LAURINBURG — Dylan Ward had already taken a few steps away from the mound and towards the Scotland dugout by the time the home plate umpire called the strike that Ward knew was coming for his ninth strikeout of the game.
Ward threw a complete game shutout against the Purnell Swett Rams, allowing just three hits and walking three batters. His teammates took care of the run support. Sam Gray hit a two-run homer in the second inning to put the Scots ahead and the home team added two more in the fourth inning to cruise to a 4-0 win.
Scotland played one of its most complete games of the season in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament and will now take on Richmond in Rockingham tonight at 7 p.m. The Scots must win the tournament to make the playoffs. The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the championship game.
Ward, a senior, had a phenomenal outing in what could be his last appearance as a Scot. His biggest challenge of the night might have come in the sixth inning, when he walked two batters with one out. However, Ward responded by striking out the next two batters to leave the inning unhurt.
The fielding mistakes that have haunted the Scots this season also seemed to disappear on Tuesday, as the team only made one error and turned two double plays. Coach Jamie Coleman said the fielders did a good job of backing up their pitcher.
“He had a tremendous effort on the mound and worked ahead in the count. He was Dylan. Our kids feed off him and they know he’s a leader, and it’s good to get out here and get a win to extend our season,” Coleman said.
The Rams fall to 14-7 overall with the loss and will now wait until the playoff brackets are released Saturday to see if their season will continue. Coach Bryan McDonald said he hopes the selection committee will reward his team with one of the four wildcard slots up for grabs in the East.
“We hope the selection committee will look at the fact that we are 14-7 overall… I hope our season isn’t over yet, but we’re at the mercy of the committee,” McDonald said.
After a scoreless opening inning, Gray put the Scots ahead with his blast to right center field that scored himself and Tripp McDonald. Then Cross Holfert scored from third on a hit-and-run in the fourth inning. Gray hit to the gap between first and second base and was thrown out at first, but Holfert was able to reach home safely.
The Scots added their fourth run when Donte Green hit a sacrifice field to left field, allowing McDonald to score.
“We just didn’t hit the baseball. It was a very well played baseball game. They didn’t hit it a whole lot, but they hit it with runners in scoring position to score their runs,” McDonald said.
Coleman said he expects senior Nolan Pierce to get the start on the mound tonight against Richmond.