LAURINBURG — Needing a victory to keep pace with Richmond Senior in the Southeastern Conference race, the Scotland baseball team took care of business Friday night against visiting Hoke County.
The Scots picked up their third conference win in a row and fifth straight overall, defeating the Bucks 5-2 to remain within striking distance of their rivals to the west.
The Raiders remained undefeated in the SEC after defeating Lumberton 6-3 in Friday action.
Scotland (13-5, 4-2 SEC) completed the series sweep of Hoke — Chad Hill’s squad cruised to a 19-6 win against the Bucks on Tuesday. The Scots end the year with two games against Lumberton then a pair of contests against the Raiders.
Richmond (6-0) currently resides in the catbird seat followed by Scotland, Lumberton (3-3), Pinecrest (3-3), Purnell Swett (2-4) and Hoke (0-6).
The next two series will determine the Scots’ place in the final regular-season standings, but first they needed to put away a Bucks team led by former Scotland head coach, Jamie Coleman.
Hoke (2-14, 0-6) jumped out to an early 1-0 advantage in the top of the first inning after Chris Warfield drove in a run with an RBI single off Scotland starting pitcher Brandon Jacobs.
But that was the last run the visitors from Raeford would tally against the 6-foot-3 senior as Jacobs followed with four innings of scoreless baseball.
The Scotland offense, which entered Thursday averaging 11 runs in the past four games, never got into a consistent groove against Hoke starting pitcher Ryan Taylor, but the Scots scored runs when they needed to in order to comfortably come out on top. Some of that could be attributed to the absence of Donta Green, a key part of the top of the lineup who missed the game after suffering an injury in Thursday’s contest against Marlboro County.
Taylor didn’t allow many hits, but he struggled with his command for much of the evening — he walked three Scots in the bottom of the first inning, and Jacobs plated Nic Charleson with an RBI groundout to tie the score at 1-all entering the second.
Scotland struck again in the bottom of the third when Matthew Hyatt hit a sharp single to right field to bring in Aaron Locklear. Then in the bottom of the fourth, Locklear singled to plate Charleson to make it 3-1 in favor of the Scots.
The Scots extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a Hoke fielding miscue. Hyatt opened the frame with a single, then, two batters later, Cross Holfert reached base on balls. Charleson followed with an infield hit and reached first after an errant throw rolled into the outfield, allowing Hyatt and Holfert to score. Hoke attempted to throw Holfert out at the plate, but he slid safely under the tag to give Scotland a 5-1 advantage.
Hoke answered with its final run in the top of the sixth when Chase Jackson doubled to left field, plating Warfield.
The Bucks had one final opportunity to extend the game in the top of the seventh inning but reliever Justin Bowers retired Hoke in order to seal the victory.
Scotland returns to the diamond Tuesday at 7 p.m. to host Lumberton.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.