PEMBROKE —The battle for first place atop the Southeastern Conference softball standings needed more than seven innings.
Purnell Swett finally broke the tie with a single run in the bottom of the 12th to claim a 6-5 victory over Richmond Senior. The Rams improve to 13-4 overall and are 6-0 in SEC play, while Richmond falls to 12-7 on the season and 5-2 in the conference.
Alexis Locklear reached on a walk to open the 12th. After a strikeout, Alex Miles ripped the game-winning double into right-center field to plate Locklear from second.
In the top half of the inning, Locklear pitched her way out of trouble. Locklear hit Summer Jacobs with a pitch. Jacobs was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice. Locklear struck out Jessica Steen for the second out, before Cierra Bowden was caught stealing to end the threat.
“Our kids are resilient,” Purnell Swett coach James Graves said. “They didn’t quit. They could have hung their heads, especially after allowing Richmond to tie it up.”
The Rams finished the game with 13 hits, while the Raiders managed six.
“That was the difference right there,” Richmond coach Wendy Wallace said. “They had runners on in every inning but one. Casey (Snead) did a great job of pitching her way out of trouble.”
Purnell Swett appeared set to take a two-run lead into the bottom of the sixth, when its defense failed to support Locklear. With two outs, Caroline Kirkland reached on an error by Colleen Chavis. Snead followed with a base on balls to continue the inning. Locklear once again appeared to set to escape without surrendering a run when Ashton Davenport hit a grounder to third. However, Mo Dial was unable to field the ball cleanly, allowing courtesy runner DJ Previtte to score. Elizabeth Pittman reached on the Rams’ third error of the inning as Snead raced home with the game-tying run.
“That’s something we can’t do with good teams like Richmond,” Graves said. “We then scrambled around for the next few innings until Alex’s hit in the 12th.”
Richmond will return to the diamond at 7 p.m. Friday at SEC foe Lumberton.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com