LAURINBURG — Scotland has went toe-to-toe with several future Division I starting pitchers this season, but until Tuesday night, the Scots had fallen short in each of those contests.
After defeating visiting Lumberton 3-1, Chad Hill’s team finally had their breakthrough.
The latest highly-touted prospect to step on the mound against Scotland was Lumberton’s Evan Odum, a senior committed to play for North Carolina next spring. But it wasn’t a subpar performance from the Pirate standout that allowed the Scots to secure their sixth straight win — it was the defensive lapses behind Odum that prompted Scotland’s go-ahead runs.
“This is our fourth big-time (Division I) guy we’ve faced and we’ve lost all three of those games, so this was nice that we could kind of learn from those experiences,” Hill said after the victory.
Scotland (14-5, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) tallied all three of its runs in the first inning thanks in large part to a trio of Lumberton errors.
After stranding runners on first and third in the top of the first inning, Lumberton (10-9, 3-4) compounded that missed opportunity with costly fielding mistakes when it was Scotland’s turn at the plate.
Leadoff hitter Donta Green reached first base after the Pirates infield had trouble fielding a ground ball. Then, when it was Nic Charleson’s turn to bat, a throwing error at first allowed Green to advance to third while Charleson was safe at the opposite corner. Cross Holfert followed to hit a sharp ground ball between third and short, and Lumberton again failed to cleanly field the ball as Green reached home for the game’s first run.
“After those first three errors, we were just flat the rest of the game,”said Lumberton head coach Jeffrey McLamb, who mentioned his team seemed to press the rest of the contest to make up for those early miscues.
“Evan pitched a heck of a ball game, we just couldn’t ever put an inning together and get him any runs. That first inning just killed us.”
Odum recorded back-to-back outs to stop the bleeding, but Brandon Jacobs stepped up to hit a two-RBI single between first and second base to plate Charleson and Holfert.
The Lumberton ace finished with nine strikouts and only allowed three Scots to reach base the rest of the game, but the damage was already done.
“We talked about his fastball and putting it in play, and in the first inning we did it,” Hill said. “It was nice, it kind of got everyone’s nerves a little bit settled and we got his pitch count up. We knew he was going to battle, but he stayed in and threw a complete game. Those were three big early ones.”
Whereas Lumberton relied on its workhorse, Scotland went with a pitcher-by-committee approach. Holfert started the game and left after one inning, then Charleson stepped in to pitch four innings of shutout baseball. Justin Ingram picked up the save, retiring six of the eight batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings.
“That makes it tough, seeing different pitchers,” McLamb said. “Once we got used to one guy, (Hill) switched it up so we had to keep making adjustments at the plate and they kept us off balance all night.”
Odum was the only Pirate to develop a rhythm at the dish, going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles. His double down the left-field line on a 2-2 count in the top of the third inning plated Lumberton’s lone run.
The two schools will meet for the second of their two-game set Friday night in Robeson County.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.