CARTHAGE — Unlike the first matchup when Lumberton pounded out a win over Rockingham, the rematch was much different.
But the result was still the same — a Lumberton victory.
Rockingham pitchers Jenna Greene and Ragan Liles limited Lumberton to three hits, but Lumberton bunched those together in the third inning that led to all of its runs in a 3-2 win Tuesday.
Rockingham’s duo combined to strike out 10 Lumberton batters — nine by Greene in four innings of work. In the first meeting, Rockingham’s pitchers didn’t record a strikeout.
“They say it’s a game of inches and today it really was,” Rockingham coach Matthew Liles said.
Rockingham took a 1-0 advantage in the top of the third on Ragan Liles’ triple and Savanna Barber’s single before Lumberton stormed back in its half of the frame to take the lead for good.
Kirsten Risen got things started for Lumberton with a one-out single. Risen moved to second on a wild pitch before Ragan Liles struck out Anna Mercer. Risen advanced to third on another wild pitch and after falling behind in the count, Skylar Chavis hit a ground ball just inside the third-base line. Chavis’ single scored Risen with the tying run.
Haven Britt then came up with the big hit of the contest. Britt hit a line drive that landed inside the right-field line and skipped away from Rockingham right fielder Paige Ransom. By the time the ball was thrown back into the infield, Britt had raced around the bases for an inside the park home run.
“With two strikes we want to pitch outside,” Matthew Liles said. “Their No. 11 and 12 batters hit the ball to the opposite field. The breaks weren’t with us tonight.”
Matthew Liles wasn’t just talking about Lumberton’s hits. Rockingham had runners in scoring position in the second and fifth innings without denting the plate. It had a chance to break open the game in the third, but were limited to one run.
In the second, Alyssa Seabolt singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Madison Jordan’s ground out. Ransom hit a line drive up the middle, but Lumberton pitcher Katie Kinlaw snagged it for the final out.
One inning later, Carley Lambeth recorded a lead-off single. Emily Few attempted to sacrifice Lambeth to second, but Britt tried to force Lambeth at second. Lambeth was safe and kept running to third as Few moved up to second on the play. Carleigh Wilson ripped a line drive to second for the first out. Georgia Grace Anderson successfully executed a safety squeeze to score Lambeth with the game’s first run. Jayana Nicholson lined out to second for the final out.
“I give them credit because they were squeezing us up the middle,” Matthew Liles said.
That defensive strategy paid off again for Lumberton in the fifth. With one out, Ransom reached on an error by Britt. A wild pitch moved her to second. After a strikeout, Few singled as Ransom advanced to third. Wilson once again lined out to second to end the threat.
“We didn’t hit the ball,” Matthew Liles said. “We finished third, but we only scored 10 runs in the entire tournament.”
The loss eliminated Rockingham from the Dixie Softball Ponytail state tournament. Lumberton advances to the finals where it will face West Brunswick. Lumberton, the only undefeated team in the bracket, defeated West Brunswick 5-4 Monday. West Brunswick moved into the finals with a 2-0 victory over Dunn Tuesday afternoon.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.