GARNER — Garner senior Madison Stewart said her team was humbled when the Trojans lost back-to-back softball games to Greater Neuse River 4A Conference rivals East Wake and Clayton last week.
Stewart’s teammate, Shea Barbour, had a similar feeling in the eighth inning of Thursday’s matchup with West Johnston after trying to stretch a double into a triple and being thrown out at third base, thwarting a potential game-winning rally before it started.
Two innings later, Barbour came up with the game-winning RBI single to lift the Trojans by West Johnston 4-3 in 10 innings.
“We fight as a team, together,” Barbour said. “I was down on myself but my teammates had confidence in me, like I have in them. When you don’t have it (confidence) for yourself, that’s when it matters.
“I tried to do it all by myself in the eighth inning and that’s not the way to do it. Bridgette (Kirkland) got a big hit, Alyssa (D’Arco) got the bunt down and I was just a part of it.”
Kirkland scored the game-winning run, which put Garner back in control of the conference championship race. Barbour had three hits on the night, while Kirkland added two for Garner.
The Trojans, ranked sixth in the N&O poll, moved to 9-2 in the league with the win, a half-game ahead of 10th-ranked West Johnston and a game ahead of both eighth-ranked East Wake and 13th-ranked Clayton, who meet each other Friday night.
“Those couple of losses humbled us,” said Stewart, who has signed with UNC Wilmington. “We were to the point where we expected to win when we played. And to not achieve that was humbling. We had to get back to working to achieve wins.”
Stewart plated Garner’s first run on an RBI groundout in the first, before West came back to tie on Jordan Hunt’s RBI double in the second. D’Arco singled home Garner’s second run in the bottom of the second and Alisha Josie’s RBI groundout pushed the lead to 3-1 in the third.
That was all the scoring until the top of the seventh when the Wildcats (9-3, 8-2) loaded the bases with nobody out and Rachel Willis singled home a run to cut the lead to 3-2. Back-to-back ground balls got Garner outs at the plate to hold their lead but West opted for the squeeze. The Wildcats didn’t get the bunt down but a high throw to home during the rundown allowed Willis to score, tying the game.
Garner got out of the inning catching another runner between third and home but the Wildcats got the chance to play on.
West finished the night with 12 hits but could never get the game-changing hit against Garner pitcher Lauren Marbrey or the Trojans’ mostly stellar defense.
“We hit the ball, we just couldn’t get the really big hit,” said Wildcat coach Warren Singleton. “We were one hit away, but Garner’s defense had a lot to do with that.”
West’s Danielle Myers, Mikaela Parker, Amber West and Willis all had two-hit nights.
The Trojans handled hard hit ball after hard hit ball off of the Wildcat bats.
“We played super, super defense,” said Garner coach Moe Barbour. “But those last three outs are always the hardest ones to get and we couldn’t get them in the seventh. … This was one of the best high school games I’ve been in in my 10 years of coaching softball.”
Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest