Katelyn McLamb got all the run support she would need in the first inning. And the West Johnston senior proceeded to pitch an impressive game against archrival Clayton on Friday night.
McLamb allowed only the leadoff batter of the hosts’ first inning to score, allowing the run on five hits with two strikeouts against four walks as the Wildcats topped the Comets 5-1.
The win improved West to 7-2, 4-1 in Greater Neuse River 4A play, while Clayton fell to 6-4 and 3-2.
Rachel Willis led the Wildcats’ eight hit attack by going 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBIs and two runs scored.
“We were able to get up on them early,” said West coach Warren Singleton, whose team won two of three meetings with the Comets last season. “Even though we made some mistakes of our own we were able to stay strong. Katelyn let a few on base, but she stayed solid and was able to get the outs we needed to get.
“We’ve been making steady progress all season long. We know it’s going to be a good game every time we play Clayton and it was a good one tonight.”
Each team committed two errors, but a couple of baserunning mistakes kept the Comets from putting together big innings after they fell behind early.
“We had our opportunities,” Clayton coach Jay Westbrook said. “They jumped on us in the first inning, and then their pitcher threw a great ball game while we left too many runners on base.
“They made some plays, but we left too many on. After the first inning I felt like we played pretty well in the field. We had some mental errors, but I’ll take that squarely on my shoulders. We’ll learn from them and get better.”
West got momentum with its three-run first inning, on three quick hits off the Comets’ freshman Bailey Perdue.
Kristin Power led off with a double to left, followed by a triple to left from Nadia Blevins before Willis cleared the left-field wall with her second homer of the season to make it 3-0.
“I was just focusing on hitting a line drive and it happened to go over,” Willis said. “I had been going through a little bit of a slump, but I think I’m coming out of it.
“Clayton is one of our top rivals, so we always get pretty pumped up before the game. This was a good win.”
Clayton scored in the bottom of the frame as Lindsay Hodge led off with a bunt single, advanced on Mindy North’s walk and scored on Jenna Harris’ double to left.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities,” said Harris, who will play at Presbyterian next season. “We had runners in scoring position and couldn’t get the clutch hit several times. Next time we’ll have to capitalize on that and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I don’t think this game reflects us. We’ve been hitting the ball and scoring runs and winning.”
Harris’ double ended the home team’s scoring, although after the initial run the Comets got a runner on third base six times.
Ashley Murphy led Clayton at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a double and a stolen base.
“I felt good on the mound,” McLamb said. “I could have pitched a little bit better the first two or three innings, but overall I think it was a good night. My curve and my screwball were working pretty well.
“I’ve played against a lot of the Clayton players for a while. Jenna and Ashley are some of the best hitters we face.”
West’s other two runs were unearned. Hannah Cooper reached on an error with one out in the second and later scored when Willis drew a bases-loaded walk, and in the fifth Willis reached on an error and later scored on Ashley McLaren’s sacrifice fly to center.
The rematch is on May 6 in Benson.