The varsity Fighting Scots wholly expected visiting Lumberton to give them their biggest challenge of the early summer season heading into Monday night. The Pirates didn’t disappoint, as they rallied back in the seventh inning to force a 4-4 tie that needed an extra inning to decide the outcome.
And that’s when Scotland Trejon Monley decided to make the first hit of his varsity Fighting Scots career a memorable one, driving in the game-winning run to give his team the narrow 5-4 victory over Lumberton.
“This team showed a lot of resolve out there tonight,” said Scotland head coach Jamie Coleman. “We knew what we were in for against this Lumberton team, but I needed to see a game like we had tonight to know how tough this team can be as we move onward.”
The Fighting Scots, as they have since the new season begun, got off to a quick start with aggressive, opportunistic base-running and a few crucially timed hits. After leading off the bottom of the first inning with a walk, Scotland second baseman HB Stone stole second base and reached third on a wild pitch, which put him in position for a Nolan Pierce RBI single which occurred on the very next at-bat. After a Will Adams walk loaded the bases, two batters later catcher Tripp McDonald notched an RBI fielder’s choice ground out to put Scotland up 2-0 over Lumberton.
Starting pitcher Dakota Graves was solid in five complete innings of work, racking up a pitch count exceeding 75 pitches with three strikeouts and one earned run. But a pesky Pirates squad lifted a page from Scotland’s playbook with some aggressive base-running of their own in the second inning, answering the Fighting Scots’ fast start by tying the game 2-2 on a wild pitch which scored Lumberton outfielder Terrence Rucker.
Back-to-back RBI singles for Pierce and Blake Bennett in the third inning would be the last runs either team would score until the fifth inning, when Lumberton climbed to within a run of Scotland after a play at the plate. A second play at the plate would see the Pirates tie the Fighting Scots in the seventh inning.
After a fast start to their night, Scotland never again came close to producing runs until the end of regulation, but McDonald would change that after leading off the eighth inning with a double. Dylan Ward would walk on the next at-bat, followed by Lumberton making the decision to walk Hayden Buffkin (returning to McCoy Field for the first time since the regular season) to load the bases and get to Monley. It was a decision they would regret, as Monely made them pay with an RBI single to abruptly end the two hour-plus marathon game.
The Fighting Scots junior varsity and varsity squads will travel to Lumberton on Tuesday, then will make the trip to Union Pines on Wednesday. And for a team that rediscovered the clutch play of the 2012 regular season, Coleman welcomes their hectic schedule.
“I like it like this, I’d much rather play than practice,” Coleman said. “We can build a lot off a win like tonight, so it’s nice to not have any breaks in between games.”