Cavs fall to UP, then defeat Northwood

Apr. 23—Southern Lee won't be able to repeat its feat of a year ago, when it snatched the top 3A spot in the Sandhills away from its biggest rival on the final day of the regular season.

However, a strong finish this week would allow the Cavaliers to recover from a poor start to the season and return to the state playoffs.

Even though Southern began the season with nine losses in its first 11 games, the Cavaliers have played solid baseball since then and entered Friday with a chance to repeat as the SAC 3A titlists if the right things happened. Southern needed to win out in conference and for Lee to beat Scotland again on Friday. The latter happened, but the Cavaliers couldn't finish the sweep of Union Pines. The Vikings, who had been annihilated by Southern Lee ace Cooper Harrington earlier in the week, scored nine runs in the first two innings Friday and the Cavaliers spent the rest of the game trying to fight back, falling 9-4.

Down 9-0 after the top of the second, the Cavaliers got three runs back and Dylan McBurnett, who had come in during the second to pitch, had a clean sheet over the final five innings. But Southern got just one more run, in the sixth inning. Cam Richey and Marcus Blanks had two hits each, and Richey, Harrington, Bryan McCollum and McBurnett each drove in a run, but it wasn't enough.

The game was important for both teams simply due to the playoff race. While Lee County clinched the top spot in the SAC 3A with its win and Southern's loss, the top 32 3A teams in the NCHSAA East RPI make the playoffs. After Friday's game, Union Pines (10-9, 5-5) stands at No. 32, and Southern (8-13, 4-6) is 33rd. Scotland (8-8, 5-5) is not far ahead of them, at No. 28. All are done with each other in the regular season. This is the rivalry week, where Union Pines plays Pinecrest, Scotland faces Richmond, and Southern Lee plays Lee County. In each case, the first of the two teams has more to play for this week. Pinecrest and Lee are locked in as conference champions for playoff purposes, and Richmond is safely in the 4A field at No. 24.

Southern played again on Saturday, when it hit the road for a game at Northwood. The Cavaliers helped their cause in this game, as pitchers Cooper Moss and McCollum combined for a two-hitter over one of the top teams in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Moss threw the first five innings, allowing just one hit and one unearned run, and McCollum finished with two scoreless innings, allowing one hit in the 8-1 win.

Southern took the lead in the first inning after Richey led off the game with a hit and scored on a Marcus Blanks groundout. In the second, TJ McAuley walked leading off and scored after taking second base, moving to third on McBurnett's sacrifice and then going home on a passed ball. Michael Blanks kept up the small ball game, getting hit moments later, stealing second and third base, and scoring on Spencer Stephens' groundout.

Harrington reached on an error in the third, stole second and third himself, and then raced home when the Chargers' catcher had to throw to first on a dropped third strike.

Southern kept the nickel-and-dime offense going to the end, adding two more runs on sacrifice flies by Richey and Stephens, and another on a passed ball.

The Cavaliers got just four hits, but no one was complaining about the win.

They'll need a few more over this week and the conference tournament to keep the season going into May.