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Hornets invade Lumberton tonight; at home Saturday

The 20-8 Loyd Star Hornets will visit the 25-10 LumbertonPanthers Friday night in the second round of the Class 2A statebaseball playoffs. The first game of the best-of-three seriesbegins at 7 p.m.

The second game will be played Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. atLoyd Star.

Other 2A teams playing Friday night include Mooreville (30-5) atLeland (11-3) and Ackerman (23-7) at Simmons (14-3) in North Stateand St. Andrew’s (22-13) at Seminary (21-11) in South state.

Lumberton is coached by Joe Hartfield who is in his fourth yearas head coach with the Panthers. They have been to the playoffsduring his tenure as head coach.

The Panthers’ three best pitchers are all seniors. Thomas Royals(10-4) and Ben Townsend (6-1) are both right-handers. RaphaelRodgers (3-1) is the left-hander.

According to Hartfield, Townsend and Royals have been the toppitchers the past two years.

“None of our pitchers throw that hard,” Hartfield explained.”They’re all finesse. Our strength is our pitching staff.”

All three pitchers are college prospects. Rodgers signed withPearl River Community College. The other two are being looked at bycolleges.

Hartfield said Royals leads the Panthers at the plate, battingright at .500. Keeland Jones is hitting in .400’s. “They (Royalsand Jones) are our top two hitters. The others are hittinghigh.”

Hartfield said that senior leadership has helped them especiallythis season. “All of our seniors start,” he said. “They have beenthere before. They have won 103 games in their career. They playgood team baseball.”

Loyd Star suffered an early-season 15-4 loss to Lumberton.

Lumberton played Loyd Star earlier. “They didn’t show us a wholelot pitching wise,” Hartfield said. “Any team that can win 20 gamesis good. We are looking for a good series.”

In the first round of the Class 2A playoffs, Loyd Star andLumberton both lost their first games.

Against Taylorsville, Lumberton lost 4-2 then won by 10-runmargins in last two against Taylorsville.

Loyd Star lost its opener 11-3 to the Clarkdale Bulldogs butcame back for an 8-6 win in the second game and a 6-0 shutoutvictory in the third game.

“Traditionally, they (Lumberton) are a strong team, ” said LoydStar head baseball coach Sydney Wheatley. “They like to bunt andrun and keep you off balance. We will have to play well to beatthem.”

Senior Cass Brister leads the Hornet pitching staff with a 7-2record. Senior Seth Britt is next at 6-2 and junior Blake Wall isundefeated at 6-0.

At the plate, Loyd Star has 195 hits out of 706 at bats for a.276 batting average. The Hornets have collected 156 RBIs and 178runs. The Hornets have hit 10 home runs, 10 triples and 36doubles.

Seth Britt leads the Loyd Star hitters with a .372 battingaverage. Hitting .356 on the season is David Cuevas. Wall has a.342 batting average. Jared Britt is currently .341. Bristerfollows with a .282.

Wall leads the team with five home runs, followed by Seth Brittwith four homers. Cuevas has hit 9 doubles and 3 triples.