine followed with RBI singles to give South Robeson the lead for good. With the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Rivera added another run on a wild pitch and Oxendine followed with a two-run double, extending the lead out to 6-1.
Oxendine continued her impressive run in the tournament, shining in the circle and at the plate for the Lady Mustangs. She struck out six batters en route to earning the win and added a trio of hits and RBIs.
“Our returners are coming through when we need them,” Carter said. “We’re just playing with a little more confidence and our younger players are doing the things they’re supposed to do. It’s a whole team effort.”
The Lady Rams rallied for two runs in the seventh on a double by Kierra Locklear, but would get no closer, ending their bid for back-to-back Slugfest titles. Locklear finished with a pair of hits and three RBIs, giving Purnell Swett a 1-0 lead on an RBI single in the first inning.
JaiLeana Deese was tagged with the loss for the Lady Rams, who will face Hoke in the third-place game at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
For Carter, whose team beat East Columbus in its third attempt and followed with a win over Purnell Swett in its third try, the third time’s a charm — and he credits the success to a “change in attitude.”
“I don’t know about when and where it changed, but it feels great,” he said. “We’re starting to get it as a team.”
Britt strikes out 14, Lumberton advances to title game
Behind a dominant pitching effort from Morgan Britt, the Lumberton softball team earned a 3-1 victory over Hoke on Monday, advancing to Tuesday’s Slugfest title game.
Britt pitched a one-hitter for the top-seeded Lady Pirates (14-4), striking out 14 batters en route to earning the win in the circle.
“It was an awesome performance,” Lumberton coach Mackie Register said. “Morgan has been throwing the ball very well and we had some timely hitting.”
LeeAnn Nobles was one of three Lumberton players to log multiple hits, finishing with a team-best three RBIs. With the game tied at 1-all in the fifth inning, Nobles lined a two-run single up the middle to give the Lady Pirates a 3-1 advantage.
Kasey West and Madison Canady finished with two hits each for Lumberton, which will be making its third appearance in the Slugfest championship.
“I think we’ll be ready,” Register said.
Nobles gave Lumberton a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the first inning, but Caitlyn Crenshaw tied the game in the third with a two-out single.
Red Springs, East Columbus earn five-inning wins
The Red Springs and East Columbus softball teams made quick work of their opponents on Monday, advancing to Tuesday’s fifth-place game.
The Lady Red Devils earned a 12-0 victory over St. Pauls in five innings, with Katelyn Culbreth and Jalexis Bratcher combining for a no-hitter.
Culbreth struck out six batters and finished with a pair of hits for the Lady Red Devils (12-8), who scored seven runs in the first inning and five more in the fourth to earn the five-inning victory.
Chelsea Gonzalez continued her impressive tournament with four RBIs, with Kyria Locklear adding two RBIs and Paige Locklear logging a pair of hits for Red Springs.
East Columbus earned an 11-1 win over Fairmont to keep its tournament alive, using a pair of three-run innings and a four-run inning to end the game early.
Diamond Porter and Savannah Quick had two hits each to lead the Lady Gators (13-3). Mya Strickland was one of four players to log a hit for the Lady Golden Tornadoes (2-12), who scored their lone run in the fifth inning and were plagued by five errors.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.