Monday night’s Two Rivers 3A Conference baseball tilt between South Johnston and Corinth Holders was one of those every pitch is more important than the previous one battles.
The contest was scoreless until the fourth inning and it was a 1-0 game heading into the sixth. In other words, always a pitch away from a lead or a tie game.
It was just the kind of game Corinth Holders needed to test itself. And did the Pirates ever respond, downing South Johnston 4-0.
Grant Austin and Jake Lewis combined for a two-hitter on the mound, while Will Jones, Hunter Sullivan, Tate Proctor and Austin came up with run-scoring hits to move Corinth Holders alone atop the conference standings with a 2-0 record.
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“We competed every pitch and that’s what we’re going to have to do to be competitive every night,” said Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver. “We did a better job of doing that tonight. We were disciplined at the plate.”
Austin worked out of two bases-loaded jams without giving up the big hit, which South Johnston (6-3 overall, 1-1 conference) never got on the night.
The first of those jams came in the opening inning when Austin issued walks to three of the first four batters he faced. But the lefty struck out the next batter and Proctor, the right fielder, made a diving catch of a pop foul to end the inning.
Down 1-0 after Corinth Holders got a double from Proctor that scored Tyler Barritt in the fourth, the Trojans loaded the bases again in the fifth with two outs. And Austin came up big again, striking out South’s clean up batter to get out of the inning.
“He got out of a couple of innings and that’s the thing he’s going to have to be able to do,” Weaver said of Austin. “He’s coming back after not playing baseball last year and one of the things he’s going to have to do is fight with everything he’s got in tough spots.”
Khalil Hodge doubled to start the Pirates’ three-run sixth which put the game away. A Trojan error on a bunt attempt by Austin allowed Hodge to score before Barritt singled on a bunt. Later in the inning, Austin scored on a groundout by Sullivan and Jones singled home Barritt to push the lead to 4-0.
The Pirates (3-3 overall) finished with eight hits on the night and stranded just five runners. Despite having just two hits, South left eight runners on base.
Austin struck out nine in his five innings, while Lewis had four strikeouts and a walk in his two-inning closing stint on the hill.
“Our pitchers competed and battled in every at bat, worked ahead in the count,” Weaver said. “Offensively, we got timely hits and we competed to make plays in the field.”
Two Rivers 3A Conference notes: The Pirates have given up just two runs in their first two league games. Everybody else has given up a half-dozen or more in their first two tilts. … South, Cleveland (after a 5-3 loss to Triton), Triton and Smithfield-Selma are all 1-1 in the league. (Western Harnett is 0-2.) So with everybody still with two league games to play between Tuesday and Thursday, league marks of 3-1 or 1-3 are both in play for all four of those teams.