While softball season was shorter this spring than in a normal year, that didn’t mean there was any shortage of excellence among Robeson County’s five high school teams.
With so many strong performances this season, it was that much tougher to make The Robesonian’s All-County team, with several stellar players earning only honorable-mention honors.
The All-County team and postseason award winners are below:
Player of the Year
Lumberton softball coach Mackie Register knew August Smith would be big for the Pirates as a leader, but he didn’t expect her to be so productive statistically as well in her senior season.
Smith is the Robeson County Player of the Year after a terrific season across a variety of categories, and helping lead an otherwise young Lumberton team to an 8-6 season and nearly into the state playoffs.
“I don’t think we do what we do this year without her,” Register said. “I expected big things from her being a leader, but she just went above and beyond what I was expecting from her this year. She’s always been a good role model for our younger girls, but the way she did at the plate this year was a surprise.”
Smith hit .489 for the Pirates with 18 runs, 19 RBIs, seven doubles, a triple and two home runs.
“Every time we needed a big hit she seemed to come up with it,” Register said. “RBIs, and her little self hitting two home runs was big too. The one against Richmond was a big one for us. She played so relaxed the whole season. There was a lot of pressure on her and she just took it in stride and just had fun and played ball.”
Register described Smith as the “catalyst” for the Pirates at the top of the order this year, and also as a “vacuum” defensively at third base.
Smith was named Player of the Year by the Sandhills Athletic Conference, and also earned All-SAC honors in volleyball and basketball during her senior year.
Pitcher of the Year
Pitching through an injury for most of the season — and continuing to excel — Purnell Swett junior Summer Bullard is Robeson County Pitcher of the Year.
Bullard pitched to a 1.18 ERA and a 9-3 record, striking out 118 batters in 77 innings pitched this season and leading the Rams to the SAC title.
“She was our workhorse,” Purnell Swett coach William Deese said. “When she got hurt, she became a one-dimensional player because she couldn’t play another position other than pitching. We did everything we could to keep her healthy, and she’s a battler, she’s tough. She hurt every night after she pitched. I knew that, with her being on the mound, she was going to give me everything she had, and she was going to keep us in the ballgame because she’s an exceptional pitcher. She’s one of the best pitchers, I feel like she’s one of the top pitchers in the state.”
Bullard’s season can best be encapsulated in a two-game sequence May 6-7, when she struck out 31 batters in 16 innings in the span of 23 hours in a pair of playoff games, the Rams’ nine-inning second-round win over Apex Friendship and their 1-0 third-round loss to Fuquay-Varina.
“I’d never been a part of something like that, because her pitches were working, she was getting outs,” Deese said. “She was on top of her game. I know she was tired, because she threw nine innings on Thursday and came back with seven (Friday). I asked her, ‘what you got for me,’ … she told me she would finish the game for me.”
Bullard is committed to play collegiately at Charleston Southern.
Coach of the Year
In a year that every high school team in every sport has faced adversity due to the pandemic, few have faced more than the Purnell Swett softball team.
Coming through that adversity to win the SAC title and make a deep playoff run, Purnell Swett’s William Deese is the Robeson County Coach of the Year.
The Rams were 12-3 this season and reached the third round of the state playoffs despite several injuries and health concerns among the team.
“I know my girls know that I’ve got their back, they know that I care about them and I’m there with them, I’m there for them,” Deese said. “We talked, we’ve done a lot of talking, we’ve done a lot of things that we needed to, and we stayed together.
”Their goal was to win the conference and go deep in the playoffs and hopefully win a state championship. It made a difference with how our girls excelled and what our expectations are and what the team expectations were as well.”
Nyla Mitchell, Fr., SS, Purnell Swett; .408 batting average, 13 runs
Kaitlyn Locklear, Sr., OF, Purnell Swett; .391 batting average, 12 RBIs, two home runs
Angelica Locklear, Jr., 1B, Purnell Swett; 11 RBIs, two home runs
Chandra Locklear, Jr., 3B/P, Purnell Swett; nine runs, four extra base hits; 1.21 ERA, three wins, 37 strikeouts in 29 innings
Marijo Wilkes, Sr., OF, Purnell Swett; 11 run, 10 RBIs, five extra base hits
Halona Sampson, Fr., P, Lumberton; 3.44 ERA, five wins, 74 strikeouts in 75 innings
Syniah Lancaster, Sr., C, Lumberton; .375 batting average, eight RBIs
Aniya Merritt, Fr., OF, Lumberton; .420 batting average, 17 runs, seven stolen bases
Nyiah Walker, So., OF, Lumberton; .375 batting average, 12 runs, five doubles
Santana Anderson, Jr., SS, Fairmont; .636 batting average, 8 home runs, 17 walks, 14 RBIs, 1.545 slugging
Lindsey Floyd, So., P, Fairmont; .500 batting average, 18 RBI; 4.30 ERA, five wins
Aiyana Oxendine, Jr., IF, Fairmont; 11 RBIs
Tristen Locklear, Sr., C, Red Springs
Kirsten Locklear, Sr., 1B, Red Springs
Braxtin Kinlaw, Sr., Utility, St. Pauls; 11 runs
Alicia Monroe, Sr., IF, St. Pauls; 10 RBIs
Purnell Swett’s Torrie Butler, Chloe Locklear and Bella Finelli; Lumberton’s Alona Hanna and Alyssa Stone; Fairmont’s Adrianah Chavis and Macie Huggins; Red Springs’ Katelyn Locklear and Kaitlyn Bryant; and St. Pauls’ Yomaris Vasquez earned honorable mention selections.