LUMBERTON – The Lumberton Panthers were ready to get back to their winning ways Friday evening, and they made quick work of their first-round opponent.
Instead of the usually Friday-Saturday home and away format, Lumberton and Mount Olive decided to play Games 1 and 2 Friday in Lumberton, with the if necessary Game 3 set for Monday at Mount Olive. The Panthers didn’t need to make the road trip, though, defeating the Pirates 13-1 in Game 1 and 19-1 in Game 2. Both wins were run-rule games as well.
Believe it or not, Monday was the first time Lumberton won a playoff series since 2012. It’ll now play the winner of Hamilton and Noxapater starting next Thursday.
“That’s one thing we talked about this week," Lumberton interim coach Jonathan Ladner said. "‘Let’s do something special.’ We did something today that hasn’t been done in 12 years. That’s a long time for this program.”
Lumberton scored its 32 runs in just seven innings, too, and it had a span of 22 runs in two innings. The Panthers scored seven runs in the fourth inning of the first game to force the run-rule, then they started Game 2 with 15 runs in the first inning.
It wasn’t the best competition, but the Panthers needed a night like Friday to get its confidence back. However, there was a time when Ladner and his assistants were scratching their heads wondering where the offense was, because Lumberton only had six runs through the first three innings of Game 1.
“I thought we hit the ball really well, which is what we needed to do,” Ladner said. “We needed a good night. I was sitting there in the first game thinking, ‘Here we go again.’ We’re in the third inning and we only scored six runs so I’m like, ‘At some point, something has to happen,’ and it clicked.
“Baseball is one of those funny sports. The harder you try to do something, the less likely it’s going to happen.”
Ladner said his players started to relax in the seven-run fourth inning. The Panthers sent 11 players to the plate, and it all started when Rodney Parker tripled off the left-center field wall to start the frame. Parker was hit by a pitch to load the bases later in the inning.
Parker and Davion Edwards paced the Panthers’ offense with two hits each, and Edwards led the team with four RBI. Lumberton only had six hits in the first game, but it drew seven walks and four batters were plunked.
Antwuan Lampton pitched a four-inning, two-hitter while his offense lit up the scoreboard. He also struck out eight while allowing just one earned run, but he did walk five.
Parker took the ball in Game 2 and sat down Mount Olive quickly in the first inning to set up the 15-run bottom of the first. Parker finished with five strikeouts in his three innings, and he only allowed one earned run on one hit while walking four.
Offensively, every batter Lumberton sent to the plate reached base, and just about every batter recorded a hit. Jared Tribett, Edwards and Lampton all had three hits each, while Tyler Bush added two hits and three RBI. Edwards led the Panthers with five RBI.
The Panthers sent 20 batters to the plate in the first inning, and as a team, they recorded 17 hits in the contest.
Lumberton will get some much-needed rest over the weekend before turning its attention to the next opponent. It’ll be a long six days before the Panthers take the field again.
“I promised them if they took care of business (Friday) then they’ll get two days off,” Ladner said. “They’ll get those two days then Monday we’ll get back to the grind and try to continue this ride.”