FOUR OAKS — Sometimes a team needs just one early big inning to put away a baseball game, and that was the way South Johnston did it on a soggy Wednesday night.
Joseph Johnsons two-run homer was the highlight of a five-run, five-hit first inning that included a botched bases-loaded rundown, giving the Trojans a 5-3 win over non-conference county rival West Johnston Wednesday.
The victory came on an emotional night, as former Trojan star Stevie Ray Johnson (08), who died last July 4, was memorialized in a pregame ceremony.
The win improved the Trojans, members of the new Two Rivers 3A Conference, to 4-0 on the season while West, of the Greater Neuse River 4A, fell to 2-1. The teams will meet again March 19 in Benson.
West played a great game, South coach Keith Durham said. After the first inning their pitching was spot-on and gave us fits.
West threatened all night. I thought it was an outstanding job by two teams. Fortunately our pitching and defense was good enough to hold on.
The Trojans banged out six hits to six for West, which fought back and got tying runs to the plate in every inning but was unable to capitalize.
(Our starter Dalton) Mundy was lights out after the first inning, first-year West coach Joey Worley said. The coaches had seen some things mechanically in the first inning and after that he settled down.
He started throwing his changeup and his slider a little bit and started getting ground balls and we played better defense behind him. We still need to work on some things defensively. We got caught in a bad situation in the rundown. I can tell you, tomorrow in practice were going to work on that.
Junior Cody Allen was the winning pitcher with five innings of work while Joseph Johnson came on for the save.
Coming into the game I was anxious, Allen said. I struggled a little bit early with command of my fastball, but I got better and stronger as the game went on. Then Joseph came on and finished it out and I was happy to turn it over to him. We really wanted to win this game for our coaches.
Joseph Johnson said the special game was big for the players, even though many of them werent acquainted with their late Trojan teammate.
We definitely wanted to win this one tonight, Joseph Johnson said. The home run came on a good inside pitch. Thats where I like them fastballs down and in. It felt good coming off the bat and the wind helped.
I knew the situation when I took the mound. Theyre a good-hitting team and I know those boys can play.
Tyler Tilson doubled, singled and walked in four plate appearances for the Wildcats, while Sterling Atkinson had the two-out two-run single that finished the scoring in the third.
A hidden gem in the game was the performance of West starter Mundy after he allowed the five runs in the first. The junior responded by retiring 12 straight batters beginning with the final out of the first, finishing with 11 strikeouts before Alex Mattes came on for the seventh.
I went out with a little bit of lack of focus and was throwing mostly fastballs, Mundy said. After that I got more into the game. My changeup was good and I was mixing up fastballs and sliders.