FAIRMONT — Mackie Register knew something was missing.
As he prepared the Lumberton softball team for the 2017 Robeson County Slugfest tournament, the Lady Pirates coach wanted to “check the box” as Slugfest champions for the first time in program history.
On Tuesday night against South Robeson, his team filled the void, earning a 4-2 victory to raise the Slugfest trophy and earn county bragging rights.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Register said. “We had to play well to beat (South Robeson). Looking at our schedule, this is something that we wanted to win this year. We’ve never won it at Lumberton (in softball). I’m proud of my girls. We pulled it out.”
Behind a dominant two-game stretch from tournament MVP Morgan Britt in the pitcher’s circle and timely hitting, the top-seeded Lady Pirates (15-4) scored three runs in the third inning and held off a late rally from the upset-minded Lady Mustangs (11-7) to win the title.
Lumberton’s sophomore ace finished with two wins during the tournament and combined for 29 strikeouts, including 15 on Tuesday night.
“She’s making it easy on the defense when she can average about 10 strikeouts a game,” Register said with a laugh. “Her and (catcher) Kasey (West) work well together.”
For Britt, it was a performance that was helped by a 10-inning, 5-4 win over Scotland prior to Slugfest. In that game she finished with 19 strikeouts.
“I think it just carried over,” she said. “I just focused on hitting my spots and letting the defense play behind me. It feels pretty good. I hope this carries over to even bigger things.”
Her dominance on the mound was unmatched, but Britt also helped her cause with a solid performance at the plate, breaking a scoreless tie in the third inning with an RBI groundout to give the Lady Pirates a 1-0 lead. Madison Canady followed with an RBI single and LeeAnn Nobles capped the frame with an RBI double to extend Lumberton’s lead to 3-0.
Canady and Ariel Allbrooks joined Britt on the all-tournament team.
“We’ve been getting timely hits,” Register said. “Anybody in our lineup has come up for us in big moments throughout the year.”
But South Robeson wouldn’t go quietly in its first championship appearance. In the sixth inning, the Lady Mustangs rallied for two runs on an RBI single by Destiny Strickland and an RBI groundout by Harmony Oxendine, trimming the lead to 3-2.
They would get no closer as Lumberton added an insurance run in the seventh when Rachel O’Neil crossed the plate on a throwing error for the final tally.
With another box checked, Register is hopeful the performance will yield a bigger prize as the season draws to an end.
“Hopefully this can launch us and keep us on a roll, propel us into the (Southeastern Conference) tournament,” Register said. “We’ve still got some things we want to accomplish.”
Hoke beats Swett to claim 3rd
Behind a three-run second inning, the Hoke softball team earned a 4-1 victory over Purnell Swett to claim third place at Slugfest.
Jessyca Cordona led the Lady Bucks (10-10) with a trio of RBIs, with Alexis Blackwell adding a pair of RBIs en route to earning all-tournament honors.
Kaitlyn Jones finished with the lone RBI for the Lady Rams (7-13), who pushed across a run in the second inning. Desaree Dunham led Purnell Swett with a pair of hits and Kierra Locklear earned all-tournament honors.
East Columbus rallies to take 5th from Red Springs
The East Columbus softball team scored nine runs over the final two innings to earn an 11-9 comeback win over Red Springs, earning fifth place in its first appearance at Slugfest.
The Lady Gators (14-3) scored five runs in the sixth inning and four runs in the seventh inning to earn the victory over the Lady Red Devils (10-9).
Taya Jones logged a 5-for-5 performance at the plate for Red Springs, finishing with a pair of RBIs to earn all-tournament honors. Kesley Locklear and Mariah Oxendine added two hits each, with Locklear tallying three RBIs.
Chelsea Gonzalez capped her tournament with a pair of RBIs for the Lady Red Devils, who scored four runs in the third inning, two in the fourth and three more in the seventh inning before surrendering the lead for good.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.