GARNER — There’s a proud baseball tradition in Garner and the Garner Blue Jays are trying to lay down the foundation to build upon for continued excellence on the diamond in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League.
Part of that winning foundation is to make a push for the postseason in the summer league as well as to restock the shelves that make up Garner baseball.
Despite several positive signs on a night when the Blue Jays hosted the Apex Stallions, Garner found itself on the wrong side of a 4-2 decision Tuesday night.
Liam Brew pitched seven strong innings for the visitors and the Stallions out-lasted the Blue Jays in posting a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning en route to the win.
For Garner, there were more important things on this night than just chasing the win, however, as starting pitcher Wyatt Godwin continued to shine for the Blue Jays.
Godwin matched Brew pitch-for-pitch for four no-hit innings in his second impressive performance of the summer.
“We’re looking for that No. 1 and No. 2 starter,” Garner coach Larry Beck said. “Godwin has had two good outings. He’s thrown eight innings and given up two hits and he’s walked one.
“That’s a big start with us looking for a No. 1 starter.”
Another area of emphasis for the Blue Jays is to become more proficient at scoring runs with runners in scoring position.
Twice Tuesday night Garner hitters came through to bring runners home in such situations.
In the bottom of the fourth, rising senior Nick Phillips drove home Colin Pippin and then trailing by one run and down to its last out in the seventh inning, Trevor Blalock singled to left to plate the game-tying run in Brandon Wright.
The Stallions responded in extra innings, however, and scored the eventual game-winning run on a Scott Padlow single before adding an unearned insurance run.
Garner’s Logan Torruella got on base in the bottom of the eighth on a single but the Blue Jays otherwise went down quietly in their last at bat of the evening.
The league, not to be associated with high school athletics as dictated by state rules (hence the new Blue Jays’ mascot), is also not a time for evaluation as much as it is for increased instruction and opportunity.
The Blue Jays are using the summer league as a measuring stick both for younger players getting acclimated to playing against upperclassmen but also as an opportunity for a rising senior class that didn’t get many at bats this spring on a senior-laden Garner club.
“It gives the kids an idea of what they need to work on—a kind of a gauge on what they have to work on in the winter time,” Beck said. “It gives the young kids a chance to develop.”
A year removed from advancing to the final eight of the CCSSL, Beck is pushing his club for a repeat performance to help generate a culture of winning that will run over into next spring.
To do that, Garner, who fields both a varsity and a jayvee team this summer, will need to finish as one of the top two teams in its division.
“Last year was the first year that we made it to Lee County who hosts the final eight,” said Beck. “That’s the first time that we, as a program, have been. That’s something that you want to strive for and I think it helped us a little bit in the springtime.”