LAURINBURG — The last time Pinecrest and Scotland met at McCoy Field, the Scots escaped with a thrilling 5-4 victory in 11 innings.
Unlike that April 8 matchup, Thursday’s clash in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament wasn’t decided in extras. And it wasn’t the Scots celebrating at game’s end.
The Patriots clinched a spot in today’s SEC championship contest with a 3-1 victory over the host Scots, who have now lost two straight ahead of next week’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs. Pinecrest advances to host Purnell Swett as the Rams clobbered No. 1-seeded Richmond Senior 10-1 in the other semifinal game.
Nik Pry put together a masterful performance on the mound for Pinecrest (18-8), going the distance while allowing four hits and one earned run. He retired the Scots in order in three of the seven innings, and at one point retired eight straight Scotland batters.
The Patriots didn’t generate much offense past the third inning, but they didn’t need to after tallying a trio of early runs. From there, Pry and a stellar defensive performance behind him carried the visitors from Southern Pines to a victory in the rubber match between the two programs. Pinecrest also won the first meeting, 9-3, at home on April 5.
Pinecrest opened the scoring in the top of the second inning — after Trent McKay opened the frame with a double off of Scotland pitcher Nic Charleson, Tommy Vinson drove in McKay with an RBI single. Scotland attempted to throw McKay out at the plate, but he slid over home just before the tag.
Then, in the top of the third, leadoff man Jack Carpenter opened with a single. Charleson hit Pry with a pitch to put two runners on with no outs, but Scotland recorded back-to-back outs on fielder’s choice plays to stymie the Patriots’ momentum.
However, McKay answered with an RBI single, and Carson Maples followed with an RBI double down the left-field line to increase Pinecrest’s advantage to 3-0.
Scots’ best chance to get back into the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning, as they loaded the bases with no outs. Charleson hit a single, Cross Holfert doubled and Justin Bowers reached base on balls, but Brandon Jacobs hit a pop fly and Justin Ingram struck out to put the pressure on Aaron Locklear to capitalize on the prime scoring opportunity.
Locklear came through with an RBI single hit between third and short that plated Charleson, but Pry struck out Bryan Baines to get out of the jam.
Scotland (16-7) never threatened the rest of the way as only one batter reached base over the course of the next three innings.
The Scots will find out their postseason fate when the NCHSAA releases the playoff brackets this weekend. First-round games will be played next Wednesday.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.