Jackets nipped by one run in Pinecrest showdown

Mar. 29—Four pitches into Lee County's road game at Pinecrest Tuesday night, BJ Brown went yard to give the Yellow Jackets the early lead. It was the start of a star-studded game in which both teams' prospects were on display, but the fireworks all came early on.

The Patriots erased a two-run Lee County lead with three runs in the bottom of the third, and then the teams matched zeroes the rest of the way before the home team pulled out a 3-2 win.

Weather permitting, the teams were slated to play again Thursday night at Lee County.

The game started as a pitcher's duel between Lee ace Walker McDuffie and Pinecrest's Bryant Kimbrell, like McDuffie a Division I recruit. However, the game opened up with Brown blasting a 3-0 pitch into the night to put the Jackets in front. However, Kimbrell was oddly ineffective, and the Patriots pulled him from the game after Lee loaded the bases in the top of the second with no one out. Pinecrest sent in reliever J.C. Woolard, who got the Patriots out of the inning with no runs scoring.

The Jackets picked up an unearned run in the third when Andrew Stanfield reached on an error and Blake Carlyle later had an RBI single to drive in a run. This put Lee in front 2-0, and on a typical night with McDuffie on the mound, it would have been enough. But not on this night.

In the Pinecrest half of the third, the Patriots (8-2, 4-1 Sandhills) picked up three runs. Some of that was earned, as Connor Tepatti and Addison Roth doubled sandwiched around an out as the inning got under way. However, the rest of it was self-inflicted, as Lee booted a ground ball on the infield, let another batter reach on a passed-ball strikeout, and then surrendered a third run on a double steal.

Down 3-2, the Jackets needed to play catch-up, but Woolard would not let them. In the Lee fourth, Seth Beal walked with one out and Brown was intentionally walked with two out to bring McDuffie himself to the plate, but he grounded out. In the fifth, Stanfield led off with a single, and Carlyle reached on an error with one out, but Woolard escaped again, getting a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning. The Jackets got the leadoff man on in the sixth, but lost him to a double play.

Lee got one final chance in the top of the seventh, this time against Tepatti on the mound. The first two batters went down, but then Sheets reached on an error and Carlyle was intentionally walked to bring up Joshua Hall. However, Tepatti plunked Hall with a 3-2 offering and the bases were loaded. Tepatti struck out Landon Miles to end it.

McDuffie threw 5 2/3 innings before hitting his pitch limit, allowing just one earned run and striking out 12. Each team had five hits and Lee had the edge in walks, 4-2. However, the Patriots were able to string their offense together more efficiently.