LUMBERTON — After taking four losses to Lumberton on the season coming into Friday, the Hoke County softball team got its revenge in what was the fifth and final meeting.
Three of the four prior meetings between the two Southeastern Conference foes were decided by four runs or less, and both teams battled tight for much of the night in the second-round matchup of the NCHSAA 4A state playoffs. The aggressive bats and the pitching of Bethany Locklear were the difference for Hoke County in its 7-3 win over the Lady Pirates in Lumberton.
“They hadn’t hit the ball like that against us the other four times,” Lumberton coach Mackie Register said. “They came out swinging the bats tonight, they were aggressive and they capitalized on stuff we gave them. Hats off to them because they did a good job. They were just the better team tonight.”
Lumberton (20-5) never led in the game as Hoke County (15-12) took first blood and pieced together scoring innings later to jump ahead of the SEC tournament champions.
After a Caitlin Crenshaw RBI single in the first inning, the Lady Bucks came back in the fourth, jumping on Lumberton pitcher Morgan Britt by loading the bases with one out. A passed ball and a wild pitch in two straight pitches from Britt took the Hoke County lead to 3-1, and then a double steal with runners on the corners scored a third run in the fourth inning to take the Lady Bucks’ lead to 4-1.
“When you play a team like that and you let them hang around and don’t get a lead on them, I thought if we could’ve got a lead on them earlier it could’ve been a different ballgame,” Register said.
The Lumberton bats totaled five hits in the game with two coming in the first two innings for momentum plays. In the bottom of the first, Britt hit a fly ball down the left field line that was dropped and she came around the bases to score and tie the game at 1-all. Jasmine McBride nearly made it two inside-the-park homers in two innings in the second inning, but she was thrown out at the plate.
McBride finished with a team high-two hits in her final high school softball game. She added an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth.
Britt finished the night with nine strikeouts and worked out of several jams in the early innings.
“She still had nine strikeouts, but she wasn’t as sharp as she had been,” Register said of Britt. “We didn’t make some play behind her and we didn’t score some runs early to maybe take some of that pressure off.”
After Lumberton cut the lead to 4-2 after four innings with an Ariel Allbrooks RBI groundout, Hoke County scored three runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings. Autumn Hardin had an RBI double in the fifth and Crenshaw’s RBI hit and a wild pitched scored two runs in the sixth inning. Hardin and Crenshaw each led the Lady Bucks with two hits each.
The Lady Pirates left six runners stranded in the game, with five being in scoring position and the lack of a timely hit also was a part of the demise for the young team that returns seven field players and eight batters from its lineup next season.
“We didn’t get the big hit when we needed it, and they got some big hits,” Register said. “They will represent our conference well against Cape Fear next.”
Hoke County takes on defending state runner-up Cape Fear in the third round.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.