FOUR OAKS — South Johnston’s softball team, which returns seven starters from a team that advanced to the fourth round of the state 3A playoffs last season, has picked up right where it left off.
The Trojans improved to 3-0 with an 11-1, five-inning victory Wednesday over county rival West Johnston, a 4A regional finalist a year ago that was off to a 2-0 start this season.
A night earlier, South Johnston defeated a strong Wilson Beddingfield team 4-1.
“For the last two days, we have played at a very high level,” South Johnston coach Mickey Bridgers said. “We have gotten excellent pitching. Last night, Lauren Higgins gave up three hits and struck out 12. Tonight, (Dinalee Spell) was around the plate consistently and gave up (three hits) against a solid West Johnston team. The girls came out ready to play and hustled and performed like they are capable of doing.”
South scored two runs in the first inning against West, getting back-to-back two-out hits from Kayla Allen and Madison Byrd, who scored on an error.
The Trojans blew it open in the second, sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring eight runs to take a 10-0 lead.
Two walks and an error loaded the bases and Krista Collins drove home the first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly. Then the hits started coming, with Alex Woodall driving in two runs with a single to left field, Anna Webster driving in a run with an infield single and Spell driving an RBI double to the gap in right-center before the inning ended.
Spell, a sophomore right-hander, held the Wildcats hitless until the fifth inning. With the Trojans up 11-0 and ominous skies foretelling a storm, West Johnston opened the inning with its first hit, a single by Ashley McLaren, who was thrown out trying to steal second. Katelyn McLamb then drew a walk and went to third on a double by Alayna Parrish. McLamb scored on a bloop single to right by Jordan Hunt.
The next Wildcat batter struck out and South Johnston center fielder Alex Massengill made a nice running catch to end the game just as the rain started coming down in sheets.
Spell (1-0) gave up three hits, walked two and struck out five.
McLamb worked the whole game for West, giving up six hits, walking five and striking out two. The Wildcats made five errors.
“I wasn’t surprised by (South Johnston’s) level of play,” West Johnston coach Warren Singleton said. “I was surprised by our inability to play tonight. We just didn’t put our best foot forward tonight. We didn’t get any hits until the last couple of at-bats and made some errors. It was just a bad night for us.
“We are going to chalk it up as a learning experience and make the necessary adjustments. We are going to meet them again next week and hopefully have a different outcome.”
Bridgers has been pleased with the approach his team has taken to begin the season.
“We are performing at a level that you can tell that they are listening and consuming everything we are saying at practice, and they want to be good,” Bridgers said. “That makes coaching a lot of fun.”
Beating another Johnston County team is always special, Bridgers said.
“Johnston County high school softball is very competitive,” Bridgers said. “We play everybody in Johnston County. Whether it’s a conference Johnston County school or a nonconference school, we know we have to bring our ‘A’ game. We can’t slack around and try to get by with a win. We have to play.”
For its first three games this season, South Johnston has done just that – brought its “A” game every time it stepped on the field.