Cougars thinking state playoffs, turn back Bruins second time this week

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If the SouthWest Edgecombe High varsity baseball team is eying the state playoffs, the mission gained momentum Wednesday night with a 7-2 triumph against host 2-A Eastern Plains Conference foe Beddingfield.

The Cougars plated two runs in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to sweep the week’s two-game series. SouthWest rallied to a 11-10 victory Monday in Pinetops. The occupant of third place in the conference, SouthWest improved to 5-3 in the league and to 13-8 in all games.

“We are definitely talking playoffs,” commented Cougars head coach Shelton Langley. “We missed the playoffs last year and, the year before, we had to travel three hours to play. We’re looking to play closer to home; we are hoping to host a playoff game.”

The Cougars conclude conference play next week with two games against Nash Central, which entered the week deadlocked with North Johnston for first place.

An extremely young Beddingfield, reeling from injuries to two key, experienced players, plunged to 1-7 in the conference and 7-11 against all foes.

“We didn’t do what we had to do when we had to do it,” Bruins head coach Noah Edens assessed. “We got beat in all three phases — they outpitched us, outhit us and played better defense.

The Cougars parlayed five errors into five unearned runs and Beddingfield starting pitcher Austin Slate, a junior right-hander, struggled with his command, issuing six walks.

“Austin is usually around the plate,” Edens said. “He didn’t have his best stuff.”

But SouthWest got a stellar performance from right-hander Alex Ortiz. In five innings and one batter into the sixth, Ortiz scattered six hits and one walk while striking out seven. He yielded one earned run.

“He had an outstanding performance,” Langley praised of his pitcher who threw 93 pitches. “We told him that, if a batter got on base in the sixth, we were going to take him out. When the pitch count gets in the range of 90-100, it’s time to look at shutting him down.

“We played better defense than on Monday. We made a few mistakes because of the wet field, but we did a good job of using the wet field to our advantage.”

Langley was pleased with the Cougars’ aggressive base running, noting: “We were going to make them throw a wet baseball.”

Shortstop Cody Fuller led the SouthWest attack, batting 3 for 5 with a double and driving in two runs. Right fielder Aaron Drake added a double and single in four at-bats and had an RBI. The Cougars plated a fourth-inning run on left fielder Chase Leggett’s suicide-squeeze bunt. Catcher Joseph Roach doubled and scored in the third.

Junior center fielder Mann Farmer banged out three of the Bruins’ seven hits in four at-bats. Sophomore second baseman Ty Johnson went 2 for 3 with an RBI.

Beddingfield’s starting lineup included three sophomors and three freshmen.

Score by innings:

SW Edgecombe 001 222 0 — 7

Beddingfield 001 001 0 — 2

WP-Alex Ortiz 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO. LP-Austin Slate 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 4 SO.

LEADING HITTERS — SouthWest Edgecombe: Cody Fuller 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Aaron Drake 2-4, 2B, RBI; Joseph Roach 1-3, 2B, 2 R; Beddingfield: Mann Farmer 3-4, Ty Johnson 2-3, RBI.