The Two Rivers 3A Conference baseball and softball tournaments were just what South Johnston’s squads needed in early May. Both teams left the tournaments on winning streaks and solidly in this week’s NCHSAA playoff field.
That’s not good news for potential opponents as both teams are playoff tested, having advanced to last year’s eastern regional championships.
South won the softball tournament, downing Corinth Holders 7-5, on Saturday and by virtue of NCHSAA seeding rules for the playoffs moved up to the No. 2 seed from the conference.
The Trojan baseball team had its chance at a No. 2 seed rained out when the tournament championship game against Triton was washed away by a Saturday afternoon thunderstorm at Bruce Coats Field.
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Therefore the playoff seedings didn’t change in baseball. Corinth Holders, as the regular-season outright conference champion, was locked into the No. 1 seed. Cleveland, which would have lost the No. 2 playoff seed to either Triton or South Johnston if that game had been played, sticks at the No. 2 position. South Johnston stayed in the third spot and Triton remained a candidate for a wild card bid.
South Johnston grabbed a 2-0 lead in its first at bat of the tournament softball championship game, but Corinth Holders fought back to lead 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Trojans (12-8) wouldn’t let that lead last. South reeled off four runs in the top of the fifth for a 7-5 lead and held the Pirates scoreless in their last three at bats.
Eight different players had hits for South in the win. Senior Caroline Dorman was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and McKinley Johnson went 2-for-5.
Madison Byrd homered in two runs for the Trojans, while Mackenzie Honeycutt, Sarah Pierce and Reagan Byrd added RBIs for South.
Dinalee Spell worked the final three-plus innings on the mound for the Trojans, allowing just two hits.
Corinth Holders (12-8) reeled off 12 hits but couldn’t get the big hits down the stretch. Kelsie Hocutt was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Shanan Hester drove in two runs. Ashlyn Biethman and Hanna Mizell picked up two hits each.
The softball teams from Cleveland and Triton both bowed out of the conference tournament in the semifinals, leaving the two teams still tied in the race for the No. 1 state playoff seed from the conference.
That meant a playoff game was necessary. Cleveland (13-5) prevailed in a wild game Friday night at Triton, 16-11. The Rams fell behind 6-2 and 7-3 and never led until the fifth inning when they took an 8-7 lead. Cleveland added another run to its lead in the top of the sixth before Triton (11-8) evened things up at 9 in the bottom half of the frame.
The seventh featured nine runs, seven of those on Cleveland’s side of the ledger. Triton wasn’t able to match the Rams’ big inning and bowed out, still five runs short.
The loss – combined with South Johnston’s tournament win – dropped Triton to the No. 3 playoff seed from the conference and pushed Corinth Holders into the wild card field.
On the baseball side of things, South Johnston entered the postseason on a four-game winning streak. The Trojans outscored their two Two Rivers tournament opponents 14-1, stopping Smithfield-Selma 10-0, then beating Cleveland 4-1 in the semifinals.
Two Rivers 3A Conference Tournaments
First Round: South Johnston 10, Smithfield-Selma 0; Triton 5, Western Harnett 2
Semifinals: Triton 8, Corinth Holders 0; South Johnston 4, Cleveland 1
Championship: Triton at South Johnston, cancelled
First Round: Corinth Holders 13, Smithfield-Selma 0; South Johnston 11, Western Harnett 1
Semifinals: Corinth Holders 4, Cleveland 2; South Johnston 11, Triton 7
Championship: South Johnston 7, Corinth Holders 5