West Johnson pounded out eight hits and took advantage of some Knightdale miscues to take the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference opener 12-2 in six innings.
The Wildcats (3-1) scored in all but one inning and coasted behind the pitching of junior Thomas Coggburn, who made his first start of the season.
Coggburn only allowed two hits over five innings, striking out four and allowing the two runs – one earned.
Offensively, the Wildcats jumped on Knightdale starter Jake Deshields early. After back-to-back errors in the first inning with one out, West’s Tyler Tilson drove a bomb to deep center. The wind-aided shot carried over the fence for a three-run home run.
Deshields worked himself out of a jam in the second inning. A single sandwiched by two errors loaded the bases with the Wildcats with only one out. Deshields struck out Tilson next, then Noah Liles was caught trying to steal home to end the inning.
“We want to be aggressive. We’re not real fast,” Worley said. “We want to be the aggressor and not let the pitcher throw a bunch of curve balls at us. We got a guy thrown out at the plate. Maybe I’m trying to be way too aggressive, but it was a point of time we could have broken the game open.”
The opportunity to open the scoring came soon enough for the Wildcats. Dalton List’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the third pushed the lead to 5-0.
Knightdale (2-4) scratched out a run in the bottom of the third. Logan Anderson scored on an overthrow at first that went out of play, allowing him to advance from third base. But West Johnson continued to be aggressive. In the top of the fourth, a double-steal put runners in scoring position for Michael Blevins. The right fielder capitalized with a two-out, two-run single to make the score 7-1.
“We want to be opportunistic and grind a little bit,” Worley said. “We’ve been emphasizing hitting quite a bit. Don’t want to strike out, and put the ball in play. Emphasize the quality bats, get 5, 6, 8 pitches in an at bat, make the pitcher work and I think we did that to Deshields early and we got to him.”
For Knightdale, it was a game to throw away and forget. After an impressive 6-5 win over Millbrook earlier in the week, little went the Knights way Friday.
“Our thing right now is consistency,” Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio said. “We have talent, just not the consistency.”
Relief pitcher Francis Silvestre was called for a balk – an infraction that allowed Jayce Stephenson to score from third. Then Sterling Atkinson’s two-run double later in the inning made it 10-1.
Knightdale was able to push another across the plate in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI-double by Nick Pope down the left field line. Pope was later called out stealing home. His slide into the catcher Tilson dislodged the ball as Pope crossed the plate, but Pope appeared to be propped up on one knee when he came across the plate and the umpire ruled it as a failure to slide. The out ended the inning.
West Johnson plated its final two runs in the sixth, compliments of back-to-back wild pitches by relief pitcher Jonathan Sierra. Stephenson closed out the bottom of the sixth for the Wildcats with a one-two-three inning for the win.
“I’d say we regressed a little bit in both fielding and pitching aspects and in hitting we didn’t really knock the cover off the ball, so we’ve got to get better at all three phases of the game,” Vaglio said. “We made several errors, several walks and a few hit batsmen. When you give up a bunch of free bases, you expect to lose.”
It was a game the coach wanted to put behind him as Knightdale looked forward to its next game at Clayton on Tuesday to continue conference play.
“The only positive we can take away from this is there are a lot of areas for improvement,” Vaglio said.