McDuffie pitches Lee past Southern in finale

Apr. 27—Lee County was sick and tired of losing to Southern Lee. If anyone was going to put a stop to it, Walker McDuffie was the man.

He got the call Thursday night, and he got the job done. The senior UNC-Chapel Hill signee struck out nine men in six shutout innings, and the Yellow Jackets ended a four-game losing streak to the Cavaliers with a 3-0 victory in the regular-season finale at Norman Oldham Field.

The game was played on "rivalry night" for several Sandhills Athletic Conference teams. Just a few hundred feet away, Lee and Southern were battling on the softball diamond, while Richmond and Scotland were also squaring off in their old rivalry, and the same was true of Union Pines and Pinecrest down in Moore County. The Jackets' baseball team had already won the 3A half of the conference, but didn't want to get swept by the Cavaliers. McDuffie made sure they did not.

His dominant performance included striking out the side in the second and third innings. The only hit Southern got off him was a ground single up the middle from Cooper Moss leading off the fifth, and even that did the Cavaliers no good because he was immediately caught stealing. After a 1-2-3 sixth, he left the game having thrown just 76 pitches. Blane McDonald came in and pitched a scoreless seventh, allowing a leadoff single to Cooper Harrington but finishing the inning with two strikeouts of his own.

Southern (9-14, 5-7 SAC), which rode Harrington, its own Division I recruit, to the win on Tuesday, still got a solid pitching effort from senior Dylan McBurnett. McBurnett went the distance and allowed just one earned run, but the Cavalier bats were silenced by McDuffie.

Lee got the only run it needed in the bottom of the second. Andrew Stanfield led the inning off with a single. McBurnett retired the next two batters and appeared to be out of the inning when he struck out Josh Hall, but Southern catcher Bryson Thomas let the third strike get past him, and his errant throw to first allowed Stanfield to score the game's first run.

Stanfield also got the Jackets' second run, in the fourth. He led off the inning with another single, moving into scoring position when Blake Carlyle reached on an error. McBurnett again got two outs, but a Southern Lee error on an attempted double steal allowed Stanfield to come home.

Luke Sheets got Lee's only earned run in the next inning, after singling with one out. He stole second and third with BJ Brown at the plate, then scored on Brown's sacrifice fly.

Lee only had six hits in the game, with Stanfield collecting two of them.

The win allowed Lee to head into the conference tournament at 15-9 overall and 8-4 in conference play. Who each team will face in the conference tournament will depend on the outcome of a make-up game between Richmond (13-8, 8-3) and Union Pines (10-11, 4-7) which was played late Friday night in Rockingham.