LUMBERTON — Just a sophomore, it was only a matter of time before Lumberton’s Evan Odum had his coming out party on the mound.
The hard-throwing righty and North Carolina commit flexed the best stuff of his prep career in last week’s win over fifth-ranked Pinecrest, striking out 19 Patriots in 7 2/3 innings during the Pirates’ come-from-behind 6-5 victory.
Odum had pinpoint control of his knee-buckling curveball and it was type of performance college scouts had been expecting on the varsity level since Odum’s dominance on the summer circuit the last several years for Lumberton Border Belt and stellar play with the showcase South Charlotte Panthers.
“The bases were loaded when coach (Paul) Hodges put me in and when I worked out of the jam, I knew it was going to be a good night,” Odum said.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association doesn’t keep records for relief appearances, but Odum’s strikeout total before he was pulled after the eighth is likely the most-ever by a reliever in a game.
Odum is Robeson County’s first Division I baseball commit since Fairmont’s Michael Bass — currently an infielder for the Eugene Emeralds in San Diego’s farm system — picked UNC Wilmington in 2009.
“If Evan throws it like that all the time, there’s not many (teams) who will touch him,” said Hodges, who has seen his share of pitching talent over the last two decades. “He came in with one out in the first and pounded the zone. His curveball was spot on. He was dominant against a very good team.”
Trailing 4-0 after Pinecrest chased Justice Sampson following early control problems in the top of the first, Odum proceeded to cut down the Patriots’ lineup with an array of pitches he says he’s worked on throughout the offseason. Daniel Oxendine notched the win after the Pirates plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but Odum’s outing was the story.
“I knew I needed more pitches (after last season), so I worked on a changeup and two-seam fastball to give myself more of an advantage against opposing hitters,” Odum said. “I also worked on my mechanics, such as my stride being longer and pushing off more instead of using all arm.
As a freshman, Odum’s ERA hovered over 6.00 in minimal innings but this spring, Lumberton’s most efficient hurler has only given up a single earned run in 15 2/3 frames with a county-leading 29 strikeouts over three appearances.
Odum’s lone win came against top-ranked 3A competitor Terry Sanford on Feb. 26 after he tossed five scoreless frames during a 4-1 victory. Only three batters reached against Odum in Friday’s game.
“My location’s been good so far, but there’s always room to improve,” he said.
The Pirates are 5-4 this season but last week’s emotional win over Pinecrest opened Southeastern Conference play on a good note. Lumberton’s hitting an area-low .202 as a team, but has done enough on the mound to remain competitive in every contest thus far.
“We have to start hitting consistently,” said Odum. “Our pitching is already there with Justice and Daniel (Oxendine) along with Raleigh (Forrest), Alex (Merritt) and Logan Fredrick. If we can start hitting, we can get back to the scrappy baseball Lumberton is known for playing.”
The Pirates travel to Hoke County today.
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.