The Cleveland softball team is trending upwards, as they say, and the Rams continued to click on all cylinders Friday night in a key Two Rivers 3A Conference road game at rival Corinth Holders.
Cleveland received an outstanding pitching performance from junior Taylor Drayton en route to a 5-1 win that moved the Rams to sole possession of second place in the league, just a half game behind Erwin Triton (a team the Rams beat earlier in the week).
Drayton tossed her fifth complete game of the season and allowed just one run on one hit (both coming in the seventh inning) while striking out seven Pirates to propel the Rams to their sixth consecutive win.
“The team feeds off of Taylor,” Cleveland coach Samantha Coats said. “If she’s on, then the team is normally on and confident. She was ready to play and I think we did an awesome job.”
With a solid defense behind her, Drayton retired 11 straight batters at one point as Corinth Holders went down in order four times.
In the top of the fourth inning, Becca Straka provided all the run support that Drayton would need with a two-run homerun, her third of the season, to centerfield.
Straka’s blast was only the beginning, however, as the Rams connected for ten hits including three from the bat of senior first baseman Skyler Allen.
Cleveland (10-4, 6-2) extended its lead to 5-0 tallying runs on a Pirates’ throwing error in the fourth, a wild pitch in the fifth and finally a Julia Wiggs RBI single in the sixth that scored Alexis Ivey.
“Our goal every game has been to minimize the errors,” Corinth Holders coach Jessica Potter said. “It was hard to see that tonight but that’s our goal every game.”
Over the first six innings, the only runners the Pirates managed to get on base came from three walks issued by Drayton.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kelsie Hocutt broke up Drayton’s no-hit bid with a hard-hit double with no outs. Hocutt would later score as she first advanced to third base on a groundout and then home on a wild pitch.
The loss came one night after Corinth Holders was held to just one run in an extra innings loss to Triton.
“We just couldn’t hit the ball,” conceded Potter. “Our bats are strong, they just weren’t strong tonight.”
Pirates’ starting pitcher Aiyana Campbell shut down the visitors for the first three innings and, other than Straka’s long ball, did a solid job limiting a potent Cleveland offense in her five innings of work.
Shanan Hester came on in relief for Corinth Holders (8-7, 4-4) and permitted just the one run on her watch.
Drayton helped herself out with a pair of singles as the Rams appear to be playing all phases of the game well at the moment.
“We struggled in the beginning of the season with communication and they’re now doing all of these things that, in the first half of the season we weren’t doing,” noted Coats. “We would hit one game but then we would have bad defense or vice-versa.
“Somehow, I feel like they are pulling everything together now and working hard.”