LAURINBURG — Kelsey Smith’s go-ahead RBI in the bottom of the sixth inning helped lift Scotland to a come-from-behind victory against visiting Hoke County Thursday night.
The Scots, who trailed 1-0 entering the fifth, scored runs in the bottom of the fifth and bottom of the sixth to secure the 2-1 win.
It was the third consecutive contest Scotland has been a part of that’s been decided by one run — the Scots opened Southeastern Conference play with a 9-8 extra-inning win over Purnell Swett last Friday, then lost 2-1 to Pinecrest on Tuesday.
But Scotland (7-3, 2-1 SEC) rebounded to defeat a Bucks squad that led most of the way before faltering late.
Down by one in the fifth, the Scots tied the game when Katie Lighthall stole home after getting on base with a double. The sophomore caught Hoke (6-4, 0-3) off guard, and though the Bucks nearly tagged her out as she sprinted towards the plate, she safely reached base to knot the score at 1-all.
Then in the sixth, Scotland loaded the bases without recording any outs. Debra Kyle had the first opportunity to clear the bases, but her infield hit allowed the Bucks to throw Cassie Leviner out at home. Then Sarah McCall, the next batter, struck out.
With the game hanging in the balance, Smith smacked a pitch from Hoke’s Bethany Locklear between short and second base to plate Macie Gibson.
“I told Smith, that’s a good job, way to hit the ball where they’re not,” said Scotland coach Patrick Williams.
Lighthall, who toed the rubber for the Scots in the win, slammed Hoke’s window of opportunity shut in the top of the seventh when she retired the side to help her team seal the win.
It was another low-scoring affair for Scotland — the Scots have combined to score just three runs in their past two contests, though their opponents have also only tallied three. Before Williams’ club broke through with a score in the fifth, Scotland endured a 10-inning scoreless streak dating back to the Pinecrest tilt.
Despite the drought, Williams’ confidence in his batters never wavered and they rewarded him with successful at-bats when the team needed it most.
“I believe in the things we do, we just got to stick together, stay tight and if adversity takes place you have to deal with it. It’s a part of life,” Williams said. “I’m extremely proud of the way the young ladies played.”
Hoke notched its lone run in the bottom of the second inning when Alexis Blackwell drove in a run after a ground out. The Bucks had success getting on base in the first couple of innings but didn’t score more runs to show for it, though Williams said he wants his girls to continue working at cleaning up minor pitching and fielding miscues.
“When the opportunity presents itself you have to make plays, and we had a mistake here or there but it wasn’t costly,” Williams said. “We got to stay on top of that and start to minimize those things because you can’t give good teams extra at-bats.”
Lighthall, who finished with six strikeouts, retired Hoke’s final seven batters.
The Scots will enjoy Easter break next before returning to the diamond April 4 at home against South Columbus.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.