Garner’s softball team returned to form Wednesday night against West Johnston.
The Trojans rebounded from a disappointing loss last week to Clayton, riding the arm of senior Lauren Marbrey and a five-run third inning to a 5-1 victory over West Johnston.
Garner (6-2) evened its Greater Neuse River 4A Conference record at 1-1. West Johnston dropped to 4-2 and 2-1 in the league.
Marbrey, who has been bothered off and on this season by a sore arm and did not pitch in the 15-9 loss to Clayton, was dominant against the Wildcats after giving up a third-inning run. Marbrey, a senior right-hander, retired 11 batters in a row and allowed just one base runner over the final 4 2/3 innings.
“I was getting back into the swing of things and getting used to it again,” said Marbrey, who had not pitched in 16 days. “It felt like old times.”
West Johnston took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning, getting a leadoff single from Mikaela Parker. The Trojans appeared to have a double play when the next Wildcats batter -- Nadia Blevins – lined out to left field and Parker was doubled off first base. But Parker was ruled to have left the base too early. She was out and Blevins was given another swing, driving a double into left-center. Lauren LeClerc followed with an RBI single to center field.
Marbrey began her string of 11 straight outs by retiring the next two batters and the Trojans went to work in the bottom of the third.
Cheyenne Champion led off with a single to right field and Brooke Kamphuis beat out a bunt. Kelsey Bryan was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Alisha Josie drove in two runs with a single to center field. Marbrey made the first out of the inning on a popup to shortstop but a throw to first in an attempt to double up Josie was wide of the base, allowing Bryan to score. Bridgette Kirkland tripled to deep right field to make it 4-0 and came home on a groundball out by Taylor Bissett.
Marbrey (2-1) was in command the rest of the way and the Trojans played solid defense behind her. The game ended on a double-play groundball back to the pitcher.
“We had one bad inning and that was the difference,” West Johnston coach Warren Singleton said. “We couldn’t recover from that. Marbrey pitched well. We just didn’t make good contact.”
Marbrey didn’t walk a batter and struck out two, giving up five hits.
“(Marbrey) has only pitched 16 innings so far,” Garner coach Moe Barbour said. “We have been having to watch her a little bit. But her arm is getting better. She came to me tonight and told me she was ready to go. I was happy with the way she threw the ball.
“For the most part I was happy with our defense and I thought we swung the bat well. … We are getting there.”
Kamphuis had two hits to lead the Trojans at the plate. The speedy senior who is playing catcher instead of her normal second base position, had a pair of infield singles. The Trojans finished with seven hits.
The Trojans have been without catcher Courtney Barbour (no relation to the Garner coach), who had back surgery in December.
“When we come back after spring break (next week), my catcher will be back and there is a possibility of getting an outfielder back. Neither of them has played an inning so far. If we can hang in there long enough to get everybody back and get healthy, we’ll be back to full strength.
“Maybe this time off will help Lauren (Marbrey). Hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll start looking like ourselves again.”
The Trojans had that look against West Johnston, even if they weren’t at full strength.