GARNER — Sure, Brighton Hudson noticed the balls flying to the outfield off the bats of the Person Rockets the first time through the batting order Friday night in the opening round of the 4A state baseball playoffs.
Person lined ball after ball into the outfield at Trojan Park only to see Garner outfielders Vincent Jeffries, Skylar Strickland and Levin Woodall run them down for outs. The Rockets appeared to be getting close to solving the riddle the junior left-hander had been to opposing teams so far this season.
You notice it and you think about it for their next at bats, Hudson said of the sharply hit balls off of the Rockets bats early in the game. But I know my guys will make plays when we need them. Weve got one of the best defenses around.
That appearance was deceiving.
Hudson dominated over the final four innings to help the News & Observers top-ranked Trojans (22-2) to a 2-0 victory. Hudsons eighth win of the season in as many starts lifted Garner to its 21st consecutive win and into a second round home date against New Bern on Tuesday.
All year, Brightons gotten stronger in games, said Garner coach Derik Goffena. The first time through the lineup he relied on his fastball, but then he started mixing in the curveball and the change up. Hes really good at making that adjustment throughout the game.
Hudson finished with 11 strikeouts, a walk and two hits allowed.
I like the zero on the scoreboard the best, Hudson said of his performance. I felt like as the game went along I was feeling better, getting better. I started throwing my curveball better, getting a better drop on it.
Timeliness was a theme of the night. The game took just 73 minutes to complete and Garners offense which hit the ball hard at times off of Person left-hander Patrick Morgan strung together just enough hits for what could be called a big scoring inning with Hudson on the mound.
I liked the way we hit the ball, Goffena said. We hit some hard balls but their third baseman (Cole) and left fielder (Pope) caught some tough balls.
Jeffries singled after Carrington Austin walked in the fourth, then Strickland roped a liner into center field to score courtesy runner Greg Stewart for a 1-0 lead. Strickland went from first to third on the play, setting up freshman Cody Jones sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
Person (16-8) put two runners on in the top of the third with two outs on Jon Thornburgs infield single and a Garner infield error, but Hudson struck out the next batter to get out of the inning.
Jeff Walker drew a two-out walk in the fourth, leaving him as the Rockets final baserunner of the night.
Hudson took over from there.
After we get a couple of runs, and we know hes getting stronger, we feel like were tough to beat, Strickland said of Hudson. We know hes capable of throwing a goose egg up there for the other team every time he takes the mound.
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