West Johnston snapped a four-year victory drought against Garner and continued its unbeaten start to the season Tuesday night that came down to the final play.
And about three inches.
With West trailing 6-5 and two out in the bottom of the seventh and the bases loaded, Kaylee Eubanks lifted a fly ball to shallow right-center that fell just in front of a diving Alisha Josey of Garner. The ball trickled behind Josey as the winning runs crossed the plate for a 7-6 West Johnston victory.
“The thing with this team is I’m the one trying to keep up with them,” West Johnston first-year coach Laura Jefferson said. “My pitcher (Megan Mills) has about 40 different pitches and they are just a great bunch of girls that know the game. …
“It was perfect for Kaylee (to be at the plate) because she is one who gives 100 percent all the time. It was pretty much karma for her to be the one to get the base hit for us to score (the winning runs).”
West Johnston (5-0) won its first four games by a combined score of 61-7, but it ran into a determined Garner team in both teams’ Greater Neuse River 4A Conference opener.
Garner, a perennial power that is starting five freshmen this season, lost its second straight one-run game to drop to 0-2.
“I thought they did a heck of a job especially against somebody like Mills,” Garner coach Moe Barbour said. “We swung the bat well. They have a good ball team. They swing the bat well.
“It was a good ball game, it really was.”
Josey drove in three runs for Garner and Haleigh Joyner and Kristina D’Arco each had a pair of hits and scored a run.
Eubanks, Nadia Blevins, Rachel Willis and Ashley McLaren had two hits each for West Johnston.
The two rivals traded the lead four times. Garner took a 1-0 lead in the first inning but West Johnston answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, getting a two-run double from Mills.
Garner scored four runs in the top of the third, getting a two-run double from Josey.
Back and forth it went.
West Johnston scored two in the bottom of the third to cut the deficit to 5-4 – the big hit a two-run double from Willis. The Wildcats tied the score in the fourth on an RBI by Blevins.
Garner had a response, of course, pushing a run across in the sixth on Samantha Armstrong’s sacrifice fly to go up 6-5.
Then came the dramatic seventh.
It was a game that left both coaches confident of their team’s chances as the season progresses.
“I told my girls, ‘Don’t you get worried until I get worried and I’m not worried,’” Barbour said. “We’ve only played two games but I could tell we’ve gotten better since the last game.
“I think by the time (that playoff time) rolls around, we’ll be right where we need to be.”
West Johnston coach liked the way her team kept responding to Garner’s runs.
“This team is good from top to bottom,” Jefferson said.