FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
PINETOPS – Junior right handed pitcher Brayden Morris struck out five batters after he came in to save the day for the SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars Tuesday night. Morris came in to relieve starter, senior Stephen Thompson, in the fifth inning with the score tied 3-3 and was stellar. Morris earned the win after throwing three no-hit innings with his only flaw being a walk, as the Cougars defeated the Kinston Vikings 6-3 in Eastern Plains Conference action.
"Brayden threw the ball good for us tonight," Cougars coach Tommy Tolson said. "He came in and did what we wanted him to do – shut them down."
Thompson started, but struggled at times and was having trouble locating his off speed pitches. The Viking players were sitting on his fast ball and were putting it in play. Thompson gave up three runs on four hits, while walking one and striking out two.
Tolson said he had both Morris and Thompson ready for the game, because if it came down to it he was going to use both pitchers to get the win. Tolson said his game plan was like that, because this was their only conference game of the week.
SouthWest came out like a ball of fire at the plate. They pounded out 12 hits and took advantage of three Kinston errors. Chris Owens led the way at the plate going 3 for 4. Jarratt Mobley and Nick Webb added two hits and Morris and Noah Edmondson added a RBI single apiece.
"It is good to see us hit the ball like that and get that many hits in a game," Tolson said. "They have built some confidence going to the plate and that has helped us out a lot. It's good to me to see them have some success at the bat instead of some of the stuff we have had in the past."
SouthWest jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning and scored both runs with two outs. Mobley got it started with a single, then Justin Rodriguez reached on an error. Mobley then scored on a wild pitch. Owens and Edmondson then singled back to back to score the second run.
Kinston battled back and score twice in the second and once in the third to take a 3-2 lead.The Cougars committed back to back errors in the second, which allowed one run to score. After a lead off single in the third, Kinston got a single from Tashi McLawhorn which drove in the third run.
The Cougars' poise had dropped off the charts after getting down, but they picked it up in the fourth and scored on a Justin Letchworth RBI single to tie the game at 3-3. They tacked on two more runs in the fifth after Morris had a RBI single and another run scored on a wild pitch. Another wild pitch in the sixth helped the Cougars add their sixth run of the game.
"We hung in there and battled back against a good team," Tolson said. "Their coach has them playing good ball and they are much improved. They are a batter team then they were a year ago."
The Cougars have been a team that has been able to battle back after trailing this season. That is something they weren't able to do the previous year.
Tolson believes for his team to make a run down the stretch and have a chance to make the playoffs, then everybody on the team is going to have to chip in and do their part. They went 2-4 the first time through the conference schedule, but they need to win at least five of the next six to make the playoffs.
"It is going to be a team effort," Tolson said. "When we call on them to do their part they are expected to do it."
Tolson feels that if he can make them gel like that, then they can possibly make that run towards the end of the season.
The only phase the Cougars have yet to overcome is the defensive mistakes. They committed three errors in the game and Tolson feels that some of the errors are because his players are rushing themselves on routine plays.
"Sometimes they are looking up to see where a runner is instead of making a good clean catch," Tolson said. "We are going to continue to coach them to play defense and have them wanting to win it every inning."
SouthWest is back in action Thursday when they host Faith Christian in non-conference action at 7 p.m.