May 22—PEMBROKE — After the Purnell Swett baseball team scored 10 runs in a blowout win over Jack Britt Tuesday, they played a much closer game against the Buccaneers on Friday.
But Rams sophomore pitcher Keithyn Hunt held the Buccaneers at bay, leading the Rams to a 3-2 win.
"He threw the ball well," Purnell Swett coach Jeff Lamb said. "That's two games in a row he's gone out there and done an excellent job. When he does give up hits, it's when no one's on. He's getting the job done, throwing strikes, keeping guys off balance. I'm very pleased with him and the way he's stepped up."
Hunt allowed four hits over 6 2/3 innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts, allowing two runs in the seventh; mound counterpart Quinn Maykish for the Buccaneers allowed three runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"I was hitting my spots, trying not to do too much," Hunt said. "My breaking ball was alright. I didn't have my best stuff. My defense was behind me; I just worked with that."
Hunt only worked one perfect inning in the game, the fifth, but never had more than one baserunner in any inning until the seventh. After Purnell Swett (5-3, 5-3 Sandhills Athletic Conference) entered the season with questions about who would be their No. 2 pitcher behind Jonathon Jacobs, Hunt has emerged as a reliable option in that spot, with Friday's game coming after last week's complete-game shutout against Pinecrest.
"It's huge having that second guy going out there, and he's getting it done, and that's all you ask," Lamb said.
"I didn't believe I could at the beginning, and then the game (against) Pinecrest, I had my stuff, it worked out, I did alright, had a good outcome," Hunt said.
The two Jack Britt (0-8, 0-8 SAC) runs in the seventh came after Hunt hit leadoff batter Zach Aranda and walked Maykish with two outs, then allowed a single to Caleb Locklear to load the bases. Will Brooks relieved Hunt and got a pop-up by Marcus Novy, but it fell in to allow Aranda and Maykish to score.
With runners at first and third in a one-run game, Brooks struck out Brandon Novy to end the game.
"We've put Will in that role a lot," Lamb said. "I feel comfortable putting him there; he does a good job changing speeds. I knew we were going to get a pop-up there, it was just whether or not we were going to catch it. ... We did what we had to do to get the win, but it wasn't pretty."
Offensively, the first two Purnell Swett runs came after a Rams batter reached base on a hit batsman.
Mason Locklear was hit with a pitch in the first inning, stole second and scored on a Braeden Oxendine RBI double. An inning later, Jacobs led off and was hit by a pitch before Chris Baker doubled to plate Jacobs.
Maykish kept the Rams quiet from the third, fourth and fifth innings, but the Rams added an insurance run in the sixth for a 3-0 lead, a run which proved pivotal in the seventh. Kylan Ransom singled, stole second and scored on an Oxendine RBI single. The Rams went on to lead the bases loaded as Buccaneers reliever Donovan Whitfield struck out the last two batters of the frame.
Oxendine had three hits for the Rams; he and the Buccaneers' Marcus Novy, who had two hits, were the only players with multiple hits in the game.
Purnell Swett is 5-3, both overall and in the SAC, just past the halfway point of the season, and sits fourth in the conference standings behind Scotland, Pinecrest and Lumberton.
"Right now, we've got to win every game. For us to think about playoffs, we've got to win out," Lamb said. "We've went through the gauntlet; we've had the toughest teams. Typically from here on out, in the past we've been able to control our destiny."
"I feel like we could do a whole lot better," Hunt said. "We haven't played our best game yet; there's a little more in the tank for sure. We can be more aggressive in all parts."
Independence will travel from Charlotte to Pembroke to visit Purnell Swett for a nonconference doubleheader on Thursday before the Rams continue conference play at home against Hoke County on June 1.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.