SOUTHERN PINES — Everything that could have gone wrong for the Fighting Scots during Friday’s Southeastern conference championship game against Pinecrest did — it was the perfect storm.
The Fighting Scots threw six pitchers — Daly Marcano, Justin Bowers, Jackson Purcell, Nic Callahan, Matt Sellers and Grant Burleson — over the course of six innings as the Patriots mercy ruled the Scots, 11-1.
The game started out on a high note for the Scots as senior Donta Green hit a solo home run over the center field wall off Pinecrest starting pitcher and University of North Carolina commit Nick Pry. Green’s home run would be the first of many as the wind carried several balls out of Pinecrest’s short outfield.
A pop out to shallow center, a strikeout and a ground out to third ended the first inning for the Scots with a 1-0 lead — something Pinecrest quickly remedied with their first trip to the plate.
Pry started the Patriots off with a double to center and was drove in on a single to left by Dax Ingram. With the game tied 1-1 Pinecrest’s Seth Caddell hit into a fielder’s choice that saw Ingram forced out at second for the first out of the inning. A walk to Zach Martinez put two runners at first and second for the Patriots. A ground ball to Bowers at third by Trent McKay resulted in the second force out of the inning.
With two outs, Pinecrest’s Tommy Vinson took advantage of the wind to hit a three-run home run over the left-field wall to give the Patriots a 4-1 lead. A walk and a hit to Bowers at third ended the inning, but the damage was already done.
Over the next few innings neither team made any noise at the plate as Marcano and Pry settled in. After a three-up-three-down inning for Pinecrest the Scots got runners on base in the fourth with a single to center by Marcano to start things off. Back-to-back fly outs by Bowers and Justin Ray gave the Scots two outs but a walks to McKenzie White and Tyler Faulk loaded the bases for junior Davon Ratliffe.
Ratliffe made contact with the ball hitting a long fly ball to right, but it landed in a Pinecrest glove to end the Scots scoring threat.
The bottom of the fourth inning was the turning point as Pinecrest scored five runs and the Scots made two pitching changes. Marcano started the inning pegging the first batter he faced before Davis Byrd laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner. Marcano hit Elliot Embler to put runners on first and second before a single to right by Pry scored a run. Scots head coach Chad Hill called time, pulled Marcano and replaced him with Bowers — who didn’t fare much better.
Bowers saw two batters, Ingram and Caddell, and got the second out on a pop up foul ball by Caddell but not before Ingram hit a single to left to load the bases. After the second out, Hill opted to pull Bowers and put in freshman Jackson Purcell. This time putting a freshman on the mound didn’t work out for Hill and the Scots like it had against Purnell.
Martinez had two strikes on him before hitting a grand slam over the left-field wall to empty the bases and the Pinecrest dugout. With a 9-1 lead Purcell kept his composure walking Trent McKay before getting a ground out to end the inning. The Scots offense threatened in the fifth inning with a double by Austin Norton and single by Green, but couldn’t get any runs across the plate.
The Scots put in freshman pitcher Nic Callahan in the bottom of the fifth and despite a runner on second the Scots defense was able to hold the Patriots in check. The sixth inning saw the Scots send three batters to the plate — Bowers, Ray and White — all three hit infield ground balls and went right back to the dugout.
Left-handed freshman Matt Sellers took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and saw four batters before being pulled. Caddell hit a double to center, Martinez flied out and McKay walked before Sellers pegged Vinson to load the bases. Junior Grant Burleson got the call and saw one batter — Pinecrest’s Garrett Clark who his the walk-off single to center to score the Patriots final two runs and force a mercy rule.
It wasn’t the ending the Scots were hoping for, but they still earned a bid to the 4A state playoffs and will live to play another day.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.