Knights fall to Lumberton in Slugfest, 6-2

LUMBERTON — West Bladen was cruising behind pitcher Scott Bowen’s no-hitter through three innings Monday, and then the bottom fell out. Host Lumberton scored four runs behind just two hits, two walks, a hit batter and an error en route to a 6-2 win in the consolation round of the Robeson County Slugfest.

The visiting Knights threatened quickly in the top of the first when Dawson Bryan led off the game with a screaming double to left and Logan West followed with a soft single to put runners at the corners. After an out, Jake Butler reached on an unsuccessful fielder’s choice that loaded the bases, but a strikeout and dribbler back to the mound that ended the inning without damage.

West Bladen threatened again in the second inning when Trey Storms walked and, after two quick outs, an error and a hit batter, a second error on West’s grounder brought Storms home for a 1-0 lead.

In the third inning, Butler sent a scorcher down the third-base line that went for a lead-off double and a sacrifice bunt by Dalton Pait put Butler at third with one out. But Kaleb Heup ripped a shot back up the middle that caromed off the pitcher’s foot right into the glove of the shortstop, who threw home to cut down Butler at the plate. The inning fizzled from there for the Knights.

West Bladen doubled its lead in the fourth when David Valenta led off with an infield single and, after an out, Bryan walked and, on a steal by Bryan, Valenta was picked off at third on a catcher to pitcher to third play. West reached on an infield single moments later and Bowen lofted a high pop behind first base that fell for an RBI double to give the Knights a 2-0 advantage.

Bowen, who had the no-hitter through three innings, ran into big trouble in the home half of the fourth, as the Pirates batted around and reached him for a pair of hits and four runs to take a 4-2 edge.

The Knights never threatened the rest of the way — Valenta singled and Bryant Nolan walked in the sixth, while Jeremy Pait singled in the seventh, but none of the runners got past second base.

Lumberton added a pair of runs in the sixth off two hits and three walks to seal the win.

“Just like it’s been all season,” West Bladen coach Kim Cain said. “We aren’t hitting with runners on base, errors keep hurting us and base-running mistakes aren’t helping.”

Bowen took the loss on the hill for the Knights, going 5.1 innings and giving up six runs on four hits, four walks, two hit batters and striking out nine. Derrick Long finished the game for West Bladen, going two-thirds on an inning and giving up one walk and striking out one.

At the plate, Valenta was 2-for-3; West was 2-for-4 with an RBI; Bryan was 1-for-2 with a double; Butler was 1-for-3 with a double; Jeremy Pait was 1-for-1; and Bowen was 1-for-4 with a double and RBI.