Southern baseball opens with huge win

Feb. 28—Bryan McCollum ascended into Southern Lee Cavalier sports lore back in October, when with one kick, he gave Southern its first win over arch-rival Lee County in seven years, its first winning season in four years, and a trip to the state playoffs.

It appears he is ready to make some history for Southern Lee baseball now.

The junior made his varsity debut Monday night as the Cavaliers, last year's NCHSAA 3A East Regional runners-up, visited Western Harnett and routed the Eagles 17-1 in a game called after five innings due to the mercy rule.

McCollum, who played JV baseball for the Cavaliers in his first two years, started the game at shortstop and also pitched part of one inning. He went 2-for-2 with a walk, a hit by pitch, drove in four runs and scored three. He was one of several Cavaliers who had a big opening night against Western, who lost the debut of new head coach Randy McNeill. McNeill, a former Western Harnett player and assistant coach, moved up after longtime Eagle coach Dalton Hardee was hired by Lee County in the off-season as its new head coach.

Whoever made the schedule did McNeill no favors. Although Southern lost several standout players who are now with college teams, the Cavaliers always reload with talent in the pipeline. There has never been an opponent that saw Southern Lee next on the schedule and expected anything but a tough game.

Rival Lee County's women's soccer team was beating the Eagles a few hundred feet away when the varsity game got under way. The Cavaliers were not to be upstaged. The first three batters to face Western starter Lawton Hickman all singled. Three straight hits from Cameron Richey, Marcus Tate-Blanks, and Cooper Moss opened the game and put Southern on the board. Then came three straught walks, to TJ McAuley, Spencer Stephens, and McCollum. By this time, it was 3-0, and before the inning was over, Southern Lee had batted around, including a second hit for Tate-Blanks, and already led 7-0.

Moss started the game for the Cavaliers and put up a zero in the first inning, although Western's Jackson Rosser did have a single. When Southern came back to bat, Stephens and McCollum opened with back-to-back hits. They extended the lead 10-0 by inning's end, thanks to a sacrifice fly by Richey.

Moss pitched a scoreless second and ended his day on the mound. Southern tacked on six more runs in the bottom of the second.

Western Harnett scored its lone run in the third, when a walk to Connor Covert forced in a run. Rosser scored the run after hitting a one-out single. Stephens led off the Southern fourth with a double and scored on a McCollum single.

Dylan McBurnett, McCollum, and John Payne combined to pitch the final three innings of the game for the Cavaliers.

Four Southern Lee players had multiple hits and a few others only failed to do so because they kept being walked. Tate-Blanks was 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Richey went 2-for-3 with a walk, three runs scored, and three RBI. Stephens was 2-for-3 with two walks, three runs scored, and an RBI. Moss went 1-for-2 with two hit-by-pitches, a walk, two runs scored, and an RBI. Cox was 1-for-2 with two walks, three RBI, and two runs scored. McAuley singled, walked twice, and scored twice.

Rosser went 3-for-3 for the Eagles and was the only Western player to hacve more than one hit.

Southern plays at Cape Fear tonight and hosts Western on Friday. The Eagles travel to South View tonight.