By VAN HOLLAND
PINETOPS – After losing by 13 runs Friday, SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars coach Tommy Tolson called a practice Saturday and said his team worked on hitting and defensive situations. He said it was an extensive practice and thought it was all positive.
"I didn't want them coming into today's game thinking about that loss," Tolson said. "I sure didn't want to walk out here and play a game without a practice and as you can see it helped us."
The practice must have started a fire under the Cougar players, because they pounded out 11 hits and only made one error defensively Monday when they defeated the Southern Nash Firebirds 10-0 in five innings. The Cougars improve to 1-3.
Senior right-hander Stephen Thompson was one of the main reasons the Cougars won by the mercy rule. He earned the win and gave up only one hit and walked two, while striking out three. He had good command of his pitches.
"It feels good to get a win early on in the season," Thompson said. "We have worked so hard in the off season and continued that early on this season. We have worked so hard in practice and I am just glad it finally paid off for us."
The Cougars' bats woke up. Every Cougar starter got a base hit except one, but that player contributed with an RBI. The Cougar players had nine RBI in the game and took advantage of five Firebird errors.
"It feels good to see the guys come out here and hit the ball like I know they are capable of doing," Tolson said. "I am real pleased with our overall effort."
The Cougars scored a run in every inning and started out on the right track in the bottom of the first inning. Nick Webb drew a walk, Justin Letchworth doubled, then Jarratt Mobley got out on a ground ball to shortstop, but drove in Webb. Justin Rodriguez followed with a line drive base hit to left that scored Letchworth. Hunter Johnson reached on an error by the third baseman, then Thompson grounded out to third and Conner Briley scored after he pinch ran for Rodriguez. The Cougars led 3-0 after one.
The Cougars added another run in the second on a Firebird error, then in the third, Thompson smashed a double to left center and scored Johnson who had reached on an error. Two batters later, Josh Williams drove in Thompson on a sacrifice fly to center. The Cougars had a commanding 6-0 lead after three.
They tacked on another run in the fourth when Letchworth scored on a wild pitch and then ended the game after scoring three in the bottom of the fifth.
"We hit the ball like we have in practice," Tolson said. "We moved runners over and did the small things to make it happen for us today. I want us to continue to play like this because this is who we are."
Thompson rolled through the Firebirds lineup with ease after he got command of his pitches. He struggled early on in the first after walking a batter and another reached on an error. Thompson began to locate his fastball and change up. He gave up his only hit of the game in the fourth inning and allowed only four base runners the entire game.
"I felt real good today even though my curve ball wasn't working," Thompson said.
"I stuck with my fastball and change up and hit my spots early in the counts."
Tolson was pleased with Thompson's performance. He said Thompson settled down after the walk and error and was able to work out of that jam. His only one of the day.
"Stephen located the ball well," Tolson said. "He hit his spots and made good pitches early on in the counts."
Thompson said as one of the captains, he and his Cougars want to make the playoffs this year, because that is something they haven't done while he has been a member of the varsity program. They also want to win the Easter Classic and have a winning season.
Tolson said he and his coaching staff think this is the biggest thing his team needed, was the win. He feels like this win will boost their confidence level up a few notches and show them that they are capable of winning games.
"We know what we are capable of doing but getting this win under our belt adds a little satisfaction," Tolson said. "This win is going to help us a whole lot and helps us relax when we play again."
The Cougars are back in action Friday when they host the Farmville Central Jagaurs in Eastern Plains Conference action at 7 p.m.