GARNER — The Garner High baseball and softball teams uncharacteristically kicked the ball around Friday night in the first round of the state playoffs.
The softball team survived to take a 4-3 victory over New Hanover thanks to a towering sixth-inning solo home run by Amber Kirkland. The baseball team was thumped by Greenville Rose 9-2 after giving up six runs in the first two innings.
The 20-2 Garner softball team had not allowed more than two runs in a game this season, but after misplaying some balls and making some bobbles was tied 3-3 with New Hanover in the sixth.
Coach Moe Barbour hoped to get Kirkland on base, attempt a steal, bunt her to third and somehow manufacture a run. Kirkland made all the strategy unnecessary with her first home run of the season, a shot that cleared the 203-foot sign in left center by 20 feet.
I just wanted to make contact, she said. Im the only senior and I knew if I didnt do something, maybe nobody would.
Garner sophomore pitcher Lauren Marbrey allowed four hits and after New Hanover got a runner on in the top of the seventh on a misplayed bunt.
We panicked, Barbour said of the earlier miscues. New Hanover puts the ball in play and forces you to make plays. It is small ball and we didnt handle it well. With Marbrey, two runs is usually enough, but we didnt help ourselves much.
Neither did the Trojans baseball team, which was charged with four errors but misplayed some other balls and was never in the game after the first two innings.
Roses Dalton Britt opened the game with a towering home run to right and the 19-5 Rampants built a 6-0 lead on a couple of singles, a double, a hit batsman, a walk, a stolen base and three Garner errors.
That was big, said Rose coach Ronald Vincent, the state all-time leader with 819 victories. We jumped on them pretty good.
The hole was too deep, said Garner coach Derik Goffena. Rose is a great team and you cant spot them six runs and win very often.
Garner brought in reliever Scotty McCreery in the third and he cooled the Rose attack. He picked the last five innings, allowing three runs, but only one earned run.
They continued to peck away at him, but he competed, said Goffena, whose club finished 15-10. At the beginning of the year, I thought Scott might be able to give up a handful of useful innings, but he emerged as a very effective pitcher. I knew he would compete, but I had no idea he would be this effective.
McCreery, who missed all of his junior season while competing on the American Idol television show, said he was pleased to have been able to play his senior year.
Youre only 18 once and I wanted to be with my friends, he said. I just wish we could have played a little big longer.
McCreery planned to fly to Nashville early Saturday morning where hell be performing.
The loss hurt Friday night, but Ill go on stage and smile, he said.